Lots of Marlins and Dolphins chatter on a Monday afternoon:
For details on the Marlins' press conference with Don Mattingly, please see the last post. Some other nuggets to emerge today:
Marlins president David Samson said today that pitcher Jose Fernandez rejected a multiyear contract offer in the months before he returned from Tommy John surgery last July and that he does not appear interested in being presented with another offer at this point.
Fernandez, who won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season, has been one of baseball’s best pitchers when healthy, with a 22-9 record and 2.40 earned-run average in his career, over parts of three seasons. Fernandez, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, was 6-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts after returning from the major elbow surgery this past July.
“He was offered what we thought was a very fair, tremendous amount of money,” Samson said. “I don’t believe he had any interest in having another offer [this winter] but we always will talk. He is ours for three years at a minimum. Building around Jose and [Giancarlo] Stanton is two smart things to do, but it takes two people to sign a contract.”
Samson said conversations on a Fernandez contract broke down over money, not years. “He is a bulldog competitor; he goes out and never thinks about money…,” Samson said. “He is someone who you would want starting in the World Series.”
Though Samson did not say this, some Marlins people believe agent Scott Boras, who represents Fernandez, does not want his clients signing long-term deals before they get to free agency. Boras disputed that in a conversation earlier this summer.
“In Jose’s career, it’s a bit premature [to sign a multiyear deal] because he’s still young and has only been doing it for a couple years,” Boras said four months ago. “I’ve had many players go to free agency and re-sign with their existing teams. I’ve had other players that have pursued other avenues. I don’t make the decisions whether they do or don’t…. Miami is a great place for Jose and his family. It’s really a nice union.”
It’s questionable whether the Marlins ultimately can afford both Fernandez and Stanton, who just completed the first year of a 13 year-$325 million contract, as opposed to one or the other.
Boras doesn’t see why not: “With TV rights and the general fund contribution and everything --- every club, before they sell a ticket, they’re making $120 million. There’s a lot of revenue in this game to pay a lot of players and keep players at home.”
### Samson said the Marlins need pitching but do not intend to pursue the highest-priced arms in free agency.
“We will not be going after David Price. We will not be going after Zack Greinke,” Samson said. “That’s unequivocal. We don’t want to play in that space. In my experience, those free agent contracts don’t work and I would never have [owner] Jeffrey [Loria] spend his money that way and incur more losses for a contract like that that don’t work. Longterm position player contracts work. I just don’t think longterm pitching contracts work.”
Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president/baseball operations, said Loria has not indicated what the 2016 payroll will be.
### Samson said pitcher Henderson Alvarez, coming off shoulder surgery, will not be ready for the start of the regular season and said it will be a “very” difficult decision about whether to tender him a contract offer by the early December deadline. “Guaranteed he’s not in the starting rotation to start the season,” Samson said.
Alvarez was 12-7 in 2014 but just 0-4 in four starts this past season.
### Samson said the Marlins are a couple of weeks from determining dimensions for MarlinsPark. “There’s a very high likelihood there will be a change of some sort,” he said. “Part of the fences will move [in] is my guess. We may lower the fences [too].”
### In offering perspective on the Marlins’ recent history, Samson cited the Kansas City Royals, who had a winning record only once in 18 years between 1995 and 2012 before making the World Series last year and winning it this year.
“Look at Kansas City,” he said. “How many years did they spend in misery? There was a lot of losing there for a lot of years and then it was time for them to win. It’s time for us to win.”
The Dolphins near the midway point of the season not only with an underwhelming sack total (their 13 are tied for seventh-fewest in the league) but also without the man who accounted for seven of those 13.
Though there was no gloom and doom at Dolphins camp Monday, Derrick Shelby didn’t attempt to sugarcoat losing Cameron Wake to a season-ending Achilles injury.
“Obviously,” Shelby said, “it’s a bad situation. There is no way to match [Wake’s] production.”
So how do the Dolphins compensate for the loss of the NFL’s third-most prolific pass-rusher since 2009?
“Like I told the team, Cam Wake’s production has got to come from somewhere else,” interim coach Dan Campbell said. “It could come from the interior. It could come from another defensive end. It could come from a linebacker… We’ll find a way to get it.”
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who had 8.5 sacks for Detroit last season but only two for Miami this year, will need to increase his pass-rush production. Campbell said the linebackers might rush more often, with Koa Misi well equipped for that.
But much of the burden falls on the starting defensive ends: Olivier Vernon and new starter Shelby.
Vernon had 11.5 sacks in his second NFL season (2013) but 6.5 last season and two so far in 2015. He said he feels no added pressure to replace Wake’s production but expects he will probably draw more attention from offenses now.
“We’ve got a lot of depth on this d-line, a lot of guys that can make plays,” Vernon said. “We’ll be all right.”
Campbell suggested it’s unlikely the Dolphins will shift Vernon to Wake’s side. Vernon said nobody has broached that to him.
“I don’t know if that’s the answer,” Campbell said. “I don’t want to tell you there’s no way we would do that, but obviously OV has done a really nice job on the right side. He’s comfortable there. Not to say he couldn’t, but we have a lot of confidence in Derrick Shelby and we can do some things on the other side that will help.”
Shelby, an excellent run stopper, has just 5.5 sacks in 3 ½ seasons, including none this season in 171 pass-rushing opportunities.
“I am not Cam Wake at all,…” he said. “Everyone plays the game to fit their own skill set. I’ve had quarterback hits; just haven’t got the sack production. But I’ll be fine. It’s a [big opportunity]. Got to make the most of it.”
But Shelby is excellent against the run and has played more snaps than Wake this season: 302 (43 per game), compared with Wake’s 265 (37.8 per game). Vernon has played 365.
Shelby, who describes himself as a “hard nosed, gritty player,” said he does not expect his snap count to rise dramatically.
“I was playing a bunch of first and second down snaps; that was a way to keep Wake fresh,” Shelby said. “Other guys will have to play more plays.”
Campbell said “we’re fortunate” to have Shelby because “he’s every bit of a starter for us as a rotation type player, so you couldn’t ask really for a better guy to come in and fill in for Wake. I have a lot of confidence in Shelby. Shelby is… fundamentally sound, an explosive athlete. He’s not the speed rusher that Cam is, but he’s going… to do a nice job.”
With unrestricted free agency looming, will this provide Shelby a bigger forum?
“I don’t think so,” he said. “Four years of film speaks for itself. Nothing nine games can do that four years haven’t already proved. I’ll be fine.”
There will also be more opportunities for backup defensive ends Terrence Fede and Chris McCain, who has played just a handful of defensive snaps all season and moved from linebacker to defensive end a few weeks ago.
“Chris McCain can generate some speed off the edge,” Campbell said. “The guy has worked extremely hard. Get a little more weight on him… He’s kind of been odd man out because of the whole special teams deal.”
### Campbell said right tackle Ja’Wuan James will not need toe surgery. “We’re going to let this thing heal up and we anticipate having him back in a few weeks,” Campbell said.
### Receiver DeVante Parker said the newest issue with his surgically-repaired left foot, which sidelined him late in Thursday’s game and kept him out of Monday’s practice, stems from “scar tissue” and doctors weren’t surprised.
“I was feeling a little pain [Monday], but not severe pain,” he said. “It might hurt a couple days. Nothing serious.”
Asked about his availability for Sunday’s game at Buffalo, Campbell said: “I don’t see that being an issue.” Parker was non-committal, though.
### Running back Damien Williams was wearing protective covering on the hand that he injured during Thursday’s game but said it doesn’t prevent him from fielding kickoffs.
The Dolphins will need to make a roster spot if they choose to active running back Jay Ajayi, who’s eligible to come off short-term injured reserve this week.
### Cornerback Brice McCain practiced after missing the past two games with a sprained knee.
### Backup quarterback Matt Moore missed practice because he’s recovering from Friday surgery to repair a broken nose sustained during a freak accident on a handoff at practice two weeks off. Campbell said Moore will be available Sunday…. Safety Jordan Kovacs, who sustained a knee injury Thursday, also wasn’t at practice.
### Center Mike Pouncey said the offensive line played “like [garbage]” against New England.