December 2013

LoMo cancels Camp for a Cure

MIAMI — The Marlins traded Logan Morrison to the Mariners a couple of weeks ago. Now, South Florida also is bidding farewell to the first baseman’s annual “LoMo Camp for a Cure.”

On Tuesday, Morrison officially cancelled his annual camp, which was set to take place at the ELEV|8 Sports Institute in Delray Beach, Fla.

The camp had become a popular event for youth players, who had the chance to meet Morrison and get instruction from a number of big leaguers. Proceeds from the camp went to combating lung cancer.

Because of Morrison’s commitments to his new team, he was unable to carry on the camp at least one more year.

“As some of you may know, I was recently traded to the Seattle Mariners,” Morrison said in his e-mail. “While I loved my time in Miami and I am sad to leave, I have a new team that needs me to start preparing for the upcoming season in Seattle. With that being said, our 2014 LoMo Camp for a Cure event is being cancelled.”

Campers who had already paid will receive a full refund. Also, ELEV|8 Sports Institute is offering a discount of $75 (15 percent off) its Spring Break Advanced Training Camp. The discount code is “CURE.”

Morrison, one of the more popular Miami players in recent years, was active in the community in a number of charitable events.

He was the Marlins nominee for the 2013 Roberto Clemente Award.

Joe Frisaro

Additions provide needed balance

MIAMI — The Marlins may not have landed a prototypical middle of the order slugger, but their offseason moves have certainly given the lineup some needed balance.

Free agents Garrett Jones and Jarrod Saltalamacchia offer left-handed hitting pop to a team that finished last in the Majors in home runs last year.

Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter, but his power has clearly come from the left side. Rafael Furcal also switch-hits, but his role will be to get on base, not necessarily drive in runs.

The Marlins have severely lacked left-handed punch for a while.

They have not had two left-handed hitters connect on more than 10 home runs in the same season since Mike Jacobs (32) and Jeremy Hermida (17) in 2008.

Actually, the Marlins have by far the fewest amount of home runs by left-handed hitters since Jeffrey Loria assumed ownership in 2002. In that span, Miami has 392 home runs from lefty batters. The team ranked 29th? Houston, with 608. The Yankees lead the Majors in that stretch with 1,474.

It’s a different story for the Marlins from the right side. Their right-hander hitters are fourth in the Majors since 2002 with 1,470.

For years, Miami had a philosophy that quality is quality, no matter which side of the plate a batter stood. The rationale was the 2003 club won the World Series with a predominantly right-handed hitting lineup. From the ’03 team, the only regulars to bat lefty vs. right-handers were Juan Pierre and switch-hitting Luis Castillo, two table setters.

Yes, there were plenty of quality right-handed hitters on that team, but there are plenty of examples of championship teams before and since ’03 who have had left-handed power threats.

A big part of reshaping the ’14 roster has been adding balance.

Now, against right-handed pitching, the Marlins can run out four right-handed and left-handed hitters.

Jones, Saltalamacchia and Christian Yelich are each more than capable of double-digit home runs from the left side. Another potential candidate to be in the group is Derek Dietrich, who will see time at third base in Spring Training. Dietrich had nine homers in two months in the big leagues last year.

In spacious Marlins Park, home runs in general have been hard to come by. Just 36 of Miami’s 95 home runs in ’13 came at home.

Even on the road, Miami hasn’t had much home run production the past two seasons.

Almost as glaring has been the lack of punch from the left side.

Since moving into Marlins Park, left-handed batters have accounted for 55 total home runs (home and away), compared to 175 from right-handed hitters.

Not surprisingly, Giancarlo Stanton has been the primary power source — belting 37 homers in ’12, and 24 in ’13.

Logan Morrison has accounted for the most total by a left-handed hitter — 17, with six coming in ’13.

Morrison, of course, was traded to the Mariners for reliever Carter Capps a few weeks ago.

Jones and Saltamacchia (batting lefty), meanwhile, had combined for 80 home runs the past two seasons. When you throw in the two Furcal hit in 2012, that is 82 total from those three new additions.

Jones has 102 career homers, with 42 since ’12. Saltalamacchia chips in with 38.

The new-look Miami lineup may only have Stanton as a realistic 30-plus home run threat, but the club now certainly has some added balance that was absent for several seasons.

Joe Frisaro

McGehee becomes cost-effective signing

MIAMI — When the Marlins traded Justin Ruggiano to the Cubs, the team talked about re-allocating those projected dollars elsewhere.

Now we see what the team meant.

The Marlins on Wednesday announced the signing of free agent Casey McGehee.

Essentially what the Marlins did was take the projected $1.8 million that would have gone to Ruggiano, and distribute a good portion to McGehee.

Actually, the Marlins saved money in the deal, because McGehee is signed for $1.1 million, plus incentives. Ruggiano, in his first year of arbitration, is projected to make $1.8 million.

Taking it a step further, the $700,000 difference can also be applied to signing Brian Bogusevic, obtained from the Cubs for Ruggiano.

Bogusevic made $483,000 last year.

Basically, the trade and the free agent signing has allowed the Marlins to bring in McGehee, a starting third base, and Bogusevic, a left-handed hitting outfielder, for what the cost would have been to retain Ruggiano, who would have been Miami’s fourth outfielder.

McGehee and Ruggiano are 31-year-old right-handed hitters with power.

Basically, the Marlins felt McGehee would provide similar numbers to Ruggiano, who belted 18 home runs and drove in 50 last year.

Last year in Japan, McGehee belted 27 homers.

Ruggiano plays all three outfield spots, and he was willing to play some first base.

McGehee, meanwhile, has big league experience at first base, and he is an option to play the position against left-handed pitchers.

The Marlins say they plan on giving Garrett Jones starts against lefty pitching. But the left-handed hitting first baseman has struggled in the past against southpaws. McGehee is a right-handed hitting option.

The Marlins view McGehee as a similiar player to Ruggiano, and he fits their roster better right now. And the cost was right.

Joe Frisaro

Search for third base help continues

MIAMI — Now what?

In recent days, the Marlins expressed interest in free agent third baseman Juan Uribe. But late Saturday afternoon, Uribe reached agreement on a two-year deal with the Dodgers, as first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

For more than a month the Marlins had kept close tabs on Uribe. But with the veteran off the board, the search continues for Miami.

Barring the club signing someone like Eric Chavez, a free agent who was with the D-backs last year, Miami may be facing a situation of trading some of its young pitching to address a position need.

Thus far, the organization has used free agency to fill needs at catcher (Jarrod Saltalamacchia), second base (Rafael Furcal) and first base (Garrett Jones).

Those moves meant Miami didn’t have to part with any of its high-end starting pitchers. The club has 11 pitchers who have either pitched in the big leagues or Double-A or above.

So there are plenty of candidates primed to pitch in the big leagues to choose from to pull off a trade for a third baseman.

There are some low-cost options on the market. The Miami Herald singles out the team is intrigued by Casey McGehee, who had a 27 home run season in Japan. Wilson Betemit is another possibility.

But both could be more non-roster invitee candidates.

If the Marlins do part with pitching depth, they will do so only if they can bring back a big league prospect under club control.

Will Middlebrooks could fit the mold, if the Red Sox make him available. Or perhaps the Cubs could be a match for Mike Olt.

An internal candidate who shouldn’t be overlooked is Derek Dietrich.

Dietrich made his big league debut for Miami in May, and he belted nine home runs before he was optioned to Double-A. While Dietrich played second last year, he is a candidate to play third base.

Keep in mind, now that Justin Ruggiano has been traded to the Cubs, among the Miami players returning from the ’13 squad, Dietrich has the second most home runs. Giancarlo Stanton paced the team with 24, while Ruggiano added 18.

Joe Frisaro

Uribe remains option at third

MIAMI — Free agent signings have already filled three positions for the Marlins. Could the club go that path to plug in another piece?

Miami continues to have interest in Juan Uribe, according to a league source.

The Marlins are exploring free agent and trade options to fill their third base need. For weeks, they have retained interest in Uribe.

Reportedly, the Rays also have shown interest in Uribe, but as a first base option. On Friday night, Tampa Bay reached agreement with first baseman James Loney on a three-year, $21 million contract.

The Marlins also have inquired about Uribe’s interest in playing some first base. If Miami is to reach a deal for Uribe, who is seeking at least two and possibly three years, he could fill a few options.

The veteran would be the primary third baseman. But if he is willing to play some first base, he also could be a right-handed hitting option in place of Garrett Jones, who signed a two-year deal on Tuesday.

The left-handed hitting Jones is expected to get a chance against lefties. But adding Uribe would give the club the flexibility to sit Jones versus tough southpaws.

Miami has already signed three free agents in the past week — catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and second baseman Rafael Furcal and Jones. All three have playoff experience.

So does Uribe, who was an impact player for the Dodgers in the postseason in ’13.

Uribe also was part of World Series championship teams with the White Sox and Giants.

The Marlins have been weighing whether to sign a free agent, like Uribe, or trade some of its pitching depth for a third baseman with controllable years before reaching free agency.

Joe Frisaro

Unfinished business includes signing Stanton

MIAMI — After a hectic week of free agent signings and trades, Marlins’ officials exited the Winter Meetings on Thursday noting they still have some unfinished business ahead.

Figuring out what to do at third base is at the top of the list.

President of baseball operations Michael Hill said on Thursday he had hoped to accomplish everything at the meetings.

It didn’t pan out that way mainly because they were fielding numerous offers for Logan Morrison. On Wednesday, the club reached agreement on a trade that is sending Morrison to Seattle for reliever Carter Capps. The deal is expected to be announced on Friday.

The search for third base help continues. So does another looming question — what about Giancarlo Stanton? To make something very clear, he is not being traded. What’s left unresolved is whether he actually is willing to sign long term.

Within the organization, the Marlins say he is the “face of the franchise.”

Club officials repeatedly have said they wish to build around the 24-year-old slugger.

Yet, the organization has still not engaged in any serious contract discussions with Stanton. Now there is time, and maybe that’s the plan — show a willingness to spend on free agents, add nice pieces, and actually show Stanton what is going on in Miami.

Stanton is arbitration eligible and projects to make about $7 million if the team signed him only for 2014, and moves on from there.

Technically, the Marlins have Stanton under club contract through 2016. So they could keep him on a year-to-year basis until then. But if they want to sign him long term, the timing is pretty much the next few months, or before Opening Day.

From an organizational standpoint, the Marlins are taking care of all other business as they reshape their roster.

They Marlins have been among the most active teams since Thanksgiving. The reshaped front office is striving to remold the roster.

There is a cultural change going on. Several of the new players who were brought in — Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rafael Furcal and Garrett Jones — have playoff experience. Furcal and Saltalamacchia have been on World Series winners. This is not by accident.

The Marlins are seeking players who know how to win, and what it takes to be a winner.

Financial resources will always be an issue with the Marlins. They simply don’t have all the money streams as many other clubs do, so they must be clever and careful in the players they go after.

The players they do sign, they want them to understand the vision and direction.

This is where the Stanton saga will be worth following.

It’s no secret this organization has an image issue. Stanton has seen numerous changes. He’s had five managers since he broke in as a rookie in 2010. He’s seen close friends and teammates traded. He’s heard what the team has said it is going to do, and witnessed what they actually did do.

There has been a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the front office the past few months. This group is working hard to bring in the right mix to turn things around in the hurry.

The unanswered question is whether they will be able to do enough to convince Stanton that Miami is worth buying into for the long haul?

Joe Frisaro

Ruggiano being shopped at Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Marlins are expected to explore a number of possible moves on Wednesday, the last full day of the Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.

According to a league source, Miami is listening to offers for outfielder Justin Ruggiano, who is in arbitration for the first time.

Ruggiano belted 18 home runs last season, and if he remains with Miami, he would be a backup at all three outfield positions.

The Marlins are in the market for a third baseman and a reliever.

The team is believed to have interest in free agent third baseman Eric Chavez.

Miami also continues to weigh offers for first baseman Logan Morrison, who has drawn interest from more than 10 clubs.

Joe Frisaro

No surprise, no inquires about Stanton

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — To anyone who would listen, the Marlins made it abundantly clear Giancarlo Stanton was not available.

Apparently, teams listened.

“No one has called us about Stanton,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said Tuesday night.

The Marlins have been consistent in their statements regarding Stanton, their 24-year-old right fielder. The slugger, who would garner immense interest on the trade front, is seen as the face of Miami’s franchise.

The 24-year-old, who belted 24 homers last year, is entering arbitration for the first time. He projects to make about $7 million next season.

Before the General Managers Meetings in Orlando last month, general manager Dan Jennings said on Sirius/XM radio that Stanton was “not available.”

Still, many in the industry didn’t believe, because the Marlins have had a history of dealing their high-priced players.

But at the GM Meetings, Hill added, no teams asked about Stanton, because they realized they would be told, “no.”

“We wanted to put that out there,” Hill said on Tuesday.

The Marlins see the importance of adding as opposed to subtracting. The strategy has helped them sign three free agents in the past five days.

On Tuesday, the club announced Garrett Jones had signed a two-year deal. And last Friday, Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed for three seasons. Late in the day, Rafael Furcal signed a one-year contract to play second base.

Joe Frisaro

Waiting for right deal for LoMo

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The pending arrival of Garrett Jones makes it inevitable Logan Morrison will be dealt.

It’s just not a given that Morrison will be moved by the time the Winter Meetings conclude with the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

The Marlins are actively in discussions with at least a handful of teams. Teams known to have talked with Miami are the Brewers, Orioles, Pirates and Rays. Pretty much any team in the market for a first baseman have at checked in.

To the Marlins, Morrison is a valuable trade chip, and they want to be careful not to simply given him away. The rest of the league sees it as, Morrison will be moved regardless, so try to get him cheap.

It would be ideal to move Morrison during the meetings to take care of that order of business. But really, there is no rush. Spring Training is in mid-February, so wait the market out, and get the offer they are most comfortable with.

Obviously, things can change quickly at the Meetings. Teams are aggressive, and an offer could materialize at any moment.

As for Jones, the deal is finalized, it just hasn’t been announced. One possible reason is the 40-man roster. Currently, Miami is at 39, and the club has the second overall pick in the Rule 5 Draft. To participate, the team needs a roster space open.

The Marlins could play out the Rule 5 Draft, get the roster to 40, and make a corresponding move to add Jones, who will be making $7.75 million for two years.

The Marlins continue to look for a right-handed hitting alternative at first base. Delmon Young could be a sleeper possibility. Young, an outfielder, has been working at first base this offseason.

Miami also is aggressively trying to get a right-handed reliever with experience now that Chad Qualls has signed with the Astros.

Third base remains a high priority. The Marlins are weighing full-time options, or candidates would can split the position. Sean Rodriguez of the Rays, fits the profile. But there are other possibilities.

Internally, Derek Dietrich is a candidate to play third base, as well as second. Ed Lucas, who also plays third base, is in the mix to be a right-handed hitting first baseman.

Joe Frisaro

Jones’ deal finalized with Miami

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Garrett Jones has finalized his two-year deal with the Marlins, and an announcement is expected on Monday.

The 32-year-old, formerly with the Pirates, is expected to be a platoon option at first base. A left-handed hitter with 102 career home runs, he also offers depth in right field.

Jones becomes the third free agent to sign with the Marlins in the past week. On Friday, the club announced the signings of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and infielder Rafael Furcal, who will be playing second base.

With Jones joining the club, the Marlins are actively shopping first baseman Logan Morrison. The Rays, Brewers, Braves and Orioles are said to be interested.

At the Winter Meetings, the Marlins also are in the process of trying to acquire a third baseman.

Joe Frisaro