Ideally, the Marlins still need a center fielder, a third baseman and a starting pitcher.
Arrivals: LHP Mark Buehrle (free agent from White Sox), SS Jose Reyes (free agent from Mets), RHP Heath Bell (free agent from Padres), LHP Wade LeBlanc (trade with Padres), OF Aaron Rowand (minor league free agent).
Departure: C John Baker (traded to Padres).
Biggest Needs: The Marlins want to solidify their rotation and are willing to trade a position player to do it.
Free Agents: RHP Javier Vazquez, INF Jose Lopez, INF Greg Dobbs, RHP Clay Hensley.
Vazquez is leaning toward retiring. The team might reach out to Dobbs, who could provide a solid lefty bench bat but could make at least $1 million. Lopez is not expected to be back. Hensley was non-tendered.
Arbitration-eligible: RHP Anibal Sanchez, RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez), RHP Edward Mujica, RHP Burke Badenhop, CF Chris Coghlan, RHP Chris Volstad, INF Emilio Bonifacio, INF Donnie Murphy.
Sanchez should be back after posting decent numbers that would’ve been better with more run support. Mujica should return, too, after a solid year at the back of the bullpen. Bonifacio should be back because he’s a valuable utility player coming off a career year.
Less certain to be back are Volstad and Coghlan. Both could be non-tendered after disappointing seasons, although Volstad, entering his first year of arbitration, might be an affordable fifth starter if the team hasn’t lost patience with him.
In Limbo: RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez), CF Chris Coghlan, INF Donnie Murphy.
All signs pointed toward the team trading Oviedo if it can. The pitcher abruptly returned to the Dominican Republic, where he told authorities he’d been using an assumed name. The team wasn’t sure if the mess will be cleared up in time for next year or if it is required to tender him by the December deadline.
Coghlan is destined to open 2012 in the minor leagues after a disappointing 2011 season hampered by a sore knee, but he’s affordable and the Marlins might find a trade suitor for the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year.
• RHP Josh Johnson (right shoulder inflammation) ended 2011 on a positive note the last week in September by throwing to hitters in live batting practice. That was his closest action to the last time he pitched in a game, on May 16. The big test will come in spring training.
• SS Hanley Ramirez (left shoulder surgery in September 2011) is expected to be healthy by Opening Day, but it’s too early to guarantee his readiness for the start of spring training. However, he said in mid-November that his rehab was ahead of schedule.
• LHP Randy Choate (left elbow inflammation), out since August, is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.
• OF Scott Cousins (lower back strain) is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.
The Marlins delivered on their promise to make a splash at the winter meetings, shelling out $191 million on an unprecedented spending spree that transforms the roster.
Deals with Shortstop Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell highlighted an historic week for the Marlins even though they lost out on their bids for Albert Pujols andC.J. Wilson.
“We are thrilled with what we did here,” owner Jeffrey Loria said before leaving Dallas.
The team isn’t done, either. With Wilson passing up a $98 million offer from the Marlins to pitch for the Angels, Miami will pursue trade options for a starting pitcher.
Right-hander Chris Volstad is the No. 5 starter for now, but he could be dangled as trade bait with third-base prospect Matt Dominguez or outfielder Chris Coghlan.
The top of the rotation should go, in order, right-hander Josh Johnson,Buehrle and right-handerAnibal Sanchez. The Marlins would love to add a left-hander, and they think their rotation depth should have Sanchez as the No. 5 starter in order to compete with the Phillies in the division.
Manager Ozzie Guillen said the top of his lineup will start with Reyes, then Emilio Bonifacio,Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton. It should continue with Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez,John Buck and Omar Infante.
Guillen’s first big test will be to placate Ramirez, who is not happy about the team’s plans to move him to third base. The Marlins have no plans to trade the three-time All-Star, according to team president David Samson.
But the Marlins’ bold moves still raised eyebrows of industry observers used to the team’s frugal spending practices in the past. The total team payroll was $57 million in 2011 and could go higher than $100 million in 2012.
“People always criticize the Marlins because they never spend any money. Now they spending money and they criticizing how much money they got,” Guillen said with a laugh. “I can’t figure it out.”
• SS Jose Reyes wore his trademark dreadlocks to his Marlins press conference in Dallas. But he knows he will have to cut his hair before he reports to spring training, to comply with his new team’s policy.
“If I have to cut it off, no problem,” he said. “It’s not going to affect me, the way I play the game.”
Reyes, who signed a six-year, $106-million contract, said he feels physically great and expects to play a full season. His last nearly full season was 2008, when he played 159 games. Injuries have limited him to an average of 98 games of the last three years, including 126 in 2011.
“The fact is we are very confident in his ability to manage his legs over the course of this six years to the point where he will still be able to out-perform this deal, which is still a key for us,” team president David Samson said.
• RHP Heath Bell said there’s no cause for alarm about his strikeouts-per-nine-inning ratio falling last season to 7.3 from 11.1 in 2010. He attributed it to a minor injury to his left calf suffered while sprinting in spring training. The ratio in 2011 improved from 6.6 before the All-Star break to 8.4 in the second half. “I wasn’t physically 100 percent for most of the year, but I could pitch and get people out,” he said.
• OF Aaron Rowand, who was released by San Francisco late last season, agreed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Rowand lost his starting job with the Giants in 2010 but is a career .273 hitter.
• LF Logan Morrison said he started his rehab program Dec. 8 after having successful surgery Dec. 5 on his right knee. He expects to be ready for spring training.
• Manager Ozzie Guillen admitted that perhaps he had a little to do with LHP Mark Buehrle signing a contract with the Marlins. Guillen is close with Buehrle and his family from their years with the White Sox.
“I’m not gonna say I was a big part of that, (maybe) a little bit, because the Marlins know how much I love him and I know how much he can help us,” Guillen said.
Guillen recalled the end of the 2011 season when he said goodbye to Buehrle and his wife after leaving the White Sox to manage the Marlins. “I remember she was crying. I said, ‘Don’t worry about it. We will see each other in Miami.’ And we got him,” Guillen said.
• RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo, who was known as Leo Nunez before he admitted it was a fake name, will be tendered a contract by the Marlins. But the team is likely to trade Oviedo if he comes off the restricted list. Oviedo is still in the Dominican Republic working out his immigration issues. He had 36 saves in 2011 for the Marlins.
By The Numbers: $191 million—What the Marlins spent in Dallas at the winter meetings on Jose Reyes ($106 million), Mark Buehrle ($58 million) and Heath Bell ($27 million).
Quote To Note: “Outstanding week. I never thought we would do so much so quick.”—Manager Ozzie Guillen after the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell at baseball’s winter meetings.
By Paolo Torres
Marlins Nation Contributor Writer