MARLINS PREPARE FOR FOURTH VISIT TO THE TROOPS

Team will visit Japan, Guam, Hawaii during 12-day tour

Miami, FL – The Marlins organization is set to visit U.S. troops stationed in Japan, Guam and Hawaii from December 1 – 15, 2011. The tour, organized by Armed Forces Entertainment, will mark the Marlins’ fourth visit to U.S. military personnel stationed overseas. In 2010, the Marlins became the first Major League Baseball team to take active players to visit U.S. troops. At that time, the group visited military bases in Iraq and Kuwait. Earlier this year, players and front office staff traveled to Bahrain, Germany and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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Miami Marlins RHP Alex Sanabia starts, loses Arizona Fall League title game

Right-hander Alex Sanabia went to the Arizona Fall League to log some innings after an injury-plagued season. Saturday afternoon, he started for the Surprise Saguaros in the AFL championship game against Salt River. The Saguaros, comprised of prospects from the Marlins, Braves, Rays, Rangers and Royals, lost 9-3 as Sanabia allowed three runs on five hits (one homer) with a walk and two strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings.

Sanabia in his first seven starts was 2-1 with a 5.65 ERA. Opponents hit .283 off him as he allowed 32 hits in 28 2/3 innings with 11 walks and 23 strikeouts.

Have gotten a few Twitter questions about Sanabia’s chances of making the rotation next season. Don’t see that happening, but Sanabia still can have an important role. It’s rare for teams to make it through a season with five starters. Part of last season’s problem was the club had no starting pitching depth in the minors with Tom Koehler and Elih Villanueva struggling at Triple-A, and Sanabia and Sean West hurt. Sanabia will vie to become the first starter promoted when the need arises.

Relievers Evan Reed and Dan Jennings have looked good in Arizona. Reed in 12 games has a 2.57 ERA with five walks and 16 strikeouts (14 innings) and is touching 97 with his fastball. The lefty Jennings has a 3.95 ERA in nine games with five walks and 11 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings. Both will be in major league camp next spring battling for bullpen jobs.

Jennings (two-third of an inning) and Reed (one inning) both appeared Saturday, each giving up a run one hit. Marlins right-hander Alejandro Ramos pitched a perfect ninth.

Among the Saguaros’ top offensive performers is outfielder Kevin Mattison, who spent last season at Double-A Jacksonville. Mattison tied for eighth in the league with a .349 batting average. His 1.057 on-base plus slugging percentage ranked seventh in the circuit, just ahead of Bryce Harper’s 1.034. The speedy Mattison, who the Marlins added to the 40-man roster Friday, ranked second with 29 runs scored, tied for third with nine steals and tied for first with five triples.

Though he went 0-for-5 in the championship game, Mattison received the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, presented annually to the AFL player who best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work, and leadership. He also was named to the AFL’s top prospects team.

A couple of other Marlins position players carried themselves well. Catcher Kyle Skipworth in 16 games hit .283 with an .849 OPS and infielder Paul Gran in 13 games went .293-.906. Matt Dominguez’s numbers weren’t all that impressive. He batted .226 with a .698 OPS, but he did play errorless baseball in 21 games. Saturday, Dominguez was 0-for-3 with a walk.

Marlins Express Interest In Gio Gonzalez

The Marlins have expressed interest in left-hander Gio Gonzalez, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. The Marlins are willing to part with Major League players and top prospects to upgrade their rotation, but they aren’t convinced the Athletics would deal Gonzalez

Gonzalez is available, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, but the A’s aren’t motivated to move him. They’d like to obtain cheap, young hitters in trades this offseason, according to Knobler (Twitter links). David Villavicencio reported earlier today that the sides are discussing a deal and that Gonzalez is hoping to sign an extension if he’s traded. Frisaro reported last week that the Marlins covet Gonzalez and James Shields, suggesting that Miami will likely trade for one starter and sign another.

Gonzalez, 26, posted a 3.12 ERA with 8.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 202 innings in 2011. He led the American League in walks and made his first All-Star team. MLBTR projects that Gonzalez will earn approximately $4.2MM through arbitration in 2012, but he’s a super two player, so he won’t become a free agent until after the 2015 season.

MARLINS DON’T THINK PUJOLS IS 31

> The Marlins think Albert Pujols is lying about his age, per Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald, “like a lot of teams, the Marlins believe Pujols to be older than the 31 he claims to be.”

Ugh–this again.  I don’t understand it.  Why can people not just enjy the greatest baseball player anyone alive (or maybe even dead) has ever seen?  If it’s not his age, it’s baseless steroid accusations.  Why?  Did the Steroid Era make people that skeptical of every player on every level, including his age?  Why do the Marlins think he’s lying?  If they will slap down a north-of-$175 million, nine-year contract for the guy, did they not bother to check this stuff out for themselves?  You think someone of his stature has been in the USA–as a citizen for five years now–for over 15 years under some fake identity?

“Anything people want to check, go back to the Dominican Republic and pull what they can pull,” said Adam Kilgore, Pujols’ college coach.  ”All I know is I’ve seen all the green cards and birth certificates–and his word is good enough for me.”

Me too.  Maybe in high school, when the 18-year-old who looked like he was 28 was blasting bombs out of your field, you would pout a bit about his age.  But I highly doubtnobody has gone back and checked his records; and even if they hadn’t, a Major League baseball team is capable of doing so.

Miami Marlins: Latest Hot Stove Rumors on Possible Trades and Signings

The Miami Marlins have come out guns blazing this offseason and while they have not made any ballpark tours this past week (General Manager Meetings), you can bet that they will continue to make headlines in the coming days and weeks.

Thus far, the Marlins have entertained free agents Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, and Albert Pujols on their visits to Miami and have offered each a “preliminary” contract offer. The Marlins have also offered a contract offer but not entertained closer Ryan Madson, formerly of the rival Phillies.

Albert Pujols is a stable lock to return to St. Louis after reports surfaced that the Marlins “initial offer” was way lower than the $225 million reported and was actually slightly below the $200 million mark. An offer that would only make sense if Pujols genuinely wanted to leave St. Louis for a change.

The market for Jose Reyes is very thin at the moment with only the New York Mets and Miami Marlins in on his services. The Brewers, Giants, and Tigers have bowed out and are looking to fill the voids in other ways. Jon Heyman tweeted that the Marlins initial offer of six years and $90 million was “lighter” than reported, perhaps $10-$20 million less.

In either case, Reyes or Pujols, these signing aren’t expected to take place for another two weeks, around the Winter Meetings in early December.

Starting Pitching and Closers

Mark Buehrle is getting loads of attention from the pitching hungry teams across the league. Buehrle has been seemingly be linked to both Chicago teams, Washington, St. Louis, New York (Yankees), Boston, and of course the Marlins.

The Marlins would love to have Buehrle who would reunite with Ozzie Guillen, now manager of the Miami Marlins. Buehrle gives them the durable innings eater in a rotation that sometimes found itself always relying on the bullpen last season. Buehrle would occupy the top half of the rotation because there is no way the Marlins invest big dollars to a guy to be their bottom feeder.

The Marlins also met with Bob Garber, the agent for CJ Wilson and Roy Oswalt during the GM Meetings this past week in Milwaukee. Reports are surfacing that Wilson wants a contract in similar value of Cliff Lee’s $120 million contract but with a sixth year.

In other rumors, Joe Frisaro, the Marlins beat writer for MLB.com now says that the Marlins will be willingly to move top prospects for areas of need at the big league level. This includes southpaw Chad James, outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, and third baseman Matt Dominguez.

The Marlins know the free agent market for starters is a thin one and have made it known that they will make a trade of some sort for an established starting pitcher. We heard that the Marlins would love to have James Shields of the Rays but Tampa Bay is leaning toward keeping him. However, the team remains interested in Gio Gonzalez of the Athletics.

To land Gonzalez, it would take a package of about 3-4 young players which means wave goodbye to Matt Dominguez, Chad James, and Marcell Ozuna. I believe a package of that nature will get the deal done, maybe you put Chris Coghlan or Kyle Jensen in there to sweeten it.

Notice I left Gaby Sanchez out, the Marlins will do their best in keeping him but even if they don’t land Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols, Logan Morrison figures to be the one naturally replacing him at first base with Emilio Bonifacio becoming the leading candidate to be the left fielder. The Marlins could make a second trade if they lose out on Buehrle with names such as John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Francisco Liriano, and Wandy Rodriguez being available.

If they manage to acquire a pair of established starters, the Marlins might be better positioned to deal Ricky Nolasco and his $20.5 million ($9 million in 2012) to allow for some salary relief. One deal that makes sense is trading Ricky Nolasco for the Rockies Huston Street.

Colorado gets a starting pitcher it covets and Marlins get themselves a closer. Street is owed $7.5 million in 2012 and has a mutual option for 2013 at $9 million.

I know Street’s numbers on the surface may be unflattering but a deeper look reveals a change of scenery is what he really needs. Street had 5.59 ERA (32 games) at home in 2011 versus a 2.15 ERA (30 games) away from Coors Field.

Outfield

According to Joe Frisaro, the Marlins are not only targeting Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes but also a fellow Cuban defector in Jorge Soler.

Soler profiles as a future slugger with 40 home run potential and a talent of which is a few years away from the big leagues as is he only 19 years old.

Soler could be viewed as a fallback plan if the team fails to land Cespedes. Soler would replenish the farm system in the wake of possible trades expected this offseason.

On Cespedes, Frisaro states from a source that the 26 year old could be seeking more than double Aroldis Chapman’s salary ($30.25 million) over eight years.

Currently, the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, and Marlins are high on the highly touted outfielder. The AL East powers view him as a corner outfield in their current alignment while the Cubs and Marlins have openings in centerfield for him.

No matter, money will be deciding factor in landing Cespedes who many view as a 30-30 guy when he plays in MLB. It could be another month before Cespedes can sign with a team as he has yet to become a free agent.

But its no secret that the Marlins, who now play in Little Havana (more specifically) would love to have a cornerstone guy such as Soler or Cespedes to draw in fans wanting to see their native guy play.

Marlins Serious, But Unlikely To Snag Pujols

Over the weekend, the Marlins met with marquee free agent Albert Pujols, leading him through a tour of the franchise’s new ballpark and even offering a preliminary contract to the first baseman. By various reports, the Marlins appear to be quite serious with regards to the free agent slugger. Here is what Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald wrote regarding the team’s interest:

Sources say that Loria, in particular, covets Pujols and envisions him at first base when the Marlins open their new stadium on April 4 — against the World Series champion Cardinals, no less.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe spoke with an agent who agreed with the idea that these free agent offers are not just for show and that the Marlins are serious in acquiring Pujols and / or other big names.

The Marlins already made a splash with their new manager, Ozzie Guillen, which lends more validity to the theory that they are launching a new phase in their existence and owner Jeffrey Loria is willing to dole out a few extra millions to make it happen.

“I think it’s genuine, and they have to be taken seriously,’’ said one agent.

So it would seem that the Marlins do really want a big name, and there is indeed no bigger name in the market than Albert Pujols. And with that, Marlins fans have been excited, citing Pujols and others as the players who would make watching those uniforms seam bearable.

But is the fan base likely to see Pujols to take his talents to South Beach? At this point, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com says it’s a long shot, and I would have to agree.

Star-divide

The offer to Pujols is reportedly “substantial.” But is it enough to sway the Cardinals slugger into leaving St. Louis for South Beach?

At this point, the answer is probably not.

The buzz late Friday night is that the Marlins are more likely to sign Reyes than Pujols. One reason is money. Another is passion to play in Miami.

The Marlins certainly would love to add Pujols, but those connected with the club said the first offer probably isn’t close to being enough to lure in the biggest prize on the free agent market.

Of course, we do not know the kind of offer that was made to Pujols, whereas we have an idea of what the St. Louis Cardinals will offer to their premier player of the last decade. Jon Heyman reported via Twitter that the Cardinals are unlikely to increase (H/T MLB Trade Rumors) their current rumored nine-year, $210 million offer, so the low end of the bar is set there for a contract offer. However, for other interested teams such as the Marlins, you have to figure that Pujols would be interested in pushing past Alex Rodriguez’s monster ten-year, $275 million extension signed in 2009.

Even if the figure does not end up reaching Rodriguez levels, the Marlins’ payroll would certainly be impinged by taking on such a huge investment for such a long period of time. Unlike Jose Reyes, who may be enticed to take a short-term deal that would allow him to re-enter free agency at a decent age, the 32-year old Pujols would most certainly want to sign this deal as his final contract. The Marlins has not yet moved to the new stadium, and despite the confidence that David Samson has in the team’s ability to draw crowds to the new stadium, owner Jeffrey Loria and company do not yet know how revenue streams will be in the next few seasons. Would the team be willing to take a such a $27 million per season dive into the free agent market and lock themselves into a contract for nine or ten seasons for that value before even finding out short-term gains of the stadium?

Speaking of Reyes, Frisaro mentions that he may be more likely to sign.

Reyes is viewed as a strong possibility to become a Marlin. Word around the club is the shortstop loved his visit on Wednesday, and he wants to play in Miami. Reyes is said to be comfortable in the market, he likes many of the players already on the team, and he was impressed by the new ballpark, which promises to be one of the best in the big leagues.

A recent local news report on Reyes’s visit to south Florida (posted here on MetsBlog) yielded very positive responses, though Reyes himself confirmed that nothing is concrete just yet. Nevertheless, it seems that Reyes would be happy in Miami and that the Marlins and particularly Hanley Ramirez would be willing to accommodate his arrival. Jon Heyman mentioned on Twitter that one source close to the situation thinks Reyes is the Marlins’ primary option, though you can take that with a grain of salt.

Reyes’s fit would be better for the Fish in a number of ways. It would allow Ramirez to be moved to an easier defensive position to accommodate his defensive weaknesses at shortstop. It would not further add to the logjam the Marlins have at first base with Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez and let the team attempt to trade one of the two for pitching or other needs. It would be a lower-risk option for fewer years and less money, freeing up budget for another signing like Yoenis Cespedes or Mark Buehrle.

Everything about the Reyes potential signing makes decent sense. While the Marlins certainly are serious and would like to acquire Pujols, the amount of investment that would be required to make such a move may ultimately prove too heavy for the team’s traditionally risk-averse ways.

Mattison earns AFL sportsmanship honor Marlins prospect takes home Stenson Award before title game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s been a pretty good couple of days for Marlins outfielder Kevin Mattison.

On Friday, the 26-year-old found out he had earned a spot on Miami’s 40-man roster. The next day, prior to hitting leadoff for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League championship game, he was presented with the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award.

“It’s a great honor,” Mattison said. “I couldn’t be more proud. My family couldn’t be more proud. It’s just the way I was brought up; my parents pushing me and guiding me in the right direction, making good choices in life. I couldn’t thank them enough for raising me in the way they did. I just came out and played hard every day and it paid off.”

Created in memory of the late Cincinnati Reds outfield prospect, who was killed during the 2003 Arizona Fall League season, the award has been given annually since ’04 to the player who best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work and leadership. Six finalists — one from each AFL team — are nominated each year for those qualities that Stenson brought to the ballpark every day — rather than their statistics or on-field performances. They all are, without exception, the types who have a hard-nosed attitude, players who do their jobs without complaint, who play the game the way it was meant to be played.

This year’s other five nominees were: Nolan Arenado, Rockies (Salt River); Dan Butler, Red Sox (Scottsdale), Brodie Greene, Reds (Phoenix), Chris Hermann, Twins (Mesa) and Zelous Wheeler, Brewers (Peoria).

As Surprise’s leadoff hitter, it was clear Mattison’s style and energy rubbed off on the rest of the Saguaros roster. The team entered the championship game needing a win to break the AFL record for winning percentage, playing hard-nosed and loose from start to finish. Mattison isn’t one to toot his own horn, but he understood that perhaps some of it was his infectious style.

“I’ll take a little credit,” Mattison said reluctantly. “But no one on our team is selfish. I think that’s why we’re here in the championship game. We continued to pick each other up. We just go out and play together as a team.”

Wil Myers certainly appreciated what Mattison could do, both in terms of his play and his approach. Mattison homered in a game at the beginning of the week and nearly took the Royals prospect’s hand off with an emphatic high five in the on-deck circle.

“Exciting times,” Mattison joked. “I just come out and play hard and give it my all each and every day, whether my body is hurting or not. Everybody’s grinding this out. I think that’s why we’re good.”

“He hit my hand hard, man, when he came by,” Myers said. “He’s a [heck of a] player. He can run, he can hit home runs. He’s got it all. He’s going to be a good player down the road.”

The Marlins clearly thought so when they added him to the 40-man roster on Friday. Mattison hit .349 with a .433 on-base percentage and .624 slugging percentage, with six homers, 23 RBIs and nine steals this fall. That was icing on the cake following a season where he hit .260/.353/.406 with 38 steals at Double-A.

“This year was a big year for me,” Mattison said. “During the regular season and now, I just went out there and played hard every day and tried not to put too much pressure on myself. Good ABs and good defense give our team a chance to win. It came into play and it helped the team out. You help the team out, you help yourself out.”

In many ways, Mattison has already exceeded expectations. Senior signs taken in the 28th round of the Draft aren’t supposed to earn roster spots.

“Another guy in the organization, Tom Koehler, he got put on,” Mattison said. “We were both senior signs in 2008. We both just worked hard. We had to work hard to get where we are. We don’t take anything for granted.”

There is truly only one explanation for Mattison’s success. It’s not his work ethic or his natural tools. There is little doubt from anyone who’s been around him that the source of his powers come straight from his facial hair.

“I think so. And the beard, the playoff beard,” joked Mattison, who has sported everything from a Rollie Fingers-esque handlebar mustache to a fu manchu over the years. “I started that in short-season. We were only allowed to grow a mustache, and it looked terrible. I just decided I’d rock it about once a year. Every year it seems to get longer and longer. I just have fun with it, and the fans seem to enjoy it.”