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Marlins move Mujica, Sanchez in separate trades

ATLANTA — The Marlins have acquired Minor League third baseman Zack Cox from the Cardinals for reliever Edward Mujica.

The Marlins announced the trade about an hour before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.

Miami also has dealt first baseman Gaby Sanchez, an All-Star in 2011, to the Pirates for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez.

Mujica, 28, has been a late-inning setup reliever. The right-hander has appeared in 41 games with an 0-3 record and 4.38 ERA in 39 innings.

He went on the disabled list on June 30 with a broken bone to his right pinky toe. He was reinstated on July 18.

The Marlins acquired Mujica, along with Ryan Webb, from the Padres for Cameron Maybin after the 2010 season.

Cox, 23, was the 25th pick overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. He will report to Double-A Jacksonville.

At Triple-A Memphis, Cox batted .254 with nine home runs and 30 RBIs.

Sanchez, a Miami native who attended the University of Miami, was the Marlins Opening Day first baseman for three seasons. But he struggled this year, and was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans.

With the Marlins, Sanchez batted .202 with three home runs and 17 RBIs. His final at-bat with Miami came on July 4, when he belted a game-tying home run in the ninth inning off the Brewers.

He was optioned to New Orleans after that game because the Marlins acquired first baseman Carlos Lee.

At New Orleans, Sanchez was batting .302 with five home runs and 18 RBIs.

Hernandez, 24, is a right-handed hitting outfielder who batted .257 at Triple-A Indianapolis. In 25 games with the Pirates, he was 2-for-25.

Joe Frisaro  

 

Marlins trying to trade Buck before deadline

ATLANTA — The Marlins are aggressively pursuing at least one more trade, but it doesn’t involve Josh Johnson.

Johnson is expected to remain with the Marlins, but some other possible deals are in the works, according to a source.

The Marlins are seeking outfield help, and they are exploring the trade market.

Miami is trying to trade catcher John Buck, who is signed through 2013. Buck is making $6 million this year and next. The 32-year-old is batting .169 with eight homers and 26 RBIs.

Brett Hayes has started at catcher the past two games. If Buck is dealt, Miami could be ready to promote Rob Brantly from Triple-A New Orleans.

Brantly, a left-handed hitter, was one of three prospects the Marlins acquired from the Tigers last week for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez.

The non-waiver trade deadline is at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Miami also would listen to offers for Carlos Lee and Heath Bell.

Joe Frisaro 

Price remains high to lure JJ away from Miami

MIAMI — Set the odds once again at 50/50 that Josh Johnson will be moved by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

A source on Friday said if the Marlins are offered the right pieces, ”he will go.”

The Marlins are not eager to part with their 28-year-old ace. But the team is fielding calls, and about a handful of clubs continue to express interest, including the Rangers, Angels and Blue Jays.

The Marlins are looking for the kind of return the Padres got when they sent Mat Latos to the Reds last December. San Diego received Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal.

If a big package isn’t presented, Miami is perfectly content keeping Johnson at the front of their rotation for the remainder of his contract. His deal runs through 2013.

Whether Johnson will stay or go has been widely speculated for days. About 25 scouts were on hand for his last start, when he beat the Braves on Monday.

It might have been Johnson’s most dominating performance of the season, nine strikeouts in six shutout innings. He was lifted after six innings due to a cut near the nail of his right middle finger.

The trade climate surrounding Johnson changes, seemingly on a day to day basis.

On Wednesday, after Miami dealt Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate to the Dodgers, there were strong indications that Johnson would stay in Miami.

He still may.

But other teams maintain interest.

The Marlins are looking for a hefty package in return. If it’s not presented, then Johnson will surely remain with the Marlins, where he is signed for $13.75 million in ’13.

So the Marlins have some leverage with the right-hander.

There is a health concern with Johnson, who missed most of last year due to right shoulder inflammation. But the two-time All-Star has made 20 starts, and he has thrown 119 2/3 innings to go along with a 6-7 record and 4.14 ERA.

His velocity has been more in the 93-94 mph range than the 96-97 heater he was throwing in 2011 before being shut down.

While he has been healthy the whole season, he’s also been rusty at times. That is understandable due to all the missed time.

Being healthy is one step. Regaining sharpness is another.

If his start against the Braves is an indication, then Johnson may be progressing to the elite status he held before being hurt.

His curveball baffled the Atlanta hitters that day, and his slider was sharp.

With everything working, Johnson allowed one hit and no walks to go along with his nine strikeouts in six innings.

Johnson’s next scheduled to start on Sunday in the series finale with the Padres at Marlins Park.

The rumors surrounding him promise to remain until the deadline passes.

Joe Frisaro

Rumors now swirl around Hanley, JJ

MIAMI — Whether Hanley Ramirez remains with the Marlins through the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline could come down to what the 28-year-old shows on the field this week.

The subject of trade speculation, Ramirez is back in the lineup on Tuesday after missing four straight starts due to inflammation in his right hand.

After trading Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers on Monday, the Marlins remain open for business on the trade front.

Ramirez has emerged as a prime target. The trouble is, he hasn’t played in a few days, and scouts haven’t been able to look at the former three-time All-Star more closely.

The Red Sox and A’s are reportedly interested.

Boston could be a fit, because it is the organization that Ramirez broke in with. While Ramirez switched to third base this year, he could go back to playing shortstop. Or he could be used as a designated hitter on occasion.

Ramirez is a close friend of David Ortiz, who could be a positive influence.

While the Marlins trimmed about $8 million off their payroll with Monday’s trade, the team could be looking to trim more.

An MLB source said that the Marlins haven’t indicated they are looking to dump big contracts. Still, the team’s attendance in their first year at Marlins Park is lower than projected.

The Opening Day figure is $101,628,000, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts web site. It was a more modest $57,695,000 in 2011. Attendance has been solid, at 28,000, but the team was hopeful to be averaging about 34,000.

With the team being a long shot to reach the playoffs, management is opening to making deals.

The one untouchable is Giancarlo Stanton. Let’s put that to rest.

It’s also extremely doubtful the club would move Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.

Reyes, even in a down year, plays a premium position, and he’s in his prime. He’s riding a 12-game hitting streak, and showing signs of being his old self. The Marlins are comfortable with Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio as a double-play combination.

Buehrle has been as advertised, an innings eater and a real professional. If Josh Johnson is moved, the veteran lefty can assume the role of ace.

The question is whether the team would part with Johnson or Ricky Nolasco.

For the right price, they would certainly consider anything.

On Monday night, Johnson threw perhaps his best game of the season. He struck out nine, and allowed one hit in six scoreless innings. But a small cut near the nail on his right middle finger caused him to be lifted.

Johnson is expected to make his next start. But will it be with the Marlins?

The Rangers, Red Sox, Angels and more were scouting Johnson on Monday. In all, there were about 20 scouts at the game.

Johnson is signed through 2013. Ramirez is under contract through 2014.

This is where it gets interesting. The Marlins may consider moving Johnson and Ramirez, the faces of their franchise since 2006.

It appears the Red Sox aren’t in position to take on a lot of salary, unless they part with Carl Crawford.

Last week, there was a USA Today report that the Marlins and Red Sox discussed Ramirez and Heath Bell for Crawford.

While that story didn’t take form, perhaps a bigger package could create a real blockbuster trade. To move Ramirez, the Marlins could include Johnson or Nolasco.

Crawford will make $20 million in 2013. From 2013-17, he is signed for a total of $102.5 million.

Ramirez is set to make $15.5 million in 2013, and 16 million in 2014. Johnson is under contract for $13.75 million this year and in 2013. Nolasco is set to earn $11.5 million next year.

If the Marlins want to do business with the Angeles, outfielder Peter Bourgos could be part of a deal. The Rangers may step up for Johnson because of needs in their rotation.

Even though the Marlins have made it clear that they are willing to trade, they also have the luxury to only do deals that make sense.

Joe Frisaro

 

Trade speculation expected to heat up for Marlins

MIAMI — A week ago, the Marlins opened a six-game road trip with a sense of urgency.

Manager Ozzie Guillen called it a crucial week, one that could sway whether trades could be made before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

The trip opened with promise with a 9-5 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. From there, the team fell on hard times. Hanley Ramirez experienced inflammation in his right hand, and he was sidelined.

The state of the team also worsened as they lost the next five, and they are now a season-worst seven-games under .500. At 44-51, they are 11 1/2 games behind the Nationals in the NL East.

Each passing day creates more speculation regarding who will stay or go.

Anbibal Sanchez, a free agent after the season, is a name being mentioned prominently in trade talks. With the Braves reportedly about to acquire Ryan Dempster from the Cubs, Sanchez should generate more attention before July 31.

A recent report had the Tigers scouting Sanchez, but a source said that may not be a fit. Teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals, Dodgers and Rangers are in the hunt for a starter. One of those teams may be more realistic than Detroit.

Coming out of the All-Star Break, the Marlins were reviewing where they’d stand after their three-game series with the Braves, which starts on Monday at Marlins Park.

The hope was they’d make up ground in the 13-game stretch after the All-Star Break. They’re so far 3-7 in the span.

Omar Infante, who signed a two-year, $8 million extension last September, is another player who has been speculated to be on the move.

If the Marlins do decide to part with Infante, they would free up the remainder of the second baseman’s salary this year plus $4 million for next year.

What would the Marlins do at second base, should Infante be dealt?

It depends what happens in center field. If the team acquires a proven center fielder, Emilio Bonifacio could switch to second base. Or the club could keep Bonifacio in center field, and give Donovan Solano a look at second for the rest of the season.

Joe Frisaro

Hanley, Bell for Crawford speculation

CHICAGO — Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said it best on Tuesday: If the team wins, it will stay together. If it doesn’t, trade speculation will surface.

The Marlins once again find themselves at the center of reports.

USA Today is reporting the Marlins have had conversations with the Red Sox. The proposed trade would have Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell going to Boston for Carl Crawford.

A source said they wouldn’t be surprised if such a deal was proposed.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports the conversation took place recently, but quickly was shot down.

Where there is smoke there could be fire.

The Marlins are looking to re-energize their roster. Next year, they will be looking to have speed in the outfield, and most likely move Logan Morrison to first base.

There is a general feeling if Ramirez is shopped, it most likely would be in the offseason to explore the maximum value he could command, rather than be shopped to a limited number of clubs in a few week window.

Other Marlins being mentioned in trade talks are Anibal Sanchez, Josh Johnson and Omar Infante.

Sanchez is a free agent after the season. Johnson and Infante are under contract through 2013. The club appears to be willing to listen for all three. But the Marlins are looking for value in return. They will only make a move that makes sense. The club isn’t dumping salary.

If Infante is moved, Emilio Bonifacio can move to second base. But if that happens, the team would need to find a solution in center field. It could be Justin Ruggiano after Giancarlo Stanton returns from his right knee surgery.

Joe Frisaro

 

Would the Marlins consider dealing Stanton?

CHICAGO — If the Marlins fall out of contention at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, would they become sellers?

ESPN’s Buster Olney says the team could be open to dealing everyone on their roster, including Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Johnson and Omar Infante.

Names like Hanley Ramirez, Ricky Nolasco and Gaby Sanchez also could be included.

The Marlins have a standing policy of saying they’d be open to trading anyone. They’ve stated this every year since Jeffrey Loria became the owner in 2002. Their thinking is, you don’t know if another organization would dramatically overpay.

Would the Marlins listen to offers for Stanton, who is 22-years-old and he isn’t eligible for arbitration until after the 2013 season? Yes, they’d listen. But chances are more likely Miami will sign him to a long-term deal by that date than move him.

Stanton is headed towards being the face of the franchise. Don’t expect the slugger to be going anywhere.

Still, Stanton also is the player who would bring in the biggest return in a trade. So at least listening wouldn’t be surprising.

That said, the Marlins are in their new ballpark, and they’re looking to sell tickets for the remainder of this season and for years to follow. Stanton clearly is someone to build around, not move at this point.

More realistic trade pieces could be Anibal Sanchez and Randy Choate. Both are headed for free agency at the end of the season. The club also could turn and move Carlos Lee, who also isn’t expected back in 2013.

One constant in a season where the Marlins have been inconsistent are rumors about the club.

The Marlins felt they were built to win this season. Obviously, they’ve under-performed. But the club has a rotation that has for the most part been steady.

A few days ago, Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest talked about the “Cardinals-Rockie Effect.”

Beinfest was referring to the 2011 Cardinals and 2007 Rockies. Both teams were well off the pace entering September, and both reached the World Series.

The second Wild Card also has created more hope.

Clearly, the Marlins have to start making up ground quickly. Foremost, they have to be over .500 as fast as possible. If they are not, look for trade speculation to increase.

Joe Frisaro

 

 

Marlins primed to bid on Cespedes

Cuban sensation Yoenis Cespedes is on the verge of becoming a free agent, and the Marlins are expected to make a strong push for the 26-year-old outfielder.

Cespedes has established residency in the Dominican Republic, which had kept him in a holding pattern for months. Now, the outfielder is awaiting approval from Major League Baseball to be declared a free agent.

Recently, Cespedes said the Marlins, Cubs, White Sox, Orioles, Tigers and Indians had expressed the most interest.

The Marlins are on record saying they believe Cespedes’ best fit is in Miami, with its strong Cuban community.

The Marlins are prepared to make a substantial offer — between four and six years — for the power-hitting outfielder.

There is a feeling within the organization that another impact bat is needed to reach the postseason, and Cespedes is a five-tool player.

The Marlins also feel Cespedes can handle center field, but some wonder if that is his best position. Because of his size, he may profile more as a corner outfielder. But he has the speed to play all three positions.

In recent weeks, Cespedes got some game experience while playing with Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League. He showed glimpses of his power, but he’s also rusty.

If he signs with Miami, he certainly would get a strong look in Spring Training, but chances are he would open the season at either Triple-A New Orleans or Double-A Jacksonville.

Emilio Bonifacio would then be the frontrunner to start in center field.

What would it mean for the rest of the Miami roster if Cespedes signs? Logan Morrison is slated for left field, and Mike Stanton is an anchor in right.

The way the Marlins are looking at it is, you can’t have enough elite talent.

The team fell apart last year, in part, because of injuries and lack of depth.

When Spring Training gets underway, the Marlins right now will be monitoring several players who are returning from surgeries. Morrison had his right knee scoped in November, and Chris Coghlan (another outfield candidate) had his left knee scoped in the same month. Both should be ready for Spring Training, but they likely will be eased into action.

Hanley Ramirez is coming off left shoulder surgery. The expectation is for Ramirez to be ready for Opening Day, so his playing time will likely be reduced in Grapefruit League games.

If Ramirez has any setbacks, Bonifacio may wind up at third base in the short term.

Even shortstop will be watched closely.

Jose Reyes has had hamstring issues in the past. Should he need a breather, Bonifacio or Ramirez could see some time at shortstop.

Say everyone is healthy, and Cespedes wins the center field job for Opening Day, Bonifacio then could go back to being a super utility player.

The bottom line is the Marlins feel they would be a more rounded and deeper team with Cespedes.

Joe Frisaro

 

 

Marlins not strongly interested in Fielder

MIAMI — Prince Fielder, the highest-profile free agent remaining on the market, is once again being linked to the Marlins.

According to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post, Miami owner Jeffrey Loria had a discussion with Scott Boras, Fielder’s agent, Wednesday night at the owner’s meetings in Arizona.

The Nationals, the Post reports, are “patiently and aggressively” pursuing Fielder.

As for the Marlins, the fact that Loria and Boras spoke is not that unusual considering they are both in Arizona. Because the team never says never, it’s natural for them to get a feel for what Fielder is seeking. But that doesn’t mean the club is making a strong push for the power hitting first baseman.

In fact, there are strong indications from within the organization that they are not aggressively pursuing Fielder.

Their more realistic free agent target remains Yoenis Cespedes, who is expected to gain his temporary residency in the Dominican Republic within the next few days. Once that happens, the outfielder should be granted free agent status.

Joe Frisaro

Cespedes still on Marlins’ shopping list

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  

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