October 2009

Signing J.J. a priority

In 2002, the Marlins selected Josh Johnson in the fourth-round of the First-Year Player Draft.

The 6-foot-7 Oklahoma resident made his big league debut as a September callup in 2005. 

This season, the 25-year-old had a breakout season. Emerging as the team’s ace, Johnson finished 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA, and he was selected to the National League All-Star team.

Drafted and groomed in the Marlins system, the organization would like to keep the right-hander around for a long time. Johnson is in his second year of arbitration, but the Marlins are hoping to sign him to a multi-year contract in the upcoming weeks.

Team officials internally are discussing signing Johnson for at least four seasons. But at this point, no offers — even preliminary — have been made.

In 2009, Johnson earned $1.4 million, plus another $50,000 in incentives because he reached 33 starts.

Indications are it will take more than $40 million over four years to get the deal done. That figure could rise to about $45 million, or even more.

Kansas City ace Zack Greinke signed a four-year, $38 million contract for 2009-12.

To sign Johnson, it appears the Marlins would have to top that.

The Marlins open their new ballpark in 2012 and the team would like to have Johnson anchoring their rotation. The only Florida players signed for 2010 are All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez and veteran infielder/pinch-hitter Wes Helms.

— Joe Frisaro


Marlins coaching staff options

The Marlins are in the process of filling their coaching staff. Teams typically don’t make announcements during the playoffs. So after the World Series, the club is expected to make their moves official.

On Monday, the Marlins hired Randy St. Claire as their new pitching coach.

A few other positions currently are unfilled, including first base, third base and bullpen coach.  A name that has surfaced to fill a position on the staff is Jamie Quirk, who played 18 years in the big leagues. A former first-round pick of the Royals in 1972, Quirk retired as a player in 1992.

He also has coached 15 years in the big leagues. Quirk has played and coached in the World Series.

Quirk was the Rockies bench coach in 2007, the year they lost to the Red Sox in the Fall Classic. Since 2008, he’s been a scout for the Reds.

This year Quirk was the third base coach for the United States World Cup team.

As a player, he was used all over. His primary position was catcher, but he also played third base, first base and the outfield. He also very limited action at shortstop and second base.

If hired, Quirk could fill any number of positions, including working with the infielders or outfielders.

He played on the Royals 1985 World Series championship team.

St. Claire, meanwhile, is replacing Mark Wiley. After relieving Wiley of his pitching coach duties, the Marlins offered him the opportunity to remain with the organization in another capacity. Indications are Wiley will stay on with the Marlins.

Before joining the Marlins as pitching coach in 2008, Wiley was a special assistant for the Rockies, where he did a great deal of scouting.

— Joe Frisaro

Market for Hermida

Speculation continues to run high that the Marlins will trade outfielder Jeremy Hermida this offseason.

The 25-year-old former first-round pick in 2002, came off a rough season, batting .259 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs. A strained right oblique on Sept. 2, limited him to one pinch-hit appearance in the final weeks of the season.

Hermida will be entering his second season of arbitration. He made $2.25 million this year, and by the nature of the system, he’d be in line for a raise.

The Marlins are hopeful Cameron Maybin will win the center field position, and Cody Ross is expected to return. Ross, also in his second season of arbitration, could be earmarked for right field, making Hermida expendable.

Some teams believed to be interested in Hermida are the Mariners, Rays, Mets and Blue Jays. The Cubs also could have interest.

Even though Hermida has yet to perform as so many envisioned, he does have value on the open market. He still would be a more affordable option than many soon-to-be free agent outfielders. Also, in arbitration, a team could control his rights for two seasons.

Several scouts feel Hermida may be one of those players who benefits by a change of scenery.

— Joe Frisaro



Hanley up for Players Choice Award

Hanley Ramirez is up for another honor.

The Marlins All-Star shortstop is a finalist for the Players Choice Award, which is selected by the MLB players.

The MLB Players Association announced on Thursday that Ramirez is a Player of the Year finalist, along with Minnesota’s Joe Mauer and St. Louis’ Albert Pujols.

Ramirez in 2009, became the first Marlin ever to win the batting title, posting a .342 average. Mauer won the American League batting title with a .365 batting average. Pujols belted 47 homers to go along with a .327 batting average and 135 RBIs.

Winners will be announced in a series of segments on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning (6-10 a.m. ET). The announcements will begin on Monday and continue through Friday.

— Joe Frisaro

White Sox claim De Aza

With so many outfield prospects in their system, Alejandro De Aza got caught in a numbers game.

The Marlins didn’t have a priority to retain the 25-year-old, who now will be getting an opportunity to play elsewhere.

The White Sox on Wednesday claimed De Aza off waivers.

At Triple-A New Orleans, De Aza batted .300 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs. He also appeared in 22 games for the Marlins, and he had 20 at-bats, batting .250 with a double and three RBIs.

Injuries hurt De Aza in recent years.

De Aza won the starting center field job in Spring Training of 2007, but early in the season he suffered an ankle injury that limited him to 45 games that year. He missed all of 2008 due to injury.

The Marlins are projecting Cameron Maybin will be their Opening Day center fielder. The team also has Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Coghlan in left field.

The Marlins also have outfield prospects John Raynor, Scott Cousins, Jai Miller and Bryan Petersen, who is in the Arizona Fall League.

Florida’s top prospect is outfielder Michael Stanton, a 19-year-old also getting some extra work this fall in Arizona.

— Joe Frisaro

Marlins among comeback kids

Throughout the playoffs, we’ve seen late-inning heroics and thrilling comeback victories.

On Monday, both games were decided by comebacks. Jimmy Rollins provided some two-out, walk-off drama in the ninth inning to rally the Phillies past the Dodgers in Game 4. Rollins lined a two-run double off Jonathan Broxton to lift his team to a 5-4 win.

Earlier in the day, the Angels overcame a three-run deficit and beat the Yankees, also 5-4, in 11 innings when Jeff Mathis came through with a walk-off double.

The Yankees certainly have had their share of clutch hits in the playoffs. In the A.L. Division Series, Alex Rodriguez had a ninth inning homer off Joe Nathan to help rally his team. And A-Rod also went deep in the ninth inning off Brian Fuentes of the Angels to pull the Yankees even in the A.L. Championship Series.

Resiliency, obviously, is a characteristic of a championship-caliber team. That’s why it isn’t shocking that the four teams in their respective League Championshp Series also are the teams that paced the Major Leagues in comeback wins during the regular season.

What many people probably don’t know is the Marlins were fifth in the big leagues in rallying to wins.

The Marlins didn’t wind up in the playoffs, but they did win 87 games. In 41 of those victories, they trailed at some point.

The top five comeback teams in 2009 were:

* Yankees, 51
* Angels, 47
* Phillies, 43
* Dodgers, 42
* Marlins, 41

The Marlins 41 comeback victories is two behind their franchise record.

Florida’s top comeback seasons are:

* 43 in 2008
* 43 in 1997
* 42 in 2007
* 41 in 2009
* 41 in 2000.

The 1997 Marlins, of course, won the World Series, and the 2008 squad finished with 84 wins.

— Joe Frisaro


Marlins pitching coach search

On the radar for the Marlins’ pitching coach position is Bryan Price.

The Marlins, however, are not alone.

“He’s on everybody’s list,” Reds general manager Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The Marlins have contacted Price, who has drawn interest from a few other teams, including the Reds.

Years ago, Florida president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest worked for the Mariners when Price also was in the organization.

There also is speculation that Price may be waiting to see what Bob Melvin does. Melvin and Price are close friends, and both opened the season with the Diamondbacks. But when Melvin was dismissed as manager, Price stepped down out of loyalty.

Melvin is a candidate for the Astros managerial job.

The Marlins are in the market for a pitching coach after Mark Wiley was not retained. The team also has a bullpen coaching position open because Steve Foster turned down a contract to return.

There are a number of names on the market who are drawing attention for pitching coach jobs. Not all necessarily choices for the Marlins. But these are names within the industry that are being tossed around for a number of teams. 

Carl Willis was recently released as pitching coach of the Indians. Chuck Hernandez was athe Indians bullpen coach before being dismissed.

A name to keep an eye on is Bryan Harvey, an original Marlin, who is the pitching coach for Double-A Tulsa in the Rockies system. Harvey’s son, Kris, pitched for Florida’s Class A Jupiter squad this season.

Rick Peterson is a front-runner for the Brewers pitching coach job. He formerly was with the A’s and Mets. Peterson has also been linked to the Reds.

Dick Pole was dismissed earlier this month as the Reds pitching coach, but he is highly respected.

Another possible candidate to return as a big league pitching coach is Tom Hume, formerly with the Reds.

— Joe Frisaro

Return on Marlins inbox

With the offseason upon us, I once again will be writing a weekly inbox (formerly the mailbag) column.

So anyone with questions on the Marlins are encouraged to e-mail me at joe.frisaro@mlb.com.

I try to answer as many as possible. A number of fans ask similar questions, so I’m expecting lots of Dan Uggla, payroll, will J.J. sign a long-term contract, and trade speculation questions.

I look forward to the questions.

— Joe Frisaro


More coaching openings

The Marlins have a few more coaching vacancies.

On Friday, the team announced third base/outfield coach Bo Porter and bullpen coach are not returning for 2010.

Bench coach Carlos Tosca, hitting coach Jim Presley and bullpen coordinator Pierre Arsenault accepted contracts for next year.

The Marlins now have four coaching positions open.

Pitching coach Mark Wiley and first base/indield coach Andy Fox were not offered contracts.

— Joe Frisaro

Marlins Sunday lineup

The Marlins wrap up their season on Sunday at Philadelphia, and out of the lineup for the last day are Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu.

Ramirez bruised his right knee in Saturday’s 4-3 win, while Cantu’s right foot is in a walking boot after he sprained his right ankle while stepping awkwardly on second base in the sixth inning.

Ramirez will win the National League batting title, as he carries a .342 average into the final day. Cantu on Saturday collected his 100th RBI before being injured.

Marlins lineup:

1) Coghlan, LF

2) Maybin, CF

3) N. Johnson, 1B

4) Helms, 3B

5) Uggla, 2B

6) Paulino, C

7) Carroll, RF

8) Bonifacio, SS

9) J. Johnson, P

— Joe Frisaro