Category:MLB
Posted on: December 5, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 12:39 am
 

New Marlin Bell: We can beat the Phillies

DALLAS -- Heath Bell, done. Jose Reyes, done.

Now owner Jeffrey Loria says the Marlins can add more, and you'd better believe it. The Marlins met twice with the agent for Albert Pujols on Monday, sources said late Monday night, boosting its nine-year offer in the process and giving the slugger even more to think about.

No decision was imminent as midnight approached, and one person with knowledge of the talks said they likely will play out more before a decision is reached. The Cardinals also met with Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano, on Monday, and so did the Cubs.

But it is the Marlins who have stolen the show early in these winter meetings, and it is their efforts for Pujols that have electrified the lobby here at the Hilton Anatole.

Pujols in the same lineup with Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton and others?

"That would be great," Bell told CBSSports.com Monday. "I'm telling you right now, we definitely can win the NL East, even with just Reyes."

Imagine that. Even with just Reyes.

As in, gee, even if we don't sign Pujols, we've got an embarrassment of riches.

"I think we can win the division right now," Bell continued. "The Phillies, I think we can beat 'em.

"Ryan Howard is hurt. They might not be getting Jimmy Rollins back."

It is a tilting landscape and a bizarro world. As Rollins continued to frost out on the free agent market Thursday, sources said the Phillies were discussing free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Then they'd trade Placido Polanco, and maybe get a shortstop elsewhere

Whatever on the Phillies front. The Marlins are charging hard toward their new stadium and toward the top of the NL East.

Owner Jeffrey Loria would not speak directly about Pujols on Monday, but not because that's some crazy rumor.

"I don't want to talk about Albert," Loria said. "That's not the purpose of today. This is Heath's day."

Tuesday or, more likely, Wednesday will be Reyes' day, the day the Marlins introduce him formally here at the winter meetings.

Meantime, they're working hard toward another addition. The Pujols talks are serious. So are those for a starting pitcher. One person close to the Marlins suggested Monday night that free agent left-hander Mark Buehrle actually is above Pujols on the club's wish list. Loria has told people that the club's payroll, roughly $45 million last year, could zoom to the $100 million range in 2012.

When this winter started, that seemed like a bad joke.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, thinks the Marlins aren't serious now.

"I'm a serious guy," Loria said. "I don't know how many times I have to tell you guys that."

You cannot even begin to describe how different life is for the Marlins, whose executives arrived here about midday Monday. These are the guys -- Loria, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, general manager Michael Hill -- who sold their wares on the streets of the winter meetings in years past because they were so poor.

These are the guys who traded Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. ...

"We had a plan a few years ago," Loria said. "That's the reason why Mike Stanton is here, the reason why Logan Morrison is here, the reason why Hanley Ramirez is here."

As Beinfest says, the Marlins plan always was to compete, they just had to find extra creative ways to do so.

Now?

"It's fun," Beinfest kept saying Monday. "It's fun to come in here and sign an All-Star closer. There's nothing wrong with that."

In a perfect Marlins world, they'd leave Dallas on Thursday with Bell, Reyes and Pujols or Buehrle all done. But as quickly as they're moving, there's still some uncertainty.

"We'd love to get things done as fast as possible and achieve our goals," Beinfest said. "But we don't control everything. It takes two to tango."

Sure does. But the Marlins have entered the free agent market with swagger and are causing some folks to dance as fast as they can. Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt said earlier Monday that he remains "hopeful" of signing Pujols.

"We're making every effort" to sign him, DeWitt said.

Well if they're serious, the Cardinals had better get moving. Because the Marlins are as serious as a spring breaker hell-bent on ravaging the Fort Lauderdale nightlife.

"We want to do more," Beinfest said. "We'd like to do more. There are some things we'd like to achieve.

"We're still in conversation with free agents and with clubs."

Every door is open, including trades -- with players both going and coming. Loria mostly remained tight-lipped regarding diva superstar Hanley Ramirez, who now must shove over to third base to make room for Reyes.

"Hanley is a super-professional," Loria said. "That's all I will say. We will work with him, make everything comfortable for him."

You bet they will. They're making everything comfortable for Bell, Reyes and others as they go. Loria anticipates attendance bumping up to somewhere between 2.8 and 3 million in 2012. They drew an NL-low 1.5 million last year.

They win like Bell says they can, maybe there really, finally, will be a buzz around the Marlins.

Said Beinfest: "It's time for this organization to play October baseball."



Posted on: December 5, 2011 12:15 pm
 

DeWitt: "Making every effort" to re-sign Pujols

DALLAS -- With the agent for Albert Pujols in town and expected to meet with both the Cardinals and Marlins today, St. Louis owner Bill DeWitt says he remains "hopeful" of re-signing Pujols and expects the situation will become far more clear by the time these meetings end Thursday.

"We're making every effort," to sign the slugger, DeWitt said Monday morning. "Obviously, we're having continuing discussions. We have a good dialog going.

"We're hopeful."

DeWitt said the Cardinals have not set a deadline and indicated that they wouldn't. However, he also acknowledged the need to build their 2012 roster and move forward without waiting so long it hampers them.

"Obviously, the sooner the better for us," DeWitt said. "We're not putting a timetable on it."

With both Lance Berkman and Allen Craig returning, the Cardinals at least have some options if Pujols leaves. And multiple sources reiterated Monday that the Marlins will continue their full-court press this winter in Pujols' direction. Having already signed closer Heath Bell (that announcement is scheduled for 3:30 EDT today) and agreed to terms with Bell, the Marlins will remain aggressive

But while Berkman could shift to first base and Craig could take his outfield spot, that remains St. Louis' Plan B.

"You don't replace an Albert Pujols," DeWitt said. "Sure we have depth. But we're a far better club with Albert than without him."

The Cardinals owner would not get into specifics about what the club has offered Pujols, or even if an offer is on the table. Sources with knowledge of the talks say St. Louis has not presented an offer since the one that was on the table just before spring training that Pujols rejected.

DeWitt also would not get into specifics regarding whether the offer Pujols rejected last spring was still in play, or whether that is off the table with a new one to be presented.

"We wish we'd signed him two years ago," DeWitt said. "Or last year. But we understand the process on a player of his caliber once he reaches free agency."

The Cardinals indicated last spring that they were happy to allow Pujols delve into free agency this winter and allow the market to develop. With just the Marlins as competitors now, and with the Cubs on the periphery, they're still on that high wire.

The longer this drags out, however, there also is growing speculation regarding not only how seriously the Cardinals want him back, but how badly he wants to come back.

"I think Albert wants to be a Cardinal," DeWitt said. "I'm sure he loves the experiences he's had there. These things aren't easy when you're talking about a player of this magnitude, to reach an agreement."

Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:57 am
Edited on: December 5, 2011 2:19 am
 

Pujols? With Reyes, Marlins now need pitching

DALLAS -- Heath Bell opened some eyes. Jose Reyes opened some jaws.

But even with that, Miami isn't done in what is shaping up as the Winter of the Marlin.

Albert Pujols? Are they serious?

Indications late Sunday evening were yes, they're dead serious about pursuing Pujols even with Reyes bagged at six years and $106 million and Bell signed for three years and $27 million with a vesting option for a fourth year at another $9 million.

Question is, is adding Pujols a good idea? Or, at this point, is it simply the Marlins being silly?

Answer: Unless there's enough money to sign Mark Buerhle or C.J. Wilson after Bell, Reyes and Pujols -- and in a sentence I never, ever expected to type, even the Marlins must have a limit -- the noveau riche Fish are just being silly.

Adding Reyes to a dynamic lineup that includes Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, Mike Stanton and All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez makes the Marlins an instant contender ... if they can pitch.

Adding Bell as their first legitimate closer in years solidifies their contending status ... if they have enough starting pitching to get the ball to him for 40 or 50 saves in 2012.

With Josh Johnson having crossed the 200 innings threshold only once in seven big-league seasons, and with Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad underperforming in 2012, what the Marlins need most is to back a much-improved lineup with pitching.

With the Reyes agreement, sources here Sunday night said the club absolutely has enough money to sign Bell, Reyes and a free agent starter such as Buehrle or Wilson. That is absolutely the way they should go.

Sure, Pujols, 31, is sexy and the Marlins right now are looking to throw their weight around. But now is the time to use brains, not testosterone.

No matter how the contracts are structured, if they commit in the neighborhood of $275 million or more to just two players -- Reyes and Pujols -- that is insane. Especially when their pitching would remain questionable.

Look for the Marlins to investigate the trade market this week because, assuming Reyes is not their last free-agent haul, they're going to have excess somewhere. They bag Pujols, Sanchez will be available. They add a starter, Nolasco could find himself on the trade block.

It's going to be a wild week here with the Marlins, perhaps a week unlike any other in their history. But what they don't need is to leave Dallas with a lasting hangover.

Tempting as Pujols is, pitching is where they should focus.

Posted on: December 1, 2011 8:58 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 9:52 pm
 

Angels, others, pursuing Aramis Ramirez

Having already acquired catcher Chris Iannetta from the Rockies, the Angels are in discussions with free agent third baseman Aramis Ramirez this week as they look to boost their offense, according to sources.

There is no indication that a deal is near. Ramirez is talking with multiple clubs, according to sources, and is said to be whittling his list down to a final few. He will probably make a decision next week during the winter meetings in Dallas. The Brewers also are in the mix according to Foxsports.com.

Working under new general manager Jerry Dipoto, the Angels are targeting players with good on-base percentages being that they ranked 11th in the American League in that department last summer. Ramirez, 33, had a .361 OBP for the Cubs last summer and has a career .342 OBP over 14 big league seasons.

The Angels inquired about him at the trade deadline last July, but Ramirez had no-trade powers and did not want to move his family. He was vocal enough about that a trade never was put to him for approval.

Third base is one of the few areas where the Angels have versatility in what they do this winter. With Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis there last summer, it was one of the lineup's weak links. The Angels asked Mark Trumbo to work out at third base over the winter while anticipating the return of first baseman Kendrys Morales next season. But as we saw last year, Morales, who suffered a badly fractured ankle two Mays ago, is no sure thing.

Izturis was discussed with the Rockies in the Iannetta trade this week -- the Angels instead wound up dealing young right-hander Tyler Chatwood to Colorado. He also has been reportedly discussed in a potential deal with Detroit.

The Brewers currently have Casey McGehee at third base, though he lost favor last season and was replaced at third by Jerry Hairston Jr. in the postseason.


Posted on: November 30, 2011 6:58 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 7:01 pm
 

Rangers' Levine declines Astros interview

Thad Levine, Rangers' assistant general manager, has removed his name from consideration for the Houston GM job one day after the Astros obtained permission from Texas to talk with him.

"He loves the Texas Rangers," a person close to Levine said.

Levine issued a statement through the Rangers: "My family and I have happily decided to forego any current outside opportunities and remain part of the Texas Rangers family. We are extremely appreciative of all the opportunities that Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and ownership have provided to us. Winning a championship and bringint it home to the Metroplex remains my singular focus."

Considered one of the brightest young executives in the game, Levine, 40, has been one of Daniels' top assistants in Texas for the past six seasons. Before that, he worked six more seasons in the Colorado Rockies' front office, including serving as the senior director of baseball operations in 2005.

Earlier in the off-season, Levine was a subject of interest to the Los Angeles Angels before they filled their GM vacancy with Jerry DiPoto, who had been in Arizona's front office. Levine did not interview with the Angels. This opportunity with Houston would have been his first GM interview.

The Astros also have received permission from Tampa Bay to interview Rays GM Andrew Friedman. Most in the industry think it would be a huge surprise if Friedman leaves the Rays, despite the fact that he's a Houston native.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 11:29 pm
 

Cubs, Marlins, Cardinals talking Pujols

Albert Pujols has new company in his fireside chats this winter: The Cubs have expressed interest in the iconic, free agent first baseman, joining the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals as Pujols' three primary suitors, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.

It remains early in the process and it is not known how serious the Cubs' interest is. But new president Theo Epstein's desire to turn things around quickly combined with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement draft rules plus weak free agent classes the next two winters could spur them to action.

Pujols' only offer thus far is believed to be from the Marlins, a reported nine-year offer for less than the $200 million bar the slugger is thought to be seeking. The Cardinals, while continuing to talk with Pujols, are not believed to have made a new offer since last spring.

Industry speculation continues to put Pujols back in a Cardinals uniform in 2012. But St. Louis failed to make much of a move during its exclusive negotiating window with him following the World Series. Maybe the Cardinals think the market simply will not materialize as much as Pujols hopes, or maybe they're simply thinking nine years is too long to commit.

Whatever, the staredown is on, and the intensity is expected to pick up significantly next week as baseball convenes for its annual winter meetings in Dallas.

Pujols already has visited Miami and received a tour of the Marlins' new stadium. And though the Marlins' offer is said to be light, it also is the only one in Pujols hands right now.

The Cubs are an interesting case. General manager Jed Hoyer said on SiriusXM radio Tuesday that they're specifically looking for a left-handed hitter, which, among the top-shelf free agents, would be Prince Fielder, not Pujols. New manager Dale Sveum is the former Brewers hitting coach and was tight with Fielder, so for those looking to fuel speculation, there's your entree.

They're also one of the handful of clubs in the game that can play in Pujols' financial league. Their payroll currently is some $50 million lighter than it was in 2011 after Aramis Ramirez and others dropped off.

And they have nothing to lose by entering the negotiations because at the very least, even if they do not sign Pujols, they perhaps can drive the price up for the Cardinals and sting their NL Central rivals -- and defending World Series champions -- that way.

Stay tuned.


Posted on: November 29, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 10:51 pm
 

Valentine Day coming this week for Red Sox

During the past decade, Bobby Valentine has almost managed twice as many big-league clubs as he's actually managed.

He was ticketed to manage the Florida Marlins two summers ago until that blew up.

Now he's on-deck to manage the Boston Red Sox.

Every indication Tuesday night was that Valentine will be calling the shots from the dugout when the Red Sox open their 2012 season in Detroit on April 5. But hey, when you're romancing Bobby V, as Yogi B. would say, it's never over 'til it's over.

And given the downright shameful way the Red Sox let runner-up Gene Lamont twist into Tuesday night without even the courtesy of a phone call as Valentine speculation became deafening, there were still a few loose ends to tie up before what is expected to be a Thursday press conference to introduce the new manager.

Valentine is charismatic, energetic, whip-smart, passionate, arrogant, enthusiastic, old-school, new-school, inquisitive, condescending, confrontational, sharp-tongued and hard-edged in one blinding, kaleidoscope of a package.

How that mixes with the New York Yankees will be riveting. How that mixes with the rest of the American League -- especially with Baltimore manager Buck Showalter -- will be highly entertaining.

How that plays within the Red Sox's own organization eventually will be the stuff of pure drama. There is no way the egos of Valentine and club president Larry Lucchino won't eventually clash and spark like positive and negative electrical currents. There is no way Valentine won't steamroll young rookie general manager Ben Cherington -- or, at least, try.

Fenway Park isn't nearly big enough to contain Valentine's out-sized ego. It isn't small enough to limit the possibilities of what this man and this team, together, could accomplish.

The process that led the Red Sox to this day was nearly as tortured as their fall-off-the-cliff September. Valentine's personality profile is not even in the same country as the group of candidates the Red Sox paraded through for a first round of interviews.

Three candidates from that first group had zilch for managerial experience: Sandy Alomar Jr., Torey Lovullo and Dale Sveum (OK, so he had 16 games' worth of of interim managerial experience in 2008). One more had just two interim managerial stints under his belt (Pete Mackanin). The fifth, Lamont, actually had experience in managing the White Sox (AL manager of the year in 1993) and the Pirates.

All of those guys are quiet. Thoughtful. Each of them fell under the category described by Cherington when he said of Sveum, "He's somebody we know we can work with."

Then, Sveum picked the Cubs and the Red Sox took a hard right.

No matter how they spin it, clearly, ownership took the managerial search steering wheel away from Cherington.

The only guarantee from here is that the ride will be an adventure neither side will ever forget.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 6:24 pm
 

Astros get OK to speak with Rangers' Levine

Still to be determined is what kind of a closer new Astros owner Jim Crane is, but in looking to fill his club's general manager vacancy, he's off to a rousing start.

One day after obtaining permission from Tampa Bay to speak with Andrew Friedman, the Astros on Tuesday were granted permission by the Rangers to speak with highly respected Thad Levine, assistant general manager to Jon Daniels, according to sources.

Friedman and Daniels are two of the brightest GMs in the game. Levine, in working under Daniels, has built a reputation as one of the smartest and most promising young executives in the game.

With Friedman in the GM's seat, Tampa Bay has won two AL East titles in the past four seasons and earned a wild-card berth in a third. The Red Sox, by comparison, have won only one AL East title in the past 16 seasons.

Friedman also spoke with the Angels earlier this winter, though he never reached the point where he waded too deeply into the interview process. He loves his situation in Tampa Bay with owner Stuart Sternberg, club president Matt Silverman and manager Joe Maddon, according to multiple sources, and is not looking to leave.

Whether the pull of his hometown Astros would be enough will be determined in the near future, though sources indicate it still would be a surprise if Friedman does leave his current situation. With the baseball winter meetings convening next week in Dallas, Houston is looking to move quickly -- though the Astros almost certainly will not have a new man on the job by then.

Levine has been one of Daniels' top assistants for the past six seasons. Before that, he spent six seasons in the Colorado Rockies' organization serving as senior director of baseball operations in 2005.
 
 
 
 
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