January 2012

Seven offseason signings costing $31.585 million

MIAMI — New revenue streams that will be generated from the Marlins new ballpark have resulted in the club dramatically raising payroll.

More contract details were obtained by MLB.com on Monday.

The seven players who have signed big league deals this offseason will cost the club $31.585 million for 2012.

The players are Edward Mujican ($1.625 million), Juan Carlos Oviedo ($6 million), Heath Bell ($6 million), Mark Buehrle ($6 million), Jose Reyes ($10 million), Greg Dobbs ($1.4 million) and Donnie Murphy ($560,000).

Oviedo’s playing status has not been resolved. His visa is still pending, and the right-hander seeks to be removed from MLB’s restricted list.

Oviedo’s contract is pending that he is eligible, and the Marlins may also seek to trade the reliever formally known as Leo Nunez.

Bell, meanwhile, will receive a $3 million signing bonus which is deferred without interest.

Buehrle’s contract includes a $4 million signing bonus which is deferred without interest.

Two more salaries will be added to the list in about a week. On Friday, Anibal Sanchez will have his arbitration hearing, while Emilio Bonifacio’s hearing is set for Feb. 7.

Sanchez is seeking $8 million, while the Marlins are countering at $6.9 million.

Miami and Bonifacio are $250,000 apart in their impasse. Bonifacio is asking for $2.2 million, compared to the $1.95 million being offered by the team.

The arbitration panel will decide either the high or low number for both players.

Joe Frisaro





Marlins-Braves matched in Baseball IQ show

MIAMI — On-field performance will determine how the Marlins stack up with the Braves in the competitive National League East.

At 9 p.m. ET Thursday, the two division rivals will be going at it in a matchup of baseball smarts.

The Marlins and Braves are set to face off on the MLB Network’s trivia show, “Baseball IQ,” a bracket-style tournament hosted by Matt Vasgersian.

Representing the Marlins is Dan Noffsinger, the team’s assistant director of pro scouting. A Harvard graduate, Noffsinger is a rising talent in the player development department.

The Braves will be represented by Mark Lehman, the organizations corporate partnerships manager.

Baseball IQ premiered on the MLB Network on Tuesday with the Mets and Phillies matching up. Two 30-minute episodes will air each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Baseball IQ is a bracket-style tournament which includes partipants from all 30 MLB clubs, MLB.com and the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum.

It’s a recall-based trivia show featuring two participants, who are competing to win up to $45,000 for charity. The winning player of each episode earns $5,000 for the organization’s charity.

Noffsinger is playing for the Miami Marlins Community Foundation.

Among those competing are front office personnel, equipment managers, scoreboard operators and museum curators.

Joe Frisaro


Kearns signs Minor League deal

MIAMI — The Marlins on Wednesday signed outfielder Austin Kearns to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Kearns, 31, appeared in 57 games with the Indians last year, batting .200 with two home runs and seven RBIs.

The veteran broke in with the Reds in 2002, and he has also played for the Nationals and Yankees.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins primed to bid for Cespedes

Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes is on the verge of becoming a free agent, and the Marlins are expected to make a strong push for the 26-year-old outfielder.

Cespedes has established residency in the Dominican Republic, which had kept him in a holding pattern for months. Now, the outfielder is awaiting approval from Major League Baseball to be declared a free agent.

Recently, Cespedes said the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers and Indians had expressed the most interest.

The Marlins are on record saying they believe Cespedes’ best fit is in Miami, with its strong Cuban community.

The Marlins are prepared to make a substantial offer — between four and six years — for the power-hitting outfielder.

There is a feeling within the organization that another impact bat is needed to reach the postseason, and Cespedes is a five-tool player.

The Marlins also feel Cespedes can handle center field, but some wonder if that is his best position. Because of his size, he may profile more as a corner outfielder. But he has the speed to play all three positions.

In recent weeks, Cespedes got some game experience while playing with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League. He showed glimpses of his power, but he’s also rusty.

If he signs with Miami, he certainly would get a strong look in Spring Training, but chances are he would open the season at either Triple-A New Orleans or Double-A Jacksonville.

Emilio Bonifacio would then be the frontrunner to start in center field.

What would it mean for the rest of the Miami roster if Cespedes signs? Logan Morrison is slated for left field, and Mike Stanton is an anchor in right.

The way the Marlins are looking at it is, you can’t have enough elite talent.

The team fell apart last year, in part, because of injuries and lack of depth.

When Spring Training gets underway, the Marlins right now will be monitoring several players who are returning from surgeries. Morrison had his right knee scoped in November, and Chris Coghlan (another outfield candidate) had his left knee scoped in the same month. Both should be ready for Spring Training, but they likely will be eased into action.

Hanley Ramirez is coming off left shoulder surgery. The expectation is for Ramirez to be ready for Opening Day, so his playing time will likely be reduced in Grapefruit League games.

If Ramirez has any setbacks, Bonifacio may wind up at third base in the short term.

Even shortstop will be watched closely.

Jose Reyes has had hamstring issues in the past. Should he need a breather, Bonifacio or Ramirez could see some time at shortstop.

Say everyone is healthy, and Cespedes wins the center field job for Opening Day, Bonifacio then could go back to being a super utility player.

The bottom line is the Marlins feel they would be a more rounded and deeper team with Cespedes.

Joe Frisaro



Marlins not strongly interested in Fielder

MIAMI — Prince Fielder, the highest-profile free agent remaining on the market, is once again being linked to the Marlins.

According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, Miami owner Jeffrey Loria had a discussion with Scott Boras, Fielder’s agent, Wednesday night at the owner’s meetings in Arizona.

The Nationals, the Post reports, are “patiently and aggressively” pursuing Fielder.

As for the Marlins, the fact that Loria and Boras spoke is not that unusual considering they are both in Arizona. Because the team never says never, it’s natural for them to get a feel for what Fielder is seeking. But that doesn’t mean the club is making a strong push for the power hitting first baseman.

In fact, there are strong indications from within the organization that they are not aggressively pursuing Fielder.

Their more realistic free agent target remains Yoenis Cespedes, who is expected to gain his temporary residency in the Dominican Republic within the next few days. Once that happens, the outfielder should be granted free agent status.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins’ marathon men

MIAMI — For much of the offseason, the Marlins front office has been on the go, making a number of high-profile acquisitions.

This weekend, three members of the organization were on the run. Taking a brief break from their daily baseball grind, they tested their endurance on the streets of Orlando.

Team president David Samson, general manager Michael Hill and equipment manager John Silverman participated in a half marathon on Saturday and the Disney Goofy Marathon on Sunday.

The three completed the full marathon on Sunday in 4 hours, 56 minutes. On Saturday, they finished the half marathon in 2:28:55.

All three are accomplished runners, each having participated in several prestigious races. In recent years, they’ve run the Boston and New York City marathons.

In 2006, Samson earned the status of Ironman, when he completed the prestigious Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

Joe Frisaro

Cespedes still on Marlins’ radar

MIAMI — Sometime in the next 10 days, Cuban sensation Yeonis Cespedes is expected to become a free agent. When that day comes, the Marlins will be in the mix for the 26-year-old outfielder.

An industry source said Jan. 15 is a tentative day that Cespedes will establish residency in the Dominican Republic, and then petition MLB for free agent status. Even that date isn’t etched in stone, because there previously was a belief he’d be cleared on Nov. 30.

A few months ago, Marlins officials, including team owner Jeffrey Loria, attended a private workout for Cespedes in the Dominican Republic. The team continues to have interest and plans on eventually negotiating with the outfielder’s agent, Adam Katz.

The Marlins believe Cespedes is a natural fit in Miami, a city with a strong Cuban influence. The club’s new ballpark is located in the Little Havana section of the Miami.

Cost also appears to be working in the Marlins’ favor.

A couple of months ago, it was believed Cespedes was seeking an eight-year deal worth more than $60 million. Several teams have backed away from that number, and a source said Cespedes’ cost appears to be coming down.

More realistic numbers are four years in the $32 million range, the source said.

A four-year deal would get the outfielder to age 30, and he then could test the market again.

Joe Frisaro  

Zambrano issues classy statement

MIAMI — Newly acquired Marlins right-hander Carlos Zambrano, who had his share of success and controversy while with the Cubs, issued a classy parting statement to the people of Chicago.

“I’d like to thank the Chicago media and reporters for more than 10 years covering me and supporting me in the good times and bad,” Zambrano said. “I tried my best to answer all your questions and I thank you for having patience with me and please forgive my poor behavior at times. Chicago will always be in my heart.”

The Marlins traded Chris Volstad for Zambrano on Thursday.

Joe Frisaro


Dobbs agrees to 2-year deal

MIAMI — Greg Dobbs, a key contributor in a difficult 2011, is remaining with the club.

According to a source, Dobbs has agreed to a two-year deal, pending completion of his physical.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported Dobbs will earn $3 million over the two years. MLB.com also has confirmed the terms.

Dobbs had attracted interest from several teams, including the Nationals.

The veteran was one of the Marlins most productive players last year, batting .275 with eight home runs and 49 RBIs in 411 at-bats.

As a pinch-hitter, he made big impact, hitting .370 (10-for-27) with a home run and eight RBIs.

The Marlins are reshuffling their infield with Jose Reyes at shortstop and Hanley Ramirez moving to third base. Dobbs provides depth at third base or first.

In 2011, Dobbs was a bargain, signing a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training.

Joe Frisaro

Hanley talks about playing third

MIAMI — At last, Hanley Ramirez shed some light publicly on whether he is willing to move to third base.

Much has been made over the position shift since the Marlins signed free agent shortstop Jose Reyes.

In recent weeks, Ramirez had not publicly endorsed the change, nor did he say he wouldn’t switch from shortstop to third.

The three-time All-Star did talk recently with manager Ozzie Guillen about the switch.

Ramirez offered this comment to Dionisio Soldevila of The Associated Press: “I’ve talked with Guillen, and what we both want is to win with the Marlins. When January arrives, we’ll see what happens with the position change and everything else. If it’s at third, fine. Wherever they put me, I’ll do it in order to win.”

Changing positions is one challenge for Ramirez right now. The 28-year-old also continues to rehab his left shoulder, which required surgery in September.

Ramirez says his shoulder is 95 percent healed.

Joe Frisaro