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If you’re going to upgrade to a beautiful new home you might as well get some fresh furniture to put in it. That’s the exact philosophy that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has lived by this off season. Last month he moved his newly named Miami Marlins into a brand new stadium and this week he added considerable depth with the big free agent acquisitions of shortstop Jose Reyes, starter Mark Buehrle, and closer Heath Bell.
“Outstanding week,” said Marlins new manager Ozzie Guillen. “I’d never thought we were going to do it so fast, so quick. They [the front office] were very aggressive.”
The Marlins initially received most of their buzz for their strong interest in Albert Pujols, but their most recent signing of Buehrle late on December 7th, was quickly followed by an end to those rumors. Pujols then agreed to a mega deal with the Angels the next day – ten years, $254 million.
Miami also lost out to the Angels for the top pitcher available, C.J. Wilson. Wilson also signed with them on December 8th, agreeing to a five year, $77.5 million deal.
Yet although the Angels came out of the fair with the nicest prizes the Marlins still feel that they emerged as the Winter Meetings’ biggest winners. They came to Dallas known as a losing team that was never active when it came to highly sought after free agents – but they left with $191 million worth of prizes.
Loria’s desires to build a contending team that will bring this starving fan base hope began on December 5th with the official signing of Bell to a three year, $27 million contract.
“It’s going to be totally different,” said Bell. “We’re now the Miami Marlins. People are going to be in the seats. It’s going to be loud and exciting. There’s going to be a buzz.”
When fans think of today’s best closers the list usually includes obvious names like Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jose Valverde. But Bell has become one of the top closers himself over the last few years. Playing in the small market of San Diego since 2006 has made him somewhat of a hidden gem, as he is the only closer in all of baseball with at least 40 saves each of the last three seasons.
“We know firsthand how tough he is coming out to close in the ninth inning,” said Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest. With the all-important closer role taken care of, the front office then began focusing on acquiring a big-time position player.
And they did not waste any time in doing so. An appointment to meet with Reyes and his agent was scheduled the minute the free agent signing period began on November 3rd – just one past midnight. The two sides agreed to a six year $106 million deal by November 7th.
If anyone understood how much of a superstar Reyes was, it was the Marlins. Playing in the N.L. East had only made them firsthand victims of Reyes’ antics for the past decade. They knew the Mets could not afford to keep one of the game’s most dynamic players so they swooped in.
“We now have at the top of our lineup a four-time All-Star, a batting champion and one of the fastest men in the game,” said Beinfest. The signing has sparked a lot of controversy, however. The Marlins already have an elite shortstop in Hanley Ramirez. The plan was to move Ramirez to third base if Reyes was signed, but many are unsure whether or not he would be willing to do so.
Rumor now has it that front office may be shopping him if he does not cooperate with the team’s desires. Just hours after Reyes became a Marlin the team bolstered its weak starting pitching by adding Buehrle to the staff. The veteran lefty signed a four year, $58 million contract. No one was happier about this than Ozzie Guillen, who managed him for years during their time with the White Sox. Buehrle is 161-119 with a 3.83 ERA over his career.
“The Marlins know how much I love him,” said Guillen. “I know how much he can help us. If we have Buehrle, it can make my life a little easier.” This organization couldn’t be any happier with the new toys they just bought. “When we drew up our off season plan, and how we wanted our team look, we are in the A box right now,” said team president David Samson.