Separate reports from ESPN, Fox and CBS sports have the Miami Marlins completing a deal for volatile Chicago Cubs Right handed starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano as early as Thursday January 5th. The Marlins would send starting pitcher Chris Volstad to Chicago per CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman while Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal reported that the Cubs would pay between $15-16 million of the $18 million Zambrano is owed in 2012. The righty has a no trade clause from the Cubs but that is not reportedly an issue. Meanwhile, Volstad has started 102 of 103 major league games over the past 4 years and was 32-39 with a 4.59 in those contests. He was 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 2011.
Zambrano is a tremendous talent but has finally worn out his welcome in Chi town, the final straw occurring August 12th when he gave up 5 home runs , then threw at the head of Atlanta Braves icon Chipper Jones and was ejected. He then left the stadium early,said he was retiring and was placed on the team’s disqualified list. He was 9-7 with 4.82 ERA in 24 2011 starts and 125-81, 3.60 ERA in 319 games . Zambrano pitched a no hitter in 2008 and ranks 2nd in Cubs history with 1542 strikeouts. He has a strong relationship with new Marlins skipper Ozzie Guillen, as the are both natives of Venezuela and regularly worked charity events together in Chicago. Interesting to note that he has hit 23 career home runs, the most since St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson retired in 1975 after hitting 24.
The Miami Marlins signed a top free agent Wednesday but it was not Albert Pujols! The team signed veteran LHSP Mark Buehrle to a 4 year, 58 million contract, the team’s 3rd high profile signing in three days. The southpaw, who broke in with the Chicago White Sox in 2010, was 13-9 with a 3.59 ERA over 205 1/3 innings in 2011. He is one of 6 pitchers all time to throw both perfect game AND no hitter. You cannot underestimate the role of new Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen in this signing, who was Buehrle’s manager with the White Sox from 2004 thru 2011. The signing also allows the other members of the rotation to fit in slots that are more ideal as well as realistic. RH Josh Johnson, Buehrle and RHs Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad should form an excellent starting staff. Many media reports had the Marlins close to signing St. Louis Cardinals superstar 1B Albert Pujols but team president David Samson confirmed at the Winter Meetings Wednesday night(12-7) that the team was out of the bidding. Several outlets had the Miami offer being for 10 years and 220 million dollars. Pujols or no Pujols, this has been a huge week for the Marlins. The team has now focused on LHSP C.J. Wilson, a free agent from the Texas Rangers. However,he is reportedly close to signing with the LA Angels.
Numerous media sources are reporting that free agent (and ex New York Met) SS Jose Reyes has signed with the division rival Florida Marlins late Sunday night. No specific documented numbers have been established but ESPN’s Buster Olney has the deal at 6 years, 106 million. Fellow ESPN expert Jayson Stark has a 6 year,102 million number with an option for a 7th year guaranteed at $4 million. Reyes,28, played 9 years for the Mets and won the National League batting title this season after hitting .337. During his tenure in Queens, he batted .292 with 370 steals and 740 runs scored. As more information becomes available, I will comment further but this looks like a done deal. This is a tremendous move for the Marlins, obviously, supplying them with an elite leadoff man and defensive stud at SS. Additional reports have current Florida SS Hanley Ramirez agreeing to move to 3B in the spring of 2012, a major position of weakness for the club. Supersub and spark plug Emilio Bonifacio and 2009 NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan will battle for the vacant center field position. Meanwhile, many media outlets have the Marlins preparing to meet with St. Louis Cardinals free agent 1B Albert Pujols agent Monday or Tuesday at Baseballs Winter Meetings “to make an aggressive run at Pujols over the next two days,” according to Stark. Incredible off season so far for the young and up coming Florida franchise.
Numerous media reports late Thursday night, early Friday morning(December 1st and 2nd) state the Marlins and free agent closer Heath Bell(Formerly of the San Diego Padres) reaching agreement on a 3 year deal. The contract is for 3 years/27 million and will be finalized after Bell takes a physical in Miami December 2nd. The Marlins have reportedly decided to non-tender their 2011 closer Juan Carlos Oviedo(formerly known as Leo Nunez) as he continues to deal with the ramifications of his identity scheme in his homeland , the Dominican Republic.
The Florida Marlins top 10 prospects according to the November 14-27,2011 issue of Baseballamerica.com.
1- Christian Yelich,OF
Grades(Based on 20-80 scouting scale with 50 being a major league average)
2- Marcell Ozuna, OF
3-Jose Fernandez, RHP
4- Matt Dominguez, 3B
5-J.T. Realmuto, C
6- Chad James, LHP
7- Rob Rasmussen, LHP
8- Noah Perio, 2B
9- Scott Cousins, OF
10- Adam Conley, LHP
After a an injury plagued 72-90 2011 campaign look for Florida Marlins to be major players in free agency and the trade market in 2012. With the influx of revenue from their new home in downtown Miami, this team wants and needs to make a big splash. A big middle of the order bat, starting pitching and late inning reliever have to be on the wish list of Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest. Lets take a look at possible target areas.
SLUGGER: Rumors all over the internet about the Marlins being linked to the top two names in the 2012 free agent class, First Basemen Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals and Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. Florida’s 1B Gaby Sanchez made the 2011 NL all star team and is a solid run producer but not an elite stick like these two. A signing could clear way for a position change or trade. 3B is a need area for the Marlins as well with top prospect Matt Dominguez definitely in the mix. Chicago Cub free agent 3B Aramis Ramirez would make a lot of sense at this spot. Veteran INF Greg Dobbs manned the hot corner for Florida in 2011 but is more of a situational lefty bat of the bench at this point in his career. If the team decides to trade LF Logan Morrison, a corner OF bat might be needed. But based on his history with talented but high maintenance players, I think new Marlins skipper Ozzie Guillen wants to try to make Morrison the player everyone thinks he can become.
STARTING PITCHING: Many around the game expect RHP Javier Vasquez to retire at the age of 35. Young veterans Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad and Anibal Sanchez will be in the rotation again while ace Josh Johnson should be healthy when the team breaks camp after missing most of 2011 with right shoulder inflammation. This is an area that Marlins figure to spend serious dollars on and a lefty is needed on this righty dominated starting staff. Texas Rangers LHSP C.J. Wilson has to be on the top of the the teams list while veteran long time Chicago White Sox LH Mark Buehrle should be another name to remember. Florida has some depth and kids but needs a top of the rotation arm to compete with the big boys in the NL East.
BULLPEN: While this unit was greatly improved in 2011 after a disastrous 2010, they still have needs. Due to closer Leo Nunez continuing legal problems(He is currently on the restricted list due to an identity issue in his home land, the Dominican Republic) , the team needs to focus on signing a 9th inning man. San Diego Padres Heath Bell, Milwaukee Brewers Francisco Rodriquez, Boston Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon and Philadephia Phillies Ryan Madson are the top free agent closers and the Marlins are sure to target one of them. Bell makes a lot of sense in Miami. The rest of pen remains solid with veteran RHPs Edward Mujica and Clay Hensley joining Lefties Mike Dunn and Randy Choate to man the set up group.
Things are about to get real interesting in Miami. The long rumored merger between the Florida Marlins and Manager Ozzie Guillen came to fruition September 29th and the ex- Chicago White Sox skipper signed a 4 year deal(10 million dollars total) to become the face of the franchise. Known as a fiery, feisty leader who laces interviews with four letter words, the ex Marlins Third Base coach brings energy and attention to a team that needs it. He guided the White Sox to the 2005 World Championship and the 47 year old was a 15 year major league player(12 years with the White Sox), making 3 all star teams. He clearly has established the number #1 goal of his regime: getting former all star SS Hanley Ramirez back on track. “To me, Hanley Ramirez is the biggest piece of the puzzle,” Guillen said. “My job is to make this guy put a smile on his face, enjoy this game and enjoy the game the way it should be played. Not the way Ozzie thinks it should be played, but the way it should be played. A lot of kids look up to him, I look up to him myself … but there’s one thing I’ve got to tell you: This kid is going to be back to where he was and he’s going to be playing the game the way it should be played. … This kid is one that might take off to the prime-time.”
MIAMI MARLINS: The team played its final home game at Sun Life Stadium as the Florida Marlins September 28th and the club’s name will officially change to the Miami Marlins on November 11,2011 as they prepare to move to their new retractable roof ball park in the Little Havana section of Miami. Since the Marlins inaugural 1993 season the team has shared homes with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and more recently, the University of Miami football program, so this a big moment for the franchise.
JUMBO JAVY: Veteran RHSP Javier Vazquez was named National League Pitcher of the Month after winning all 5 of his starts and posting a 0.71 ERA. He tossed complete games in 2 of his last 3 starts and had a 29 inning scoreless string in mid month. The 14 year veteran has made hints that this season was his last but his post all star performance(10-4,2.15 ERA) show he can still do it at the major league level. Vazquez sites his desire to spend time with his family as reason he would walk away from the game.
MARLINS NOTES: Guillen is already at work, actively recruiting Chicago Cubs controversial RHSP Carlos Zambrano to join him in Miami. The volatile Cub has been in trouble off and on for about 5 years due to on field behavior and was placed on the disqualified list after telling teammates and members of the coaching staff he was going to retire after he was ejected from a game August 2nd for throwing at Braves star 3B Chipper Jones, The 30 year old was 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA in 24 starts and is under contract thru 2012. Zambrano is owed $18 million in 2012 plus he has a vesting option for 2013 totaling $19.25 million if he finishes in the top 4 in the 2012 CY Young voting. The Cubs would carry him to Miami if the Marlins ate this contract, big circus with him in Chicago…. Marlins resigned INF Omar Infante to a two year $8 million dollar contract September 27th and he should be the everyday 2B for the length of the deal.
FREE AGENTS: INF Greg Dobbs, INF Jose Lopez, RHP Javier Vazquez
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Burke Badenhop, C John Baker, INF Emilio Bonifacio, RHP Clay Hensley, RHP Edward Mujica, INF Donnie Murphy, RHP Leo Nunez(on restricted list due to legal problems), RHP Brian Sanches, RHP Anibal Sanchez, RHP Chris Volstad
Numerous reports have former Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen Miami bound while popular Marlins manager Jack McKeon announced his retirement Monday September 26th. Guillen, who is under contract thru 2012, met with White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf twice in the past three days and asked to be released from his contract. The Chicago Sun Times is reporting the Marlins and White Sox were close to completing a deal that would allow Guillen to make the move to Miami. The feisty Guillen went 678-617 in Chicago while leading the White Sox to the 2005 World Championship. Meanwhile, the 80 year old McKeon will retire after the 2011 season is complete. This is his 2nd tour of duty with the Marlins and he famously led the club to the 2003 World Championship after taking over a 16-22 team on May 11th. Trader Jack will be missed, a great, great baseball character! Best wishes in his retirement.
The real world collided with the sports world this week and the result might be catastrophic for Florida Marlins closer Leo Nunez(36 saves in 42 chances,4.06 ERA). The right hander was placed on the restricted list September 22nd and Nunez returned to his home in the Dominican Republic to deal with a legal issue. Things took an amazing turn Friday September 23rd when it was revealed Florida’s closer was living under an assumed name, Nunez admitted to using fake identification and documents to sign a pro contract more than a year ago. The AP is reporting that Nunez’s real name is Juan Carlos Oviedo and that is a year older than his media guide listed age(29 instead of 28). A man linked to Nunez’ was arrested for his involvement.”You hate to see it because he’s a good kid,” Marlins Manager Jack McKeon said of Nunez. “I don’t know the details. I hope it’s nothing serious and he gets a chance to play again, and everything works out for him.” Nunez makes $3.65 million but will not be paid while he is on the restricted list. Now speculation moves to whether the Marlins closer will be cleared by MLB and the United States government to pitch in 2012. On the field, McKeon plans to use a committee approach in the final 6 games with RHP Edward Mujica(9-5,2.64) the favorite to close most games. Rookies Steve Cishek and Chris Hatcher are viewed as the future not the present.
With the 2011 campaign in the final weeks, lets look at some noteworthy news items regarding the Florida Marlins(70-84 starting play September 20th).
KING JACK: With a 3-0 win September 16th, Marlins Manager Jack Mckeon became the franchise’s all-time winningest manager. The 80 year old has gone 36-43 since taking over as interim manager June 20th and is 277-250 in 2 stints as skipper of the Marlins. In his 16 year career he is 1047-983(as of September 16th). The popular McKeon took over a struggling team in 2003 that was 6 games under .500 in May only to rally to win the 2nd World Series in Marlins Franchise history.
UPDATE ON JOSH JOHNSON: Marlins ace RH Josh Johnson(3-1,1.64 in 9 starts) threw a bullpen session September 19th, tossing 50 pitches including his slider. Johnson has been on the DL since May 17th with inflammation in his right shoulder. All went well with no complications and the team plans to have him pitch either light batting practice or a simulated game vs hitters on Thursday(September 22nd) and next Tuesday(September 27). The goal is to have Johnson go into the offseason with no further health concerns.
OH MY, OMAR! Marlins INF Omar Infante hit his 1st career walk-off homer with a man on leading Florida to a dramatic 6-5 victory over the wild card leading Atlanta Braves September 19th in Miami. The homer is even more impressive when you consider Infante hit it off of Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who has set a new major league record for saves by a rookie. More importantly, the loss does tremendous damage to Atlanta’s post season hopes as they now lead the 2nd place St. Louis Cardinals by only 2.5 games.
HANLEY UPDATE: The Marlins believe star SS Hanley Ramirez will be ready for spring training after undergoing season ending shoulder surgery September 15th. Dr. James Andrews, a world renowned sports injury specialist, performed the operation. Hanley had surgery on the same left shoulder after the 2007 season and he was ready from day 1 of spring training.
JAVY TO RETIRE?: Reports have veteran RHSP Javier Lopez set to retire after the 2011 season. His performance has been incredible over the 2nd half and even more dominant in his last 4 outings. In his past 16 outings, Vasquez has gone 8-1 with 1.96 ERA while in last 4 starts, he is a 4-0 with a microscopic 0.31 ERA!
LO MO SAGA: LF Logan Morrison continues to battle injuries in his right leg. He badly bruised his knee September 9th and missed about a week after an MRI revealed a bruised patella and chronic patella tendinitis. Morrison then was given a day off September 18th after he hit a wall with the knee the previous night. He returned to the lineup September 19th and homered in the Marlins come from behind win. Morrison also filed a grievance September 15th against the team for his controversial demotion to the minor leagues on August 13th. The 24 year old was sent down after batting third that night and many believe the team was trying to punish him for his off the field attitude and teach him about “being a major leaguer”, a quote that team president Larry Beinfest put out the day after the move. Morrison was second on the team in OPS and homers and 3rd in rbi at the time of the transaction. The grievance process could take up to one year and could go in front of an arbitrator. Sad situation and I believe the Marlins will trade LoMo in the offseason.
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