-- Eddie R., Miami
Over the last few years, this front office has repeatedly identified players it has had under club control who it wanted to sign long term. All of them -- except Dan Uggla -- signed multiyear deals. And they made a sizable four-year, $48 million offer to Uggla, who turned it down. The Marlins did lock up Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco to big contracts. And before the 2011 season ended, they signed Omar Infante to a two-year extension.
As for Stanton, remember, he will begin his arbitration eligibility after the 2013 season. And he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season. The point is, there is plenty of time to work out a long-term deal, which the team would like to cover at least his first two years of free agency.
The bottom line is there is no immediate need to sign him. That doesn't mean Miami won't look to secure him for years to come in another year or two. If Stanton stays healthy and continues to progress like the club thinks he will, next offseason, you likely will hear more talk about signing the slugger long term.
There was a rumor reported by a sports broadcaster on a local Hispanic TV channel that said the Red Sox were interested in trading Kevin Youkilis to the Marlins for Hanley Ramirez. Is there any validity to this rumor?
-- Frank C., Miami
Since Ramirez came up through the Red Sox's system and Boston over the years has repeatedly made inquiries into getting him back, it's not surprising to see this kind of report surface. This deal doesn't make much sense for Miami. Youkilis will turn 33 in March, while Ramirez is turning 28 on Friday. We're talking about a player who is younger and entering the prime of his career. Plus, if the Marlins were to deal Ramirez, I'd expect them to seek starting pitching in return.
The trading Ramirez rumors simply won't go away. What we can go by is this: The Marlins have publicly stated numerous times that they want Ramirez to be their third baseman. Owner Jeffrey Loria, president David Samson, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and manager Ozzie Guillen have each spoken on the record about Ramirez remaining with the team. They wouldn't be so outspoken about it if they were trying to trade him.
Ramirez remains a hot topic because many wonder how he will make the transition to third base. Until the three-time All-Star says publicly that he is fine with the switch, trade speculation will be out there.
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What are the odds that the Marlins will go after James Shields?
-- Jesse C., London, Ontario
Acquiring another established top-of-the-rotation starter is the Marlins' highest priority at this point. I know a number of fans still want the team to sign Prince Fielder, but that isn't the focus.
The team is actively trying to work out a deal for a pitcher. I think Miami will likely fill the pitching spot through trade rather than free agency.
Shields has been someone the team has coveted for a while, but are the Rays ready to deal him? If so, they will be asking a lot.
The Reds just parted with established big leaguers and prospects to acquire Mat Latos from the Padres. Expect something similar if the Marlins are able to obtain Shields, or any other starter with similar credentials.
When will the tickets go on sale for the games against the Yankees at the new ballpark?
-- John S., Hamilton, Fla.
Right now, the team is in the process of selling season tickets, and those preseason games with the Yankees are part of the packages. The team is leaning toward selling individual-game tickets for the regular season sometime in late March. For Opening Night against the Cardinals on April 4, the Marlins are setting aside a couple thousand tickets that will be distributed through a lottery system.
Now that the team plays in a 37,000-seat building, there will be a greater demand for tickets, which is another change from sharing a football stadium with the Miami Dolphins in a stadium that seats 75,000.
What do you think are the reasons the Marlins let go of Brian Sanches, Clay Hensley and Burke Badenhop? They were our best relievers from last year. Why not get rid of Juan Carlos Oviedo, and keep Hensley and/or Badenhop? They were fan favorites that would put fans in the seats.
-- Woody B., Fort Myers, Fla.
Their numbers show they were productive players. They were also popular and real professionals. But to say they would put fans in the seats is a bit of a stretch, since attendance ranked near the bottom of the league with them on the roster. When it comes to selling tickets in 2012, the anticipation of the new ballpark, along with the players already acquired, will take care of that. Big crowds are expected all year.
Now on to why they are no longer with the club. It comes down to value for the dollar. In Sanches' case, he missed time in the second half with a strained right elbow. He was productive for three years, and the Marlins felt it was time for a change.
Hensley also had his share of injuries in 2011. In his arbitration years, he is lined up for a raise, and the team believes it has a setup replacement in Edward Mujica.
Badenhop is a long reliever whose contract is due to be about $1.1 million. You will often see in the big leagues, if a team has depth and feels someone else can duplicate production at half the price, then sometimes a move is made. Steve Cishek threw 54 2/3 innings and had a 2.63 ERA, compared to Badenhop's 63 2/3 innings and 4.10 ERA. Cishek is a candidate to work in long relief at half the price.
Also, the Marlins are still looking to add more starting-pitching depth. The objective is to not rely as heavily on a long reliever in 2012.
Oviedo may or may not be with the club when the season starts. He still has to be reinstated off the restricted list and sign. The team did tender him a contract because he has plus stuff, and Miami may find it can get real value in a trade. And if he does stay, he would fill an eighth-inning setup role.