The Marlins quieted skeptics by signing three of the top 20 free agents, improving the chances of a winning season under manager Ozzie Guillen as their new ballpark opens.
Major League Signings
- Jose Reyes, SS: six years, $106MM. Includes $22MM club option for 2018 with a $4MM buyout. Gave #71 overall draft pick to Mets as compensation.
- Mark Buehrle, SP: four years, $58MM.
- Heath Bell, RP: three years, $27MM. Includes $9MM vesting option for 2015.
- Greg Dobbs, 3B: two years, $3MM.
- Total spend: $194MM.
Notable Minor League Signings
Trades and Claims
- Acquired manager Ozzie Guillen and RP Ricardo Andres from White Sox for RP Jhan Marinez and If Osvaldo Martinez
- Acquired SP Wade LeBlanc from Padres for C John Baker
- Acquired C Jake Jefferies from Rays for RP Burke Badenhop
- Acquired SP Carlos Zambrano and $15.45MM from Cubs for SP Chris Volstad
The Marlins made some noise this winter. They've associated with Miami rather than all of Florida, marked by an interesting new logo. They've finally got a baseball-only stadium, complete with a retractable roof and an aquarium behind home plate. They've got baseball's most colorful manager, too. The team's eventful offseason began with a trade to acquire manager Ozzie Guillen from the White Sox for a trio of prospects. Jhan Marinez and Osvaldo Martinez aren't considered top prospects, but they are potential useful pieces. The commitment to Guillen was probably as much about generating buzz as it was about finding the best possible leader.
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest clearly had a mandate to push the team's payroll to new heights by signings the best players available. Extra money was suddenly burning a hole in the Marlins' pocket, but they were limited to what was available in the store this particular winter. I mentioned in October that the Marlins' biggest needs were the rotation, center field, and third base, but the best two free agents were first basemen.
The Marlins kicked off the Winter Meetings by overpaying Heath Bell. The 34-year-old closer continued to rack up saves last year, but his strikeout rate dropped signficantly. Beinfest, typically so good at finding cheap closers, paid a major premium for the save statistic for a reliever who may have begun his decline. Jonathan Papelbon was the only other reliever to sign for three or more years this offseason.
In the case of Jose Reyes, the Marlins' creativity was wise. They pursued him aggressively, pushing Hanley Ramirez's questionable shortstop defense to the hot corner. Ramirez seems better-suited for third base at this point in his career, and a decent season from him would top any third baseman the Marlins could have acquired. Reyes represented the rare available shortstop in his prime, and he'll be worth the money if the Marlins can just keep him moderately healthy.
The Marlins needing starting pitching badly, with Javier Vazquez showing no interest in playing in 2012. They targeted Buehrle or C.J. Wilson, and Wilson's agent Bob Garber said the Marlins "would not let it go." The Marlins were rightly willing to commit significantly more to Wilson than Buehrle, but Wilson took a discount to go to the Angels. That left Buehrle as the best available free agent starter, but only for a couple of days until Yu Darvish would be posted. The Marlins were never connected to Darvish, preferring the dependable, unspectactular Buehrle.
The Winter Meetings also included the Marlins' pursuit of Albert Pujols. Acquiring Pujols would have meant trading Gaby Sanchez, and a useful trade chip would have been welcome given the team's remaining needs. The Angels overshadowed the Marlins' Meetings by inking Pujols and Wilson on the final day. The Marlins were apparently willing to offer $200MM+ to Pujols, but showed little interest in Prince Fielder.
Buehrle would effectively replace Vazquez in the team's 2012 rotation, but Beinfest (and perhaps Guillen) couldn't resist pulling Zambrano out of an ugly situation in Chicago. Despite Zambrano's complete lack of trade value, the Marlins gave up a pitcher of value for him in Volstad. Maybe everyone wins from a change of scenery, but Volstad is probably the better pitcher right now and is under control for 2013. This trade was a head-scratcher from the Marlins side.
Center field was addressed internally with Emilio Bonifacio, a reasonable gamble given the lack of alternatives on the market. The Marlins pursued Yoenis Cespedes aggressively, but they wanted a commitment of more than four years. Plus, Cespedes doesn't necessarily fit with a win-now mentality. The Reyes signing certainly improved the Marlins, and losing Vazquez and Volstad for Buehrle and Zambrano is probably a wash in the rotation. Although the Marlins overpaid for Bell, they needed some kind of bullpen addition since Juan Carlos Oviedo (the former Leo Nunez) is a question mark due to identity fraud. With healthy seasons from Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins should be in the thick of the NL East race.