So much for any thoughts of trading Ricky Nolasco. The Marlins are on the verge of signing their No. 2 starter to a 3-year deal worth about $27 million, according to several media reports.
MLB.com was the first to report that the two sides were closing in on an extension that would buy out two years of arbitration and Nolasco's first year of free agency. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel later reported that the sides had reached an agreement in principle on a $26.5 million deal.
In other words, the Marlins and Nolasco essentially split the difference on their proposals, which were reported earlier in the day Sunday by the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson. Jackson wrote that Nolasco wanted $30 million over three years while the Marlins countered with $24 million over the same period.
Though negotiations had recently stalled, Nolasco's agent, Matt Sosnick, has long said -- as far back as the regular season -- that he was optimistic about working out a deal for the right-hander. That didn't stop the Marlins from testing the waters on Nolasco, though. During the winter meetings earlier this month, the team was gauging interest in the pitcher.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez said he intended to slot Nolasco into the No. 2 spot in the rotation, behind Josh Johnson and in front of Javier Vazquez. Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad will fill out the 5-man rotation.
The agreement is expected to be announced this week after Nolasco has completed a physical. With Nolasco out of the way, the Marlins have four remaining arbitration-eligible players to deal with: Leo Nunez, Clay Hensley, Edward Mujica and Anibal Sanchez.
Nolasco will become the third player this offseason to work out a multi-year agreement with the Marlins, joining catcher John Buck (3 years, $18 million) and left-handed reliever Randy Choate (2 yeras, $2.5 million).
How many home runs will Mike Stanton hit next season? It's a fascinating question, and one that is being asked often in the wake of the Dan Uggla trade. Can Stanton make up for the loss of Uggla's steady home run power?
We already know that manager Edwin Rodriguez intends to bat Stanton in Uggla's old cleanup spot, and we all know The Big Worm possesses big-time power. Stanton hit 22 home runs with the Marlins after being called up in June and, combined with his minor-league numbers, totaled 43 on the season. But, can his home run output of 40+ over a split minors/majors season translate to the same number -- or closely similar -- over the course of a full major league season, and next season in particular?
History suggests Stanton, at age 21, has his work cut out. Only two players in major league history (Source: baseball-reference.com) have hit as many as 40 home runs when they were 21 or younger: Mel Ott, who hit 42 as a 20-year-old in 1929, and Eddie Mathews, who hit 47 as a 21-year-old in 1953. After that, the best individual home run seasons by players 21 or younger belong to Frank Robinson (38 HRs at age 20 in 1956), Albert Pujols (37 HRs at age 21 in 2001) and Alex Rodriguez (36 HRs as a 20-year-old in 1996).
Bill James, in the 2011 Bill James Handbook, projects Stanton to hit 38 next season. That's not 40, but it's hardly chump change, either. And it could be a sign of great things to come for Stanton if he reaches that number. It would certainly place him in lofty company. After all, Ott, Mathews and Robinson ended up in the Hall of Fame, and Pujols and Rodriguez are headed in that direction.
MARLINS CLOSING IN ON CHOATE? -- As our own Barry Jackson mentioned this morning, and FoxSports' Ken Rosenthal advanced later, the Marlins might have their eyes set on Randy Choate to fill that lefty relief spot they've been seeking. Rosenthal said that the Marlins are "working to sign" the 35-year-old pitcher, who appeared in an American League-leading 85 games last season for the Tampa Bay Rays, He's your typical one- to two-batter situational lefty, having totaled only 44 2/3 innings for the Rays in '10. Left-handed batters hit just .202 against Choate last season. Right-handers: .410.
LAKE BUENA VISTA -- No trades. No signings. No draft picks.
The winter meetings ended Thursday without the Marlins adding a single player to their roster. Not that walking away empty-handed was ever the intention. But after an extremely active period going in, one in which they acquired four relievers, a starting pitcher and a starting catcher, there was always the chance that these winter meetings would be a slow one for the Marlins. And they were.
"Definitely one of our least active," said Larry Beinfest, Marlins president of baseball operations. "We were on a roll there for awhile."
Aside for the multi-team trade that didn't happen and Zack Greinke rumblings, the Marlins managed to leave Disney without any souviners. Even their bid to make a selection in the Rule 5 draft came up empty when the one player they had their eye on was taken before it was their turn to pick.
"Our guy got plucked," Beinfest said. "There was only one guy (the Marlins were interested in)."
Beinfest did not identify that player, but it is believed to be lefty reliever Joe Paterson from the Giants farm system. Paterson was taken by Arizona with the third overall pick, long before the Marlins at 11. On the flip side, the Marlins didn't lose any players in the major league phase of the draft.
Beinfest said there's a chance the Marlins could make a move, either a trade or signing, within the next couple of weeks, but added that nothing is "hot."
"We'll keep working up to the holidays," Beinfest said. "Then we'll take a little break and come back in January and see where we're at. We've done it all. We've moved a lot of people, taken on people. This year the calendar just heated up for us earlier."
LAKE BUENA VISTA -- A few quick hits from Edwin Rodriguez's press conference here at the winter meetings:
On his 1-year contract and the rumors that White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen could be poised to take his place after this season: "If I don't do my job, it could be Ozzie. It could be anybody. But, if I do my job, I'm pretty sure good things might happen."
On shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who has texted him several times this offseason: "We're going to need his leadership. I think Hanley Ramirez is going back to his 2009 form. (Last season), he was hurt. His pride was hurt."
On his projected lineup: 1. Chris Coghlan, cf; 2. Omar Infante, 2b; 3. Hanley Ramirez, ss; 4. Mike Stanton, rf; 5. Logan Morrison, lf; 6. Gaby Sanchez, 1b; 7. John Buck, c; 8. Matt Dominguez, 3b
On his projected rotation: 1. Josh Johnson; 2. Ricky Nolasco; 3. Javier Vazquez; 4. Anibal Sanchez; 5. Chris Volstad.
LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Next stop for Dave Van Horne: Cooperstown.
The radio voice of the Marlins has won the Ford C. Frick Award, symbolizing excellence in baseball broadcasting. As a result, he'll be honored during Hall of Fame weekend July 22-25.
"Dave Van Horne introduced Major League Baseball to English-speaking fans in Montreal, and his voice became the standard for two generations of Expos fans," said Hall of Fame president, Jeff Idelson. "Since 2001, Dave has energized Marlins fans in South Florida with his infectious love for the game, his excitable play-by-play, and his signature 'Up, Up and Away' home run calls."
Van Horne becomes the second Marlins broadcaster to make it to baseball's Hall of Fame. Spanish-language broadcaster Felo Ramirez also won the award in 2001.
Included among Van Horne's broadcasting highlights: announcing Willie Mays' 3000th hit, Steve Carlton striking out his 4000th batter, Nolan Ryan passing Walter Johnson on top of the career strikeout list, and the Marlins' World Series title in 2003.
LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The Marlins are gauging interest at the winter meetings in pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Leo Nunez but are not committed to trading either. They would have to be overwhelmed by any offers. Still, in what is a decidedly weak year for free agent starting pitchers, there should be no shortage of potential suitors for Nolasco. And, with so many teams searching for bullpen help, creating interest in Nunez shouldn't be all that difficult.
Nolasco has two years remaining before entering free agency, making him all the more attractive. Nunez is in his final year of arbitration. Dealing both pitchers would give the Marlins about $10 million they could apply elsewhere.
The Marlins recently added to their starting pitching depth by signing veteran Javier Vazquez, who will join a rotation that already includes -- in addition to Nolasco -- Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad. The Marlins also have Alex Sanabia waiting in the wings. But the rotation lacks a left-hander, which might be one area the team might try to address.
The team has also shored up its bullpen by acquiring four new arms -- Edward Mujica, Ryan Webb, Mike Dunn and Dustin Richardson -- through a series of three trades, and is looking for additional left-handed help at a low cost. Nunez, who saved 30 games last season, is expected to command a figure of about $4 million through arbitration while Nolasco could end up making somewhere around $6.5 million.
The Marlins have spoken to Nolasco's agent about giving the pitcher a contract extension that would buy out two arbitration years and one year of free agency. But those talks have stalled, at least for the time being. If the Marlins don't find any deals to their satisfaction and end up keeping the two pitchers, Nolasco will likely be slotted behind Johnson in the No. 2 spot in the rotation while Nunez will remain the favorite to close. Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said last week that Nunez "has a leg up" on everyone else for that role going into spring training.
The Marlins announced the signings of seven, six-year minor league free agents: LHPs Darin Downs and Victor Garate, RHP Frank Mata, IFs Ruben Gotay and Tim Torres,, OF/1B Josh Kroeger and OF Chris Lubanski.
Of that group, only Mata and Gotay have prior major league experience. Mata made 15 appearances last season for the Orioles out of the bullpen (0-0, 7.79). Gotay last played in the majors in 2008 with Atlanta and has played second, short and third in utility roles for the Braves, Mets and Royals.
Otherwise, it was another predictably quiet day for the Marlins. With only one opening on their 40-man roster, which is probably being reserved for a pickup in Thursday's Rule 5 draft, the Marlins are reluctant to add any new players -- and, therefore, be forced to discard someone else -- before then. However, there are a couple of rumors floating out there -- none of them too terribly surprising considering the Marlins are on the prowl for a lefty bullpen arm and bench depth.
FoxSports.com is reporting that the Marlins are in on free agent lefty reliever Dennys Reyes. But other teams, namely the A's , Phillies and Mariners, are also said to be considering Reyes. The Marlins have had interest in Reyes in the past.
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest did not go into specifics in Tuesday's sit-down session with reporters, but said "We have dialogue going with free agents both at the minor league and the major league levels. There's a lot of players out there still."
LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Though nothing is set in stone, there is a growing likelihood the Marlins will end up moving its scheduled HOME series against Seattle next June to....Seattle. That's right. The Marlins could end up hosting the Mariners at Safeco Field due to a conflict with a U2 concert at Sun Life Stadium around the same time.
Here's the deal: the two teams are scheduled for a 3-game interleague series in South Florida on June 24-26. But organizers for the U2 concert on June 29 need that time -- and the stadium -- to prepare for the show. The Marlins could play the series in Puerto Rico, as they did last season with the Mets. But that would put a hardship on the Mariners, who are scheduled to open a 3-game home series against the Braves in Seattle on June 27. Vancouver was examined as a neutral site possibility but then dismissed.
So Seattle -- home of the Mariners -- could become the Marlins' home away from home. Doing so would also make travel sense for the Marlins, who face the A's in Oakland and Rangers in Texas after taking on the Mariners.
WINTER MEETINGS: It's Day 2 of the winter meetings and all is quiet -- as expected -- with the Marlins, who are very likely to leave here on Thursday with nothing more than a Rule 5 draft pick. The Marlins, who did most of their roster work before the meetings, are looking for an inexpensive lefty bullpen arm and lefty bat for the bench, but can wait on those decisions until after the first of the year. Because the Marlins are interested to see if John Baker can fill the bench role, they'll likely wait on firming up that roster spot until late in spring training. Finding another lefty bullpen arm, therefore, becomes a more immediate concern, though most of the southpaw relievers that are affordable for the Marlins tend to be ones coming off injuries or poor seasons.
Even though he might still be incapable of contributing defensively come Opening Day, catcher John Baker might be available to the Marlins as a left-handed pinch-hitter off the bench. Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said today that Baker, who underwent elbow ligament replacement (Tommy John) surgery in September, could be used as a lefty bat off the bench even if his throwing arm isn't yet at full strength.
"He may be full-go hitting (by then)," Beinfest said. "Baker has been in the big leagues. He does have experience. And he knows how to deal with pitching in the National League."
With the winter meetings set to kick off Monday in Orlando, finding a lefty bat for the bench is one of the few remaining tasks for Beinfest and the Marlins' front office, which has already performed most of the heavy lifting this offseason in terms of roster changes. While rookie Scott Cousins is one possibility for the role, Baker is another in-house option.
"Took my first 25 swings off a tee on Wednesday and it went well," Baker said in a text message. "25 today, 50 next week m w f, and then flips 3rd week of December. Plan is to be at full strength hitting by January 1st. I'm going to southern California early January to work with Brady Anderson from the O's. I'm going to shadow wes helms during spring training so I can improve as a pinch-hitter."
Baker said he doesn't begin throwing until Jan. 1, which means it's highly unlikely he'll be at full-strength throwing when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in mid-February. Baker's pinch-hitting history in the majors is limited. He is just 2 for 15 as PH, but one of his hits was a home run, a game-tying, 3-run blast in the ninth off the Giants' Brian Wilson in 2008. Overall, he is a career .287 hitter against right-handed pitching (compared to .189 vs. LH).
-- My Hall of Fame ballot arrived in the mail today. On it for the first time are three former Marlins who were members of the '97 championship team: Kevin Brown, Charles Johnson and Al Leiter. Other former Marlins on this year's ballot are Lenny Harris, Tim Raines and Benito Santiago.
No major surprises tonight as the Marlins officially parted company with catcher Ronny Paulino and reliever Jose Veras while tendering contracts to five other arbitration-eligible players and working out a one-year deal with another, reliever Burke Badenhop.
Tendered contracts were Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Leo Nunez, Clay Hensley and Edward Mujica. The Marlins avoided arbitration with Badenhop by agreeing to terms with the right-hander on a one-year deal that will likely pay him in the neighborhood of $1 million.
Paulino became expendable with the signing of John Buck while Veras was squeezed out of the bullpen picture by the addition of four relievers through a series of three trades.