November 2011

Marlins’ interest in Gio

The Marlins clearly would like to add a left-hander the caliber of Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez.

The team has expressed interest in Gonzalez, but the Marlins aren’t convinced the A’s are willing to part with an All-Star who will not be eligible to become a free agent until 2016.

Oakland is looking for a large return for Gonzalez.

Miami is willing to part with top prospects and big league experience talent to upgrade their rotation.

The general feeling around the team is they will try to add two experienced starters to their rotation. Gonzalez and Tampa Bay’s James Shields are on the Marlins’ radar.

The club also has interest in free agent Mark Buehrle.

While there hasn’t been much publicity on C.J. Wilson and the Marlins, don’t discount Miami making a push for the lefty if they don’t sign Buehrle.

Joe Frisaro

Soler also on Marlins’ radar

So much attention has been focused on Yoenis Cespedes, the Cuban defector regarded as a five-tool player.

But the 26-year-old outfielder isn’t the only talented Cuban native who has caught the attention of a number of teams, including the Marlins, Red Sox, Yankees and Cubs.

Jorge Soler, 19, also has been working out for teams in the Dominican Republic.

A number of teams, including the Marlins and Rangers, have already scouted Soler.

Like Cespedes, Soler defected from Cuba and he has been working out in the Dominican Republic.

While Cespedes is considered big league ready right now, Soler is viewed as being three years away from reaching the Major Leagues.

In stature, a scout said, Soler is slightly smaller than Marlins slugger Mike Stanton, who stands 6-foot-5 1/2, 250-pounds.

Like Stanton, Soler has big-time power potential.

Cespedes projects to be a player who can hit .290 with 30 homers at the big league level. A scout said Soler may not hit for as high an average as Cespedes, but he could be a 40 home run candidate.

Joe Frisaro

 

What it will take to sign Cespedes

The tools and the talent of Yoenis Cespedes are not in dispute.

Where there are reservations over the Cuban-born outfielder is his cost and readiness to play immediately in the big leagues.

According to a league source familiar with his status, the asking price for Cespedes could be double that of Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban pitcher with the Reds.

In January of 2010, Chapman signed a six-year deal worth $30.25 million. Cespedes, the source said, could be seeking more than double Chapman’s salary over eight years. Technically, no negotiations can take place until after he is declared a free agent.

The Marlins recently traveled to the Dominican Republic to attend a private workout for Cespedes, the 26-year-old who defected from Cuba in the summer. The Red Sox, Cubs and Yankees are among the teams with interest.

The Marlins see Cespedes as a center fielder, while Boston is looking at him in right field.

There also is uncertainty on when Cespedes will become a free agent. Insiders say it could be two more weeks or two more months.

Right now, he is in the process of gaining residency in the Dominican Republic. Once that happens, it shouldn’t take long for him to be declared an MLB free agent. It’s a matter of filing paper work.

The longer Cespedes waits to sign with a club, the more it hinders his ability to be game ready for the 2012 opener.   He hasn’t played competitive baseball since he left Cuba.

If he can be signed before mid-December, he could play Winter League ball, which would help him be prepared to compete for an Opening Day roster spot in Spring Training.

Joe Frisaro

 

Reyes more likely than Pujols

MIAMI — Albert Pujols came, saw the sparkling new ballpark, and left South Florida on Friday night impressed with the direction the Miami Marlins are headed.

Before Pujols went home, the Marlins presented the slugger with a preliminary contract offer.

Although the Marlins confirmed Pujols’ visit, they are not commenting on whether they’ve made contract offers.

According to multiple sources and multiple news outlets, however, the Marlins have indeed extended initial offers to Pujols, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.

The offer to Pujols is reportedly “substantial.” But is it enough to sway the Cardinals slugger into leaving St. Louis for South Beach?

At this point, the answer is probably not.

The buzz late Friday night is that the Marlins are more likely to sign Reyes than Pujols. One reason is money. Another is passion to play in Miami.

The Marlins certainly would love to add Pujols, but those connected with the club said the first offer probably isn’t close to being enough to lure in the biggest prize on the free agent market.

Exactly what the Marlins presented Pujols isn’t yet known. It also may be the first offer, and not necessarily the team’s final one.

To those connected with the team, keep an eye on Reyes.

Reyes is viewed as a strong possibility to become a Marlin. Word around the club is the shortstop loved his visit on Wednesday, and he wants to play in Miami. Reyes is said to be comfortable in the market, he likes many of the players already on the team, and he was impressed by the new ballpark, which promises to be one of the best in the big leagues.

The Marlins certainly are looking to attract big names as they are rebranding their name and image.

Signing Pujols clearly would create the biggest splash. Perhaps it will happen before the start of Spring Training.

For now, a more realistic Miami signing is Reyes.

Stay tuned.

Joe Frisaro

Pujols in town for weekend

MIAMI — An already busy week has been taken up a notch with the arrival of slugger Albert Pujols in Miami.

According to a source, the Cardinals free agent is in town with his agent, Dan Lozano, and he will be in South Florida for the weekend.

Pujols is meeting with team officials on the day the franchise will officially be renamed the Miami Marlins. He is expected to stay for through Sunday, getting a tour of the new ballpark.

The Marlins are making a big push to show the highest-profile free agents that they expect to be a factor on the market.

A source said there is a stronger likelihood that the Marlins will sign Jose Reyes and Cuban-born outfielder Yoenis Cespedes than Pujols, who is expected to become the highest paid player in the game.

Joe Frisaro

Hanley’s hitting timetable

MIAMI — What position Hanley Ramirez plays remains in question. When the Marlins three-time All-Star resumes hitting drills, however, isn’t.

Recovering from left shoulder surgery, Ramirez said that he will begin swinging a bat in January.

Hanley Ramirez talks to reporters Thursday.

Ramirez continues to rehab from the procedure done on his shoulder in September. He has been conditioning and training in South Florida, and he attended Thursday night’s Fish and Chips fundraiser for the Marlins Community Foundation at the Marlins new ballpark.

A shortstop since he was a child, Ramirez may find himself being asked to move to third base if the Marlins sign free agent Jose Reyes.

Asked about a the possibilty of playing third, Ramirez said: “I’m a shortstop right now, so I don’t know. I consider myself a shortstop.”

If the Marlins were to sign Reyes, Ramirez welcomes the addition of another All-Star.

“Definitely, we want to win,” Ramirez said. “I think he would be a good move for the Marlins.”

As for his own recovery from surgery, Ramirez is eager to get back hitting.

“In January,” he said of his timeline. “I’ve got to wait a couple of more weeks.”

In the meantime, he is doing a lot of range of motion and strength training.

“I’m lifting, and working on my range of motion, and getting stronger,” Ramirez said. “That’s the main thing. The surgery was good. No pain. Everything is going fine.”

Joe Frisaro

Reyes dines at Joe’s Stone Crab

MIAMI — Marlins president David Samson called Jose Reyes a priority, one of several priorities the team is looking at this offseason.

Speaking on The Dan Le Batard Show on 790 The Ticket on Wednesday night, Samson spoke openly about Reyes’ South Florida visit.

Team officials gave Reyes, the Mets’ free agent shortstop, a tour of the new ballpark. And the team treated the shortstop to lunch at famed Joe’s Stone Crab.

“He did not sign the check, and did not sign a contract,” Samson said on the Le Batard Show. “Yes, we were at Joe’s. There is nothing to hide. We said from the beginning, we’re interested in making our team better.”

On Tuesday, the Marlins hosted White Sox lefty free agent Mark Buehrle, who also toured the ballpark.

As for Reyes, Samson said: “To be interesting, you have to meet each other and figure out from an investment standpoint where you’re going to go. We’re still working on that. We wanted him to see the ballpark. And see the ballpark, he did.”

Samson called Reyes a priority, but noted he is not the only one.

“I would certainly count him amongst our priorities,” Samson said. “But we have a priority that includes pitching and includes position players. We have multiple priorities.”

Samson added that the team has yet to make a preliminary call to Prince Fielder. When asked about Albert Pujols, Samson comment either way.

Samson added that there is a one percent chance Reyes could sign by Friday night, when the team officially changes to the Miami Marlins.

Joe Frisaro

 

 

Selling stadium and South Beach

MIAMI — A sparkling new stadium and the glitz of South Beach are being used to help sway free agents.

And most likely some meals at world famous Joe’s Stone Crab are on the agenda.

The Marlins are wasting little time selling all the glamour of Miami.

On Tuesday, team officials gave free agent Mark Buerhle the tour of the town. The left-hander took a trip to the new ballpark, and he was treated to the thrills of South Beach.

At a time most of the country is bracing for cooler weather, the Marlins are pitching sunshine.

They also are making a strong push in hopes of signing Buerhle, one of the top lefties on the market. With their new stadium set to open, the team is selling hope and promise.

What the Marlins also must be able to do is sell free agents on the belief this team is ready to win.

The way the organization sees things, players are after a couple of things — money and a chance to win.

Most likely it will take a contract of four years averaging about $15 million a season to get a Buerhle deal done.

There will be intense competition on the market, but already the Marlins are showing they are ready to be serious in their pursuit of proven talent.

Team owner Jeffrey Loria is stepping up, and being proactive in the process.

He did so in the final few weeks of the season, when he directly got involved in the hiring of Ozzie Guillen as manager.

Loria also was aggressive in convincing Omar Infante to remain with the Marlins, avoiding free agency. Infante signed a two-year, $8 million extension in the final days of the regular season.

The Marlins haven’t been this willing to spend on a high profile free agent since they signed Carlos Delgado in 2005. Again, that was a signing spearheaded by Loria.

Moving into their new ballpark has changed the playing field for the Marlins. With additional revenues, they have the necessary funding to be active on the market.

On Tuesday, team officials gave their attention to Buerhle, who saw first-hand the sizzle of the new stadium and the sights of South Beach.

On Wednesday, some more star treatment will be on the agenda as Mets free agent shortstop Jose Reyes gets the tour of the town.

Joe Frisaro

Reaching out to Reyes

MIAMI — The hot stove season is already heating up for the Marlins.

As expected, the front office is moving fast and furiously in the first few days of the free agency period.

Reports on Monday say the club has already reached out to Jose Reyes’ agent. The Miami Herald reports, they placed an inquiry call last Thursday at 12:01 a.m., the first minute when eligible free agents could talk to all teams.

The Marlins also are inquiring about sluggers Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.

Team officials have said publicly they are seeking a high profile free agent.

Reyes, Pujols and Fielder are game-changers. Reyes offers impact speed and Gold Glove defense.

If they sign Reyes, Hanley Ramirez would be asked to play third.

Pursuing Reyes also offers security at shortstop, because Ramirez is recovering from left shoulder surgery. And there is a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day, although the Marlins are hopeful he will be.

If the Marlins end up signing either Pujols or Fielder, there is a chance Emilio Bonifacio could handle shortstop until Ramirez returns.

The Marlins may be plotting a strategy of getting stronger up the middle. They’re interested in center fielder Yoennis Cespedes, a Cuban defector who will work out for team officials (including owner Jeffrey Loria) on Thursday in the Dominican Republic.

In terms of being cost effective, the Marlins likely could sign Reyes and Cespedes at a much lower price than landing Pujols or Fielder. Both are believed to be seeking more than $200 million. So if the team goes with Reyes and Cespedes, they likely would have money to put towards adding more pitching, another priority.

“Don’t be surprised by anything the Fish do,” a source said.

Joe Frisaro

Dominguez plays in Rising Stars Game

MIAMI — Matt Dominguez received a scare on Friday when he was struck on the right thumb during fielding drills.

For precautionary reasons, the Marlins initially were planning on holding third base prospect out of Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game.

Dominguez, however, was eager to play. And he saw some action for the AFL West squad in their 11-2 win over the East in the Rising Stars Game.

The third baseman entered as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning, and he had one at-bat, striking out.

On Friday, Dominguez took a ground ball off his finger, and an X-ray was taken. It revealed no fracture or ligament damage.

Nursing a bruised thumb, Dominguez took batting practice on Saturday, and felt fine. In BP, he drove a couple of balls out of the park, an encouraging sign.

In 64 AFL at-bats, Dominguez is batting .203 with three home runs and 13 RBIs.

Joe Frisaro

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