Samson pleased with club's offseason moves

Samson pleased with club's offseason moves

Samson pleased with club's offseason moves
MIAMI -- A last-place finish in 2011 prompted the Marlins to regroup and rethink how to upgrade their roster.

In early October, team owner Jeffrey Loria met with president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest to address the club's needs. The Marlins put together an aggressive offseason plan. They went after speed, defense, starting pitching and relief pitching.

In early December, Miami made a flurry of big signings. In a span of five days, the club signed marquee free agents Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.

"Jeffrey and Larry sat down after the season," Marlins president David Samson said. "They said they wanted speed at the top of the lineup. That had been going on for years, with Jose Reyes."

For years, Miami had hoped to get the opportunity to sign Reyes. The timing worked out, as the four-time All-Star shortstop became a free agent at a time the Marlins were moving into their new ballpark.

The building will provide revenue streams the organization never previously enjoyed. So when given a shot at Reyes, Miami pulled off on a six-year, $106 million contract that lured the 29-year-old away from the Mets.

The Marlins anticipate using Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and Hanley Ramirez at the top of their lineup, giving them arguably the fastest first three hitters in the game. Reyes' addition also bolsters the defense up the middle.

With speed and defense added, Miami also focused on starting pitching and relief pitching.

"We wanted to get a No. 2 to 3 starting pitcher who could go 200-plus innings and push everyone else down in the rotation, except for Josh [Johnson]," Samson said.

The Marlins considered Buehrle their top starting pitching priority, and they signed the former White Sox left-hander to a four-year, $58 million contract. Buehrle projects as the No. 2 starter, behind Johnson, the ace. With the top of the rotation set, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano will battle for the Nos. 3-4-5 spots.

Closer became an issue when Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) was placed on the restricted list due to issues relating to his identity. Although Oviedo is signed for $6 million, he has yet to be cleared to return to the big leagues.

Not in a position to wait on Oviedo, the Marlins made a strong push and signed former Padres closer Bell to a three-year, $27 million deal.

"The closer issue was so uncertain with Juan Carlos Oviedo," Samson said. "Not every day do you have a Heath Bell available to you."

Trading Chris Volstad to the Cubs for Zambrano rounded out the rotation.

The way the Marlins see it, they've had a successful offseason because they've added an impact offensive/defensive player in Reyes, a proven starter and a lockdown closer.

Perhaps Miami will make one more major acquisition before Spring Training gets under way. The club is aggressively trying to sign Cuban sensation Yeonis Cespedes, who toured the new ballpark and met with team officials in Miami on Wednesday. Negotiations remain ongoing.

Miami also has some veteran depth on the bench. Greg Dobbs re-signed for two years at $3 million, and veteran outfielders Aaron Rowand and Austin Kearns will be in Spring Training on Minor League contracts.

The Marlins have created so much competition on their roster that it isn't a given that Chris Coghlan, the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner, will make the team. Coghlan was the Opening Day center fielder last year, but he spent a majority of the season on the disabled list.

In November, Coghlan underwent a scope on his left knee, and he's had issues with both knees. But the Marlins expect him to be ready when position players begin Spring Training workouts on Feb. 26.

"When we did our plan for 2012, we didn't think that Chris Coghlan would have to earn a job," Samson said. "When we were planning for how our season would look, it didn't occur to us that we'd be deep enough that the Rookie of the Year would need to earn a spot on the team.

"He's got to earn one of 25 spots. He should be ready to compete, we hope. If he returns to what he was, he just makes our team much better."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.