October 2013

Five Marlins eligible for free agency

MIAMI — The procedural stage of free agency is officially underway.

On Thursday, the MLB Players Association released its complete list of 147 free agents who qualify under Article XX B of the Basic Agreement.

Five members of the 2013 Marlins are listed — OF Matt Diaz, OF Austin Kearns, OF Juan Pierre, 3B Placido Polanco and right-hander Chad Qualls.

Each team has five days to exclusively negotiate with its free agents. But the Marlins are not expected to reach agreement with any of the five in that time frame.

The most likely candidate to come to a deal in five-day window is Qualls, who has expressed an interest to return. The Marlins also have had interest in retaining the veteran reliever.

As of 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday, free agents are eligible to negotiate and sign with any club.

Joe Frisaro

Red-orange hats to make comeback

MIAMI — It’s not exactly a throwback fashion statement, but the Marlins will be sporting a slightly more colorful look next season.

The Marlins intend to wear their red-orange caps more in '14.

The Marlins intend to wear their red-orange caps more in ’14.

The “red-orange” hats will be making a comeback.

Marlins president David Samson noted that the team plans to wear the brighter hat more in 2014. Since rebranding as the Miami Marlins in 2012, the team has had the “red-orange” hats, but they were worn only sparingly in the first season at Marlins Park.

In 2013, the colorful caps were barely seen. The primary hat has been black with the “M” logo.

The Marlins call the color “red-orange” because it is intended to be shaded darker than a traditional shade of orange.

Even though the team has almost exclusively worn black caps the past two seasons, the red-orange caps have been the club’s best sellers — especially among younger fans.

The Marlins have a red-orange jersey that they wear primarily on day games. But during the second half of ’13, they brought out the jersey more often for night games.

The team mainly wears white, black and red-orange jerseys at home. On the road, they go mostly with black and red-orange over gray.

Joe Frisaro

Samson guarantees better days ahead

MIAMI — The Red Sox did it, and David Samson believes the Marlins can do the same.

Boston and Miami each shared 93-loss seasons in 2012. In one year, the Red Sox turned things around and they are in the World Series.

The Marlins also redirected from a year ago, and they revamped their roster. Obviously, going younger and not possessing the financial resources of Boston, Miami endured a 62-100 campaign.

However, the Marlins have a core of young, talented players. The team is building around Jose Fernandez, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and other promising young players.

Samson, the Marlins’ president, predicts better days are ahead.

“We’re getting ready for another season, and we’re going to win more,” Samson said. “I promise you this, we’re not going to lose 100 games next year, not even close. Look what the Red Sox did. They had the same record we did in ’12. They turned it around to be in the World Series in ’13. Well, it’s time for us to do the same. That’s why we didn’t book that concert in October. Why would we ever book something when we should be and will be playing playoff games?”

Samson spoke with reporters on Thursday at the news conference announcing the creation of the Miami Beach Bowl, which will begin in December 2014.

Marlins Park will be hosting college football for the first time. And the Marlins plan on booking other non-baseball events at their retractable-roof home.

Samson noted that the organization was approached about a concert in October of 2014. But the Marlins don’t plan on booking other events because they have playoff aspirations in the future.

Samson also shed some light on the start of Spring Training.

The Marlins, who share the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., with the Cardinals, plan on taking the field on Feb. 16, 2014.

“I can’t wait to start Spring Training,” Samson said. “We have Spring Training starting in the middle of February. We’re starting the minute we can. I think you’re going to see us on the field Feb. 16, because we want to get out there and get going.”

Joe Frisaro

Marlins out of Abreu sweepstakes

MIAMI — The Marlins did their diligence and made a strong push for Jose Dariel Abreu. But with a number of other teams in the bidding, Miami on Thursday pulled out of the sweepstakes for the Cuban slugger.

The Marlins heavily scouted the 26-year-old first baseman.

Teams made blind bids for Abreu about a week ago to get an indication of his value.

Initially, the cost for Abreu was believed to be in the $45 million to $60 million range. But, according to reports, his price tag was rising to close to $70 million.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, the White Sox were closing in on a six-year, $68 million deal. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reported the deal was done, pending completion of a physical. The Red Sox and Astros were finalists, and the Rangers also had strong interest.

Abreu is considered a power bat to hit in the middle of any order.

With Abreu no longer an option, the Marlins will look in other areas to address their offensive needs.

Logan Morrison is the incumbent to remain at first base.

Joe Frisaro

Developing a new Marlins Way

MIAMI — Naming Frank Menechino as their new hitting coach was step one. Next, the Marlins will be working towards establishing a new identity at the plate.

After finishing last in the Majors in runs scored, batting average, home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, the Marlins will be striving to develop an organizational hitting identity.

Ideally, they’d like to establish a basic approach that can be adopted at all levels of their organization.

Menechino, who came highly recommended, spent the past five seasons as a hitting coach in the Yankees’ system.

With so many young players in their system, Menechino promises to do as much teaching and instructing as coaching. But he won’t be going at improving the offense alone.

New general manager Dan Jennings said organization will be having meetings before the start of Spring Training to discuss an philosophy to move forward.

“We’re going to have some meeetings before Spring Training, and we’re going to solicit input from all of our hitting people within the organization,” Jennings said. “We’re going to create a Marlins Way, a Marlins Mindset, and work on all of our guys having a plan, and an understanding on how to take that into the game. And hopefully get the results that will get production.”

Production is the ultimate goal. Whatever steps they go through to achieve that is what the team will weigh.

Also still on the table is the possibility of adding a second hitting coach or instructor. MLB rules allow a seventh coach on the staff for such a position. Miami has six on its staff.

“We’ve had conversations. We’ve tossed it around,” Jennings said. “We’ve weighed the pros and the cons. I’d say right now, I don’t think we’re leaning either way. It’s something that we’ve taken note of, that some teams are doing it. We’ve talked about with us, would it be advantageous or detrimental.

“I think there are arguments on both sides, but we need to be comfortable with it.”

Manager Mike Redmond and Menechino have to have a comfort level with bringing in another coach.

“Right now, I wouldn’t say we’re leaning either way,” Jennings said. “It’s something we’ve talked about.”

Two members of the 2013 staff will not be coming back. Joe Espada has informed the team he would accept managing Class A Jupiter. And John Pierson will go back to being the Minor League field coordinator.

There always is a chance Espada could be offered a big league coaching job elsewhere.

Managing in the big leagues could be part of Espada’s future, and he could gain valuable experience at Jupiter.

“We have great respect, everybody in the organization feels the same about Joe,” Jennings said. “We like him. We were glad he decided to remain inside the organization. From a career standpoint, this may be a great move for him as he goes forward, having an opportunity to manage a game and being in that capacity.”

Joe Frisaro

Espada weighing whether to manage Jupiter squad

MIAMI — Some changes are being made to Marlins manager Mike Redmond’s coaching staff.

Third base coach Joe Espada has been asked to manage Class A Jupiter in the Florida State League. On the big league staff the past four years, Espada is taking a few days to decide if he wants to accept the reassignment or seek a big league job with another club.

A native of Puerto Rico, Espada has the makings of being a future big league manager. The thought from the Marlins’ perspective is to give him the opportunity to gain managerial experience in the Minors.

In the past, Espada went through the interview process for the Marlins’ manager post. He last interviewed before Ozzie Guillen was hired in 2012.

Espada is highly respected by the players, and he gained some international attention as the third base coach for Team Puerto Rico, which lost in the finals to the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

With the Marlins this past season, Espada also coached the outfielders and he was the base-running instructor. In Spring Training, he worked daily on bunting with the players early in the morning at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.

Last week, the Marlins reassigned interim hitting coach John Pierson to the Minors.

Andy Haines managed the Jupiter Hammerheads this past season. His new role has yet to be decided.

The Marlins are considering going with two hitting coaches, a trend being used by a number of teams, including the Cardinals.

Andy Barkett, who managed Double-A Jacksonville, reportedly is in the mix for a hitting coach spot.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins all-in on pursuing Abreu

MIAMI — We’re about to find out how serious the Marlins are about signing Jose Dariel Abreu.

Earlier in the week, the organization was well represented at Abreu’s two-day workout in the Dominican Republic.

Word is the organization is highly impressed with the power-hitting first baseman. The latest is blind bids for Abreu are due on Saturday. Projections are it will take between $45-60 million to land the 26-year-old Cuban native, who is said to have a boyish face and fun-loving personality.

The Marlins are all-in on signing Abreu. But can they seal the deal? That will be up to team owner Jeffrey Loria, and how much he is willing to spend.

According to a source, the Giants are considered a favorite to land his services.

The Marlins, meanwhile, plan to make their pitch. The thought of having Giancarlo Stanton and Abreu in the middle of the order could immediately upgrade the team that scored the fewest runs in the Majors (513) this season.

At his workout, Abreu showed an easy swing, and the ball exploded off his bat.

Abreu is said to be more of a pure hitter than Stanton, who has the edge in raw power.

The Marlins are not expected to be major players in the free agent market for established big league veterans. However, the international market presents an attractive alternative.

Abreu’s price tag will be dramatically lower than, say, Robinson Cano, who is said to be seeking $300 million.

Even if that is an inflated figure to start off with, Cano still projects to make $200-plus million, still out of Miami’s price league.

Abreu also is interesting because he might be passable at third base. Ideally, he would play first. But he could be a candidate to play third, if the club also would like to retain Logan Morrison.

Bottom line with Abreu is his bat.

If he can hit the way some believe he will, he could play a defensive third base similar to what Miguel Cabrera is doing in Detroit.

Also telling about the Marlins’ interest in Abreu is the club may be willing to boost payroll to more than the projected $38 million they initially were leaning towards.

The exact budget the team plans to operate with has not yet been determined.

Perhaps the key is finding the right player to invest in to incresae payroll. Abreu just may be that guy.

— Joe Frisaro

Projected arbitration figures for ’14

MIAMI — Through the arbitration process, several Marlins are headed for substantial raises in 2014.

Heading the list of nine players up for arbitration are Giancarlo Stanton and Steve Cishek.

Assuming neither signs a multi-year deal, which is highly likely, they project to be the two highest paid Marlins when Spring Training opens in February.

The MLB Trade Rumors web site has a formula of tabulate what players are in line to make in arbitration. The model, developed by Matt Swartz, estimates Stanton will make $4.8 million, compared to Cishek’s $3.2 million.

Miami’s front office has yet to be presented payroll parameters for next season, but indications are it will remain close to the $38 million the team operated under this year.

Stanton earned $537,000 and Cishek made $505,000.

Stanton turns 24 in November, and the slugger is coming off a disappointing season. Cishek, meanwhile, was one of the most consistent performers, setting a franchise record for consecutive saves.

As usual, there will be plenty of speculation as to whether the Marlins will trade Stanton. There are strong signs from within the organization that Miami plans on retaining the slugger, while attempting to sign him to a multi-year deal.

If Stanton isn’t agreeable, and he seeks to wait out his service time in Miami, the Marlins seem prepared to go on a year-to-year basis until the slugger is free agent-eligible after the 2016 season.

Cishek, actually, may become a more realist trade piece. The Marlins have some power arms in the system, and they likely will seek offensive upgrades on the trade market.

Cishek’s value is at its highest, and it might make sense to include him as a trade piece for offensive help.

Coming off a 62-100 season, the club is at least another year away from seriously contending. So the organization is probably asking itself if it needs a $3.2 million closer at this point.

If the Marlins do opt to trade Cishek, it would be a change of strategy from the regular season. Clubs repeatedly checked to see if the 27-year-old was available before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Each time they were told, Cishek wasn’t available.

Here’s the projected arbitration numbers, according to MLB Trade Rumors

Name, Service time, ’14 projected salary

• Giancarlo Stanton: 3.118 yrs: $4.8 million
• Steve Cishek: 2.143 (Super Two): $3.2 million
• Kevin Slowey: 5.053: $1.8 million
• Justin Ruggiano: 3.019: $1.8 million
• Logan Morrison: 3.069: $1.7 million
• Ryan Webb: 4.029: $1.5 million
• Mike Dunn: 3.079: $1.4 million
• Chris Coghlan: 3.171: $800,000
• Koyie Hill: 5.087: $500,000

Joe Frisaro