MIAMI — Sometime in the next 10 days, Cuban sensation Yeonis Cespedes is expected to become a free agent. When that day comes, the Marlins will be in the mix for the 26-year-old outfielder.
An industry source said Jan. 15 is a tentative day that Cespedes will establish residency in the Dominican Republic, and then petition MLB for free agent status. Even that date isn’t etched in stone, because there previously was a belief he’d be cleared on Nov. 30.
A few months ago, Marlins officials, including team owner Jeffrey Loria, attended a private workout for Cespedes in the Dominican Republic. The team continues to have interest and plans on eventually negotiating with the outfielder’s agent, Adam Katz.
The Marlins believe Cespedes is a natural fit in Miami, a city with a strong Cuban influence. The club’s new ballpark is located in the Little Havana section of the Miami.
Cost also appears to be working in the Marlins’ favor.
A couple of months ago, it was believed Cespedes was seeking an eight-year deal worth more than $60 million. Several teams have backed away from that number, and a source said Cespedes’ cost appears to be coming down.
More realistic numbers are four years in the $32 million range, the source said.
A four-year deal would get the outfielder to age 30, and he then could test the market again.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Toss Matt Garza’s name into the mix of possible Miami trade targets.
Acquiring another frontline starting pitcher remains a priority, and reportedly Garza fits the mold.
Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com claims the Marlins have “serious interest” in Garza. No deal is close, but the interest makes sense.
To seriously compete in the NL East, the Marlins are looking for as much starting pitching depth as possible. They’ve already signed free agent Mark Buehrle, and they made a strong push for C.J. Wilson, who eventually signed with the Angels.
Miami also pushed hard for Gio Gonzalez, who ended up being traded from the A’s to the Nationals.
Garza, 28, is projected to make between $9-10 million in arbitration in 2012, and he isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season.
The Cubs reportedly are seeking a trade package similiar to the deals that sent Mat Latos from the Padres to the Reds and Gonzalez to Washington.
There is stiff competition for Garza, who also is being coveted by the Yankees and Blue Jays.
The Cubs are looking for top prospects, and the Marlins are willing to part with some of their high-end young talent for an established starter.
Outfielder Christian Yelich, part of low Class A Greensboro’s championship team, is highly coveted.
The Marlins have made it clear that Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton are off limits, but they would be willing to move other young players, if the deal made sense.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Exploring the market for a frontline starting pitcher is high on the Marlins’ shopping list.
But it’s not the club’s most immediate priority.
Right now, bringing back free agent Greg Dobbs is a main objective, and the team is hoping to finalize a deal done soon.
In 2011, Dobbs provided veteran leadership as well as some timely hits. Of late, the Marlins have been working on getting a deal done.
If they can lock up Dobbs before New Years, it would cap a highly productive month of December for the Marlins.
The Marlins made a big splash early in the month by signing free agents Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.
Dobbs, a non-roster invitee with an invitation to Spring Training last year, enjoyed a highly productive 2011.
Initially, the 33-year-old was used as a left-handed bat off the bench, but he ended up getting regular playing time, mainly at third base.
He batted .275 with eight home runs and 49 RBIs in 411 at-bats.
As a pinch-hitter, Dobbs made a big impact, posting a .370 (10-for-27) batting average with a home run and eight RBIs.
If Dobbs comes back, he will fill the important role of left-handed bat off the bench.
The Marlins are not expected to sign any more big ticket free agents.
Miami is looking at trade possibilities for a starting pitcher, primarily a front of the rotation-caliber starter. The team isn’t seeking competition for the back end of the rotation.
A major trade is more likely to find a starter than signing a free agent.
From an organizational standpoint, the Marlins have hired Bobby Ramos as their Latin American player development coordinator.
Ramos, formerly the Rays bullpen coach, is taking on a new position in the organization.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — With Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison regarded as “off limits,” the Marlins are finding it difficult to trade for frontline starting pitching.
Miami pursued Gio Gonzalez for more than a month, but Oakland’s asking price always included either Stanton or Morrison.
Becauses the Marlins are not willing to part with either, they are finding it difficult to lure in a legitimate All-Star pitcher.
If the Marlins had more high-end prospects, perhaps they would have been able to swing a deal for Gonzalez. They don’t, and the A’s on Thursday dealt their All-Star left-hander to the Nationals.
Miami’s search for a frontline starter continues.
For Gonzalez, the Marlins were willing to part with any number of their top Minor Leaguers. They just weren’t willing to do it at the expense of their every day lineup.
So what’s next?
Javier Vazquez, who had a remarkable second half, maintains he is retiring. The Marlins aren’t expecting him back, and they’re looking in other directions.
Left-hander Joe Saunders has been mentioned, but don’t count on it.
The Marlins already signed Mark Buehrle, who is not overpowering. They aren’t looking to have two soft-tossing southpaws, especially for the $7 million that Saunders commands.
Keep in mind, Miami seeks a top of the rotation pitcher, not just an innings eater.
James Shields is in the mix, but not at the price of Stanton or Morrison.
Wandy Rodriguez and Roy Oswalt may be more realistic options.
As of now, the Marlins’ rotation is Josh Johnson, Buehrle, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad. Lefty Wade LeBlanc was obtained by the Padres to add experienced depth.
Clearly, the Marlins would like to add another established arm, but they won’t force the issue. If need be, they may continue their search into Spring Training, ideally finding someone before Opening Day.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — It’s no secret the Marlins are in the market for a frontline starting pitcher. It’s also not a mystery that the club has sincere interest in Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez. The issue is the asking price for the All-Star left-hander.
The Nationals are aggressively after Gonzalez.
Quite simply, the Marlins don’t have the depth of players in their organization to match what the Nationals have to offer.
So the Marlins are asking themselves, is it worth moving a regular or two, along with top prospects, for Gonzalez. The team is not willing to part with a rising star like Mike Stanton for a starting pitcher.
A league source said the A’s asking price is extremely high, perhaps more than even what Washington is willing to part with.
The source added that a sleeper team to watch out for on Gonzalez is Toronto. Now that the Blue Jays came up short in their pursuit of Yu Darvish, whose rights went to the Rangers, they may be turning their attention to Gonzalez.
Like the Nationals, the Blue Jays have a number of highly-regarded prospects to pull off a big trade.
The source noted that Toronto would have a formidable one-two punch if it could team up Gonzalez with Ricky Romero.
Even if the Marlins are unable to obtain Gonzalez, they will remain active trying to land an established starting pitcher.
Miami also is expected to make a heavy push for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes once he becomes available. Cespedes is close to gaining temporary residency in the Dominican Republic. When that happens, he will file for free agency.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Already, the Marlins have made significant upgrades with the free agent signings of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle.
Speculation remains that Miami has interest in slugger Prince Fielder. That’s not the case.
The organization is focusing its attention on bringing in more starting pitching. They’d like to add another veteran, mostly likely through a trade.
Oakland’s Gio Gonzalez is high on the list. But the asking price also is high. So it’s a matter of how comfortable the club is parting with players already on their big league roster, along with prospects.
Lefty Joe Saunders is on the market, but he doesn’t appear to be a fit.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Greg Dobbs is attracking interest from several teams, one of them being the Nationals. But a return to the Marlins still remains a possibility for the veteran infielder.
Miami remains in the mix to sign Dobbs as a free agent. In 2011, he was a bargain, signing a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training.
Dobbs, 33, initially was used as a left-handed bat off the bench, but he ended up getting regular playing time, mainly at third base.
Dobbs batted .275 with eight home runs and 49 RBIs in 411 at-bats.
As a pinch-hitter, he made big impact, hitting .370 (10-for-27) with a home run and eight RBIs.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Once again, Hanley Ramirez finds his name in trade speculation.
The latest report comes from ESPN’s Buster Olney, who claims at least four teams have talked to the Marlins about Ramirez.
As the dust settles in the aftermath of the Winter Meetings, this much is clear. MLB.com has learned several teams indeed spoke with Miami officials about Ramirez in Dallas. But the Marlins didn’t initiate the conversations. They were measuring what might be out there should they decide to shop their All-Star infielder.
After Miami signed Jose Reyes, some teams wondered what was next with Ramirez? Since the Marlins are open to talking about any of their players, they listened. Nothing more.
What should be clear is the Marlins have no intentions of trading Ramirez. They are hoping he makes a smooth transition to third base.
The team envisions Reyes and Ramirez forming one of the most dynamic left sides of an infield in the big leagues. That’s the hope. They see Reyes leading off, creating havoc, and Ramirez having ample opportunities to drive in runs.
If both are playing at a high level, the Marlins should have an explosive offense.
Right now, Ramirez is rehabbing his surgically-repaired left shoulder and working out in Miami with his former teammate, Miguel Cabrera.
For now, speculation that Ramirez will be traded is just that.
The Marlins are not looking to move Ramirez. But based on feedback they received in Dallas, they know there is a market for their talented infielder, should the organization have a change of heart.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Major signings highlighted the week for the Marlins.
Could there be more to come?
The short answer is, don’t look for anything, any time soon. That is the case at least when it comes to high-priced free agents.
Prince Fielder has drawn a lot of attention on the rumor front. The Marlins insist they are not in the running for the slugger.
“We never pinpointed Fielder,” team president David Samson said.
The Marlins did target Albert Pujols, and made a 10-year offer of just over $200 million. Now that Pujols is headed to the Angels, the natural assumption among Miami fans is: Will the suddenly free-spending team go after Fielder?
It doesn’t look like it.
“It was always Albert from the beginning,” Samson said.
Pujols was courted because quite simply, he’s the best player in the game. He is an iconic figure who would be a huge draw in terms of selling tickets for several years.
Still, Fielder would be a huge presence in the lineup.
But after allocating $191 million this week on Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle, the Marlins are not anticipating signing Fielder for more than $150 million.
Could that stance change? Never say never.
Just don’t look for it unless Fielder’s market thins out in the next couple of weeks.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Marlins president David Samson shed some light on Friday as to why Miami withdrew its offer to Albert Pujols on Wednesday.
After Miami reached agreement with Mark Buehrle on Wednesday, the team knew it no longer was in the Alber Pujols Sweepstakes.
Samson said the Marlins’ offer to Pujols was “a hair” more than $200 million for 10 years. It was believed to be $210 million.
Samson briefly addressed the pursuit of Pujols on Friday after the club announced the signing of Buehrle to a four-year, $58 million contract.
A report in USA Today said the Marlins presented Pujols with a bid of $275 million over 10 years.
“We withdrew our offer after we were able to secure Mark Buehrle,” Samson said. “We had a feeling the whole time that it [signing Pujols] was not going to work. As the week progressed, we went to where we were comfortable, and clearly it was nowhere near what he eventually got from Los Angeles.”
– Joe Frisaro