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21 posts from January 2010

January 25, 2010

Marlins Safe in Kuwait as Suicide Blasts Kill At Least 37 in Baghdad

   Just got off the phone with Marlins communications vice president P.J. Loyello, who said a contingent of Marlins bound for Iraq landed in Kuwait this morning, not long after suicide bombers blasted three Baghdad hotels in neighboring Iraq.

   "They're safe," said Loyello, who has been in contact with the traveling party. "They're not in Iraq at the moment. They have landed (in Kuwait) and they're in good hands."

   The group of Marlins, on a goodwill mission to visit troops in Iraq, includes manager Fredi Gonzalez, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, outfielder and NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, catcher John Baker, and four Mermaids cheerleaders.

   The group left the U.S. on Sunday and plans to spend the coming week in Iraq. But they made their final stop in Kuwait, a few hours after bombs exploded in Iraq's capital.

   According to wire service reports, suicide bombers set off blasts that damaged three hotels popular with Western journalists and businessmen. At least 37 were killed and scores were injured. According to the Associated Press, the blasts rocked the city shortly before officials announced the execution of Saddam Hussein's notorious cousin, who is known as "Chemical Ali."

   Loyello said the group of Marlins won't be staying at commecial hotels during their trip.

  "When they are in Iraq, they'll be at military bases, not in hotels," Loyello said.  

January 24, 2010

Marlins Mission to Iraq: John Baker Diary

    Some members of the Marlins left on Sunday for a goodwill mission to Iraq, where they plan on spending time with U.S. troops over the coming week. Marlins catcher John Baker has agreed to serve as a foreign correspondent, sharing his thoughts and observations on the trip by sending occasional updates to Fish Bytes. Here's his first as the Marlins contingent headed for Iraq with a final stop in Kuwait:

    Baseball is irrelevant. At least that is the prevalent thought that keeps running through my head. What do I really do for a living? I play baseball. I do the same thing that I did when I was five. I play a game.

The men and women of our armed forces don't have the luxury of playing games. They live in a world different than mine. They live in a world that I know nothing about. I guess it is time to find out how they live, who they are, and what they do. At 10:59 Pacific Standard Time on Sunday, January 24th, my plane takes off for the first leg of a long journey that will take me to a part of the world I never imagined visiting.Baker

       I am scared and excited at the same time. I know that there are risks involved on our trip, risks that I can't fully comprehend. These risks are the same for the people I will be visiting, risks that they take every day, some of them for years at a time. I am worried about one week.

    My job is not as important as the lowest ranking member of our armed forces, because without their sacrifice, I wouldn't have the opportunity to do what I love for a living in a safe and peaceful country. I am so grateful to the Marlins for providing me with this chance to say thanks to the men and women that deserve it the most.

    Both of my grandfathers served in our military, one in the Army and one in the Air Force. I have two cousins that were Marines and another that was a Navy Seal. My dad's brother was in the Air Force. These people are my family, and I hope that they understand that they are my inspiration for this trip.

    Talk to you from Kuwait!

-- John Baker  .    

January 20, 2010

Samson Expects Uggla to be Marlins' Opening Day 2B

   Marlins president David Samson said on his weekly radio show that he expected Dan Uggla to be the team's Opening Day second baseman. That marked the first public admission by a club executive that Uggla would likely remain with the Marlins after months of speculation that he would be traded.

   "He is a Marlin and will be a Marlin this season," Samson said Wedneday on 790 The Ticket.

  Asked by host Dan LeBatard whether Uggla would be the Opening Day second baseman, Samson replied: "Yes. The fact of the matter is he is a Marlin. I never actually went to bed one night this offseason thinking he was not going to be a Marlin."

   The Marlins had trade discussions with several teams about Uggla in December.

   Samson also said there are no plans to trade third baseman Jorge Cantu and discounted rumors that Boston Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell might be traded back to the Marlins ("It's not something that's come to my attention," Samson said.)

  The Marlins signed Uggla ($7.8 million) and Cantu ($6 million) this week to one-year contracts. The team has also scheduled a press conference on Thursday to officially announce the signing of starting pitcher Josh Johnson to a 4-year deal worth $39 million.

   "We're pretty much bringing back in full an 87-win team," Samson said. "We expect to do better."

January 19, 2010

Cantu, Nunez Agree; Cody Ross and Marlins Headed to Salary Showdown

  While the Marlins worked out contract agreements on Tuesday with two more arbitration-eligible players --  third baseman Jorge Cantu ($6 million) and reliever Leo Nunez ($2 million) -- they failed to come to terms with Cody Ross. As a result, the two sides will argue in front of independent arbitrators in February to determine the outfielder's 2010 salary.

    The arbitrator will choose between the figure submitted by Ross ($4,450,000) and the one submitted by the Marlins ($4,200,000).

   The Marlins have come out losers in two of their past three hearings, winning against Kevin Gregg in 2007 while losing to Miguel Cabrera in '07 and Dan Uggla last year. Overall, clubs hold a 280-207 edge over players in salary cases decided by arbitrators.

   This much is almost certain: the Marlins' Opening Day payroll, assuming they don't trade Uggla, will be much higher than it was last year. Based on existing and projected agreements, total payroll for the 25-man roster could approach, if not exceed, $45 million --- the highest since the $60 million paid to the 2005 club. Last year's figure was $36.8 million.

    That should satisfy the demands of the union and league, which forced the Marlins to agree to a payroll increase.

January 18, 2010

Yes or No? Is Dan Uggla a Florida Marlin in 2010?

   Dan Uggla is a rich man. But, after signing a one-year, $7.8 million deal on Monday, will he still be a Marlin come the season-opener in New York on April 5?

   Look, Uggla said he doesn't have a clue. And for the past several months, the Marlins have been unsuccessful in trying to trade the second baseman.

   They're not giving up. But they're also determined to hang on to Uggla if they don't receive a deal they deem acceptable.

   Tell us how you think it'll end up up with Uggla and the Marlins:

Anibal Sanchez and Renyel Pinto Agree To Terms

  Three down. Three to go.

  After crossing Dan Uggla off their arbitration to do list, the Marlins agreed to one-year deals with pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Renyel Pinto.

  That leaves the Marlins with three unsigned arbitration players: Jorge Cantu, Cody Ross and Leo Nunez.

  Pinto agreed to a deal estimated to be worth $1,075,000. Sanchez will receive $1,250,000 in 2010.


One Down, Five To Go -- Uggla Agrees for $7.8 million

    Dan Uggla took the Marlins to arbitration last year and won his case. This time around, the two sides avoided a hearing, agreeing Monday to a 1-year deal for $7.8 million.

    Then again, it's uncertain whether the Marlins will end up paying a nickel of that amount. If they're successful in trading him, the tab will transfer to his new club.

    "I always kind of wanted to experience the arbitration (hearing) process, but it's not something you want to do every year," Uggla said. "I'm just pretty excited to get it out of the way."

    With Uggla's deal complete, the Marlins turned their attention to their other five arbitration players -- Jorge Cantu, Cody Ross, Renyel Pinto, Anibal Sanchez and Leo Nunez.  If no deals are worked out with those players before Tuesday's 1 p.m. deadline, they'll schedule a hearing date for February, when an arbitrator will decide the salary amount.

    Interestingly, Uggla will make more next season than his double play partner, shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who will be getting $7 million in the second year of his contract.


Marlins Deal with a 6-Pack of Contracts + Six Degrees of Separation with Jose Offerman

   Expect a flurry of signings over the coming 24 hours as the Marlins work out one-year deals with their six remaining arbitration players: Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, Cody Ross, Anibal Sanchez, Leo Nunez and Renyel Pinto. If the two sides can't come to agreement, they'll exchange salary figures on Tuesday and prepare for hearings in February, when an independent arbitrator will pick one side or the other in the salary dispute.

   Signing Uggla and Pinto doesn't ensure either player's future with the club, and Uggla knows this. The Marlins plan to continue dangling both players. I spoke to Uggla a couple of days ago  and he says that he "doesn't have a clue" about where he'll be on Opening Day but is still planning to head to Jupiter for spring training as he always does.

   "I would definitely love to come back," Uggla said. "I love South Florida. I'd love to be there Opening Day with the Marlins. But I don't know what their plans are."

   Now, speaking of Opening Day and the Marlins....

   Did anyone catch the news out of the Dominican Republic over the weekend that involved Jose Offerman, who reportedly punched an ump during a winter league game? Offerman, a former major leaguer who manages the Licey Tigers, went ballistic after one of his players was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

   That player: Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino.

   Considering Offerman's temper, it's a wonder he didn't go off on Frank Pulli when the home plate umpire called him out on strikes in the Marlins' inaugural game in 1993. Offerman, then the Dodgers' leadoff hitter, was punched out by Pulli, so to speak, on a Charlie Hough pitch that was a good foot outside, give or take an inch.

   And that's how Marlins baseball began.


January 12, 2010

For the Marlins, Is It Time to Pony Up?

    The Marlins might now have extra incentive to keep Dan Uggla next season, or offer Josh Johnson that four-year contract his agent has been demanding. The reason: a one-page joint statement released Tuesday in which the Marlins are being told, in effect, that they must comply with the Basic Agreement and channel the revenue sharing money the club receives each year toward player salaries.

    The Marlins say they've been complying all along, that they've done nothing wrong. And yet, isn't it strange that they've bowed, after "extensive discussions" with the union and the league, to an agreement that calls for their "continued compliance"? Tuesday's carefully worded announcement was, for lack of a better term, a public flogging. It was also a signal to the other suspected under-spenders -- are you listening in Pittsburgh? -- to abide by the rules. Pay up, or else. 

    What this means, I suspect, is that the Marlins will be required to spend more than the reported $40 million on next season's payroll. The carefully-worded agreement with the Marlins, union and league doesn't specify a figure, but it's fair to guess that it will be somewhere in the $40 million to $50 million range -- or at least something markedly greater than last year's major league-low $36 million figure. In other words, the union isn't about to let the team get away with a miniscule increase.

   And that could mean that Uggla, who stands to receive between $7 million and $8 million through salary arbitration, could end up staying just to satisy the Marlins' end of the agreement. Or that the Marlins will go out and spend at least a little something on free agents, something they haven't done in years. Or maybe the Marlins will open the vault on Johnson, giving him four years guaranteed.

   All we know for sure, at this point, is that they've been put on notice. The spotlight is on.


January 06, 2010

Chapman, Uggla & the Bullpen

Internally, the Marlins have all but conceded defeat in the bidding battle for Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman. That doesn't mean they've ruled out altogether the possibility of signing the young hurler. But the belief is he'll likely end up elsewhere.

  There's little to no activity on the Dan Uggla trade front, increasing the chances he'll still be with the club in spring training, if not opening day. But I'm hearing that even if they're unsuccessful in moving Uggla, they have no intention of dealing Jorge Cantu to save money. The Marlins value Cantu for his quiet leadership in the clubhouse and as a cleanup hitter behind Hanley Ramirez.

  The downside is that if the Marlins do start the season with Uggla, Cantu AND outfielder Cody Ross -- who is also eligible for a big raise through arbitration -- they'll likely look internally for inexpensive bullpen help rather than scour the free agent market for pricier relief arms.

   Then again, a lot can change between now and April.