December 2012

Marlins would listen to offers for Stanton

MIAMI — Giancarlo Stanton is a force in the middle of the Miami Marlins. But like any player in the organization, the 23-year-old slugger is not considered “untouchable.”

But that doesn’t mean the Marlins are actively looking to deal Stanton or that the club is planning on trading him anytime soon.

Still, Stanton speculation is running high.

On Sunday, the All-Star right fielder’s name surfaced once again after a Sirius/XM/MLB Network Radio report.

Marlins assistant GM, Dan Jennings, was a guest on the “Front Office” show, with hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette.

Jennings was asked if the Marlins would listen to offers for Stanton. Per company policy, the team does so on any player.

“Oh, I think that’s been our M.O.  I know in the 10 years I’ve been here that’s our M.O.,” Jennings said during the radio segment. “We’ve never not listened to a deal on any player. Sometimes I chuckle when I hear people say, ‘This guy’s untouchable,’ and ‘That guy’s untouchable.’  You know what? They may be untouchable until someone either overwhelms you or you get a package back that makes such a significant improvement on your club going forward. So we’ve always been willing to listen.”

Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest has long stated the same points.

“I think Larry, he’s never said, ‘No.’ But what we’re not going to do is move a player for less than what we value their ability,” Jennings said. “In Giancarlo Stanton you’ve got a [23-year-old] guy that we think going forward has got a chance to be a .300 hitter and [hit] 50 home runs and be a guy that is a big-time run producer. So while we’re not shopping him, certainly not looking to move him, yeah, if someone knocked on our door and said, ‘Hey, would you guys consider this and this and this,’ you have to listen.”

Basically, Jennings repeated the team policy, and there isn’t anything new here, other than a team official publicly addressing Stanton by name.

Yes, the Marlins would move Stanton, but only for a tremendous haul, which means, he would essentially clean out the top prospects of any organization. It would basically take four or maybe five players to complete a deal for Stanton.

Stanton will not be arbitration eligible until 2014, and he isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season. So the Marlins are in no rush to trade Stanton. Yet, it remains highly unlikely he will agree to a long-term contract.

It is appearing more inevitable that sometime before he reaches free agency that Stanton will be moved, because the Marlins are reloading their roster, and will look to add as many quality pieces in the next few years.

Joe Frisaro



Marlins not pursuing Alvarez or Diaz

MIAMI — Two touted Cuban prospects will work out for MLB scouts on Jan. 5. Don’t expect the Marlins to pursue either one of them.

According to a source, Miami has zero interest in either Dariel Alvarez or Aledmys Diaz, two Cuban natives who were declared free agents earlier this month.

Alvarez is a 24-year-old outfielder, and Diaz, 22, is a shortstop.

The Marlins are not expected to attend their workout.

A year ago, the Marlins aggressively pursued Cuban-born outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who ended up signing with the A’s. The organization was in a different situation then, looking for a big year with an expensive roster that has since been broken up.

At this point, the Marlins are not willing to spend multi-million dollars on unproven international players.

While the Marlins don’t like to use the word “rebuilding,” there is little pretense about what the franchise is looking to accomplish right now. Although it is unpopular to part with proven players like Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, Miami is in the process of restocking the organization from the bottom up.

At the big league level, they may be bracing to take their lumps for a couple of years, but the hope is they will develop the necessary foundation to come out of the stretch stronger in the future.

And there are some solid prospects like Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick who aren’t that far away from being big league ready.

Development is about to take on a greater importance, since the club isn’t expected to be a serious player on the free agent market for at least a year or two.

To turn things around as quickly as possible, the Marlins will be looking to find impact players in their First-Year Player Draft, as well as making sure they receive value in return on any trades that may be made in the near future.

So don’t look for any quick-fix, high-cost signings, or for Miami to be in the mix for Alvarez or Diaz.

Joe Frisaro

Could Hamilton decision sway Marlins’ thinking?

MIAMI — What’s happening with the Angels may have a domino effect that could impact the Marlins.

Josh Hamilton, the biggest free agent on the market, reportedly has reached agreement on a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels.

Once the signing becomes official, the balance in the American League West has again shifted. The Angels’ lineup becomes perhaps the best in the game.

So what’s next for the Rangers?

All eyes turn to them to see if they will make a counter punch. If they do, they may have to seek a big trade.

Or how about the Angels? They now have a surplus of outfielders, and they too may seek to make more deals.

At the Winter Meetings, the Marlins told teams that Giancarlo Stanton is not available. That was then, prior to Hamilton relocating to Southern California.

The Rangers have a loaded farm system, and if they are willing to offer some of their top young players, the Marlins may be in position to cash in, if they don’t consider Stanton part of their long-term plans.

Would Miami be tempted to move Stanton if suddenly Jurickson Profar and/or Mike Olt are centerpieces in a deal?

The Marlins also could be positioning themselves to tap into what the Angels now have available.

Peter Bourjos, a speedy outfielder, has been on the Marlins’ radar for a while. Could he suddenly be had in a trade? Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales also may be on the market.

Miami’s farm system is substantial stronger since the Nov. 19 trade with the Blue Jays. If something makes sense, there are prospects who could be moved.

Since the Winter Meetings, the Marlins have been searching for a third baseman. Now, the landscape for trades has changed. Will Miami’s front office also have a change of heart and seek more deals?

Joe Frisaro


Who will sign next long-term deal?

MIAMI — Convincing low-cost free agents to sign one-year deals with the Marlins is proving to be challenge.

Miami’s front office is seeing that in their search for a third baseman.

Jeff Keppinger, high on the Marlins’ shopping list, recently opted to go to the White Sox. And Mark Reynolds is also off the board, having agreed with the Indians.

If modestly-priced free agents are shying away, what are the chances of the Marlins luring marquee players to South Florida? There is so much to sell in Miami, but it will take more than the beaches and sunshine to tempt proven players seeking top dollar.

So as teams like the Dodgers are locking up Zack Greinke long-term, the Marlins are taking a different approach. They are building from the ground up.

The frustration for suffering South Florida fans is the path back to playoff contention may take a little while. When you load up on untested players, you have uncertainty, and the likely possibility of a losing season.

That doesn’t mean the future won’t end up bright. It’s just that few get excited over seeing the infrastructure being set into place. We want to experience the thrills of the finished product, not endure the growing pains, especially when it’s been a decade since the Marlins last were in the postseason.

The understandable backlash of trading players like Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle less than one year after signing them to multi-year deals has put the organization in a bind.

Without the security of a no-trade clause, the Marlins clearly will have difficulty signing costly free agents. On top of that, slugger Giancarlo Stanton right now is not even considering a long-term deal, and he’s four years away from being free agent eligible.

Sure, the Marlins could eventually have a staring contest with Stanton to see if he will blink, and agree to a lucrative contract. Maybe that will happen in a year or so. It’s certainly not in the equation for now.

So who will be the next player to sign a multi-year deal with Miami?

Chances are it could be a player or two who have yet to debut in the big leagues. Top prospects Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez may wind up signing the next big deals. Both are projected to open 2013 at Double-A Jacksonville.

For now, Stanton is the face of the franchise. In time, the distinction will likely go to Yelich and Fernandez.

Yelich, a left-handed hitting outfielder, projects as the center fielder of the future. Fernandez, a hard-throwing right-hander, is the closest the Marlins have to a Stephen Strasburg.

For both, the Marlins may consider doing something similar to what Tampa Bay did with Evan Longoria and Matt Moore. Both were signed to long-term contracts with very little big league service time. In 2008, Longoria was signed for six years at $17.5 million, and this year, Moore came to terms with a five-year, $14 million deal.

Don’t be surprised if the Marlins do something similar with their home-grown prospects.

Of course there is risk, if either one doesn’t pan out. But if the evaluations are right, and they are indeed “can’t miss” prospects, then the Marlins may have to take that chance if they want to keep their foundation in place for at least a five or six year period.

— Joe Frisaro






Finding low-cost third baseman becoming a challenge

MIAMI — In the past, the Marlins had success finding players with something to prove. Jorge Cantu was brought in on a Minor League deal after Miguel Cabrera was traded to the Tigers during the 2007 Winter Meetings. Cantu gave the Marlins a couple of very productive seasons, belting 29 homers and driving in 95 runs in ’08. The following season, he reached 100 RBIs.

Once again, the Marlins are hoping to find a low-cost bargain to play third base.

But the search has become challenging. Miami officials saw that at the Winter Meetings. They made a push for Jeff Keppinger, who agreed to a three-year, $12 million deal with the White Sox.

Miami has interest in Mark Reynolds, who has tremendous power. Reynolds also strikes out a lot, and he’s not very good defensively at third base.

It appears Reynolds, who may be more suited to play first base, is taking other options more seriously.

Ian Stewart was on the Marlins’ radar, but the left-handed hitting third baseman is about to sign with the Cubs, who recently non-tendered him.

Miami would have strong interest in Placido Polanco, but the former All-Star may be done because of a painful back injury. So Polanco isn’t even in consideration.

Ryan Raburn, Matt Downs and Jack Hannahan remain in the mix.

The Marlins are finding even modestly-priced free agents are reluctant to sign with Miami, even for a one-year, guaranteed deal.

There is an issue of trust after Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, who signed multi-year deals last December, were moved after one season in South Florida.

At the Winter Meetings, I spoke with one veteran player who is looking for a job. “I don’t want any part of that fiasco,” he said.

Miami’s blockbuster trade with Toronto on Nov. 19 has made it more difficult to convince players with any kind of track record to buy into the program.

What Miami may wind up doing is mixing and matching at third base. Greg Dobbs could be an option to play regularly, but the veteran is best suited for a bench role.

Joe Frisaro

A’s, Rays among teams interested in Escobar

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Trade talks have picked up regarding Yunel Escobar, and the Rays and A’s are among the teams most interested.

The Marlins are planning on dealing Escobar, quite possibly before the Winter Meetings conclude on Thursday at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.

Escobar, a veteran infielder, was acquired by the Marlins on Nov. 19 from the Blue Jays. A career shortstop, Miami was considering playing Escobar at third base.

In return, the Marlins are likely to receive a Triple-A pitcher.

In other news, the Marlins main their firm stance that they will not trade slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Plenty of teams, including the Yankees, have inquired about the All-Star right fielder. The Marlins are telling teams Stanton is not available.

Also, the Marlins do not intend on trading Ricky Nolasco. On Monday, the right-hander’s agent, Matt Sosnick, made it public that Nolasco would prefer to be dealt before the start of Spring Training.

Nolasco is lined up to make $11.5 million in 2013, the final year of his contract. There is a chance he still could be moved by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Joe Frisaro


Should Marlins keep or trade Stanton?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Assemble the entire league, complete with representatives from every team. Place them around hundreds of media, and you knew it would eventually happen.

It didn’t very long for reports to surface that Giancarlo Stanton remains unhappy.

The Marlins on Monday were unable to escape it. Not even the expanse of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, with its nearly 2,900 rooms, 220 suites, 15 restaurants and seemingly infinite amounts of secret hiding places could prevent them.

The Stanton saga is real, and it’s something the Marlins must address.

Miami president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest admitted there is a level of concern about how to get the 23-year-old slugger to buy into the new direction the club is headed.

“Yeah, I think you have to have some concern,” Beinfest said early Monday evening. “Is it a grave concern? I know Mike is a professional. He’s a great kid, and he’s going to come to play.”   Although Stanton formerly likes to be referred to by his given first name, Giancarlo, many friends and those in the Marlins organization still call him, Mike, his middle name.

The Marlins are hopeful that when it is time to get into a baseball environment, around new teammates, Stanton will be ready to perform.   “I understand the disappointment and questions about the direction of the team,” Beinfest said. “Those are understandable. I think we anticipated some of that. I have no doubt that Mike will get through it, be a professional. He’s always behaved in that manner since Day 1.”

From where the Marlins are right now, clearly, it’s a tough sell.

The organization came to the Winter Meetings with zero intention of shopping Stanton. They didn’t even want to entertain thoughts of moving him. But with his situation being a hot-button issue, you knew his name would eventually surface.

Now, the Marlins holds the cards in this case. Stanton has one more season of being under club control before he is eligible for arbitration. And the slugger won’t reach free agency until after the 2016 season. So you’re talking about him playing for something just over $500,000 in ’13.

Before Thanksgiving, Miami manager Mike Redmond reached out to Stanton in a phone conversation.

But no one else from the organization has spoken directly to Stanton. The hope has been to let emotions settle and then make contact.

Perhaps it is time for management to rethink that timeline, and measure for themselves exactly where Stanton’s head is right now.

Obviously, he is a franchise talent. He’s a special talent, and level-headed person. His immense power cannot be overlooked, or replaced by one player.

If the team can hear for itself that all is well with Stanton, then it can go forward planning on the budding superstar to anchor right field and bat in the middle of the order.

The Marlins don’t have to force the issue, and make a trade.

But if they did sense Stanton’s desires to be elsewhere, then putting his name on the market would immediately become the top talk of the Winter Meetings. It would replace every other story line, and it could alert other team’s who are in pursuit of Josh Hamilton, the top free agent out there.

The timing could be right now to get an incredible offer, because so many teams want to make a huge splash during a time MLB is in the national spotlight.

Literally, all 29 other teams could be in play for Stanton because every club would have four years of control over Stanton.

So even the small market teams could be in the mix.

The asking price would be enormous, like five players, including the top three prospects of every organization.

Stanton would bring back a Jurickson Profar and/or Mike Ott from the Rangers, plus more.

Maybe Texas would back off on Hamilton and look to secure Stanton?

What would the Yankees or Cubs offer? And how about the Mariners and Padres, teams in parks that didn’t attract sluggers? They could be in the bidding.

Coors Field?

The Rookies have a deep farm system, and Stanton has shown what he can do at Colorado.

If Stanton stays with the Marlins, already the organization faces the tough task of protecting him in the lineup. Chances are he won’t get pitched to very often, at least if the game is on the line.

And what about the Marlins signing the 23-year-old long term? Obviously, the climate is not right after the club has already traded away all three of their high-profile free agents from a year ago — Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.

And the Marlins are not budging on their no-trade clause policy. They don’t offer them, which also will discourage players from signing long term.

And there is the issue of Marlins Park, which has been a concern among hitters well before all of Miami’s offseason moves.

Simply, the park plays very big and the ball doesn’t carry well. Many players, on the Marlins and other teams, grumbled that the building would hurt Miami’s chances of signing power hitters.

Another thing to be considered is, what if the Marlins get off to a slow start?

With such a young roster, it is certainly possible. If so, then more rumors and trade speculation will surface around Stanton. How will that make the slugger feel, constantly wondering if he is staying or going?

The Marlins clearly are in a tough spot.

For now, the organization should try to get a real indication, from Stanton himself, before deciding whether to keep or trade one of the most gifted young players in the game.

Joe Frisaro



Marlins actively shopping Escobar

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two weeks after being acquired by the Marlins, Yunel Escobar could be on the move yet again.

According to a source, Miami is actively trying to trade the veteran infielder. At least two teams are involved in discussions, with one of them believed to be the A’s.

A deal could be reached before the Winter Meetings end on Thursday.

Escobar was obtained by the Marins as part of a 12-player trade with Toronto that was finalized on Nov. 19.

Escobar is under contract for $5 million in 2013, with club options of $5 million for 2014 and ’15.

The Marlins were projecting him to play third base, although he is a natural shortstop.

Joe Frisaro

Returning to scene of Cabrera trade

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Last time the Winter Meetings were in Nashville, the Marlins made major news.

Five years ago, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel was the setting of one of the biggest trades in team history.

Unfortunately for Miami, the mega-trade didn’t pan out.

At the 2007 meetings, the Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for six prospects, including Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller. Burke Badenhop ended up being the most productive player the Marlins received in the deal. But the right-handed reliever ended up being sent to Tampa Bay after the 2011 season.

Unlike 2007, the Marlins are not expected to make any major trades during their four-day stay in Nashville.

Team officials are expected to arrive on Monday, look for under-the-radar moves to improve.

“It didn’t even register with me that it was here,” Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said of returning to Nashville. “I didn’t think about it like, ‘Oh, we’re going back to Nashville. That’s where we made the Miguel/Dontrelle trade. I never even thought about it until just now.”

A couple of weeks ago, the Marlins made a major 12-player trade with the Blue Jays. They sent Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck to Toronto for seven players.

The Marlins are hopeful to have better results with the Toronto trade than they did with moving Cabrera.

“I wish it would have worked out better for us,” Beinfest said of the blockbuster deal of ’07. “It didn’t. We thought we got the right guys at that time and it didn’t work out. In terms of that trade and re-visiting it, I don’t think we’ll spend a lot of time on it.”

Joe Frisaro