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New philosophy drives Marlins this offseason

New philosophy drives Marlins this offseason

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New philosophy drives Marlins this offseason
MIAMI -- A year ago, the Marlins went on a major spending spree, signing some of the top free agents on the market.

Their aggressiveness made them the talk of the Winter Meetings. By the time Miami officials left town, they had reeled in free-agent prizes Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle for a combined $191 million.

For all the attention they gained by signing three established veterans, the Marlins also made headlines by pursuing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, but both opted to sign with the Angels.

Much has changed in a year.

Rather than make another big splash by pursuing some of the marquee names available, the Marlins are expected to be much more low key when the Winter Meetings convene next week in Nashville, Tenn.

Quite simply, the Marlins' "all-in" commitment created more fanfare than victories. On the field, the team flopped, finishing last in the National League East.

Instead of staying the course, the Marlins have now moved in another direction. Bell, Reyes and Buehrle -- previously seen as building blocks -- have all been traded, and the club is building around youth.

Also gone is outspoken manager Ozzie Guillen, who signed a four-year contract, only to be dismissed after one season.

When the annual Winter Meetings get under way at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel next Monday until Dec. 6, the Marlins once again will have a completely different look.

Stunned by their 69-93 record, Miami's brass decided it was time to make wholesale changes.

New leadership in the dugout will be provided by first-time big league skipper Mike Redmond, a former catcher who retired as a player in 2010.

Much of the coaching staff is new, including hitting coach Tino Martinez, bench coach Rob Leary, infield coach Perry Hill and pitching coach Chuck Hernandez.

The biggest splash the Marlins made came on Nov. 19, when they completed a 12-player deal with the Blue Jays. It's the largest number of players involved in one trade for Miami, with seven newcomers joining the organization.

Reyes, Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck were sent to Toronto for Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani.

The mega-trade removed nearly $160 million in salary obligations, although Miami sent $8.5 million to Toronto to cap the deal.

Poor performance in 2012 prompted the organization to completely reshuffle.

Actually, the dealings started back around the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, when Hanley Ramirez, Randy Choate, Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez and Gaby Sanchez were dealt.

"We did not foresee in any way that this team would be completely out of it, and not competitive by the middle of the summer at the Trade Deadline," president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said.

Three weeks after the season ended, Miami also parted with Bell, who was traded to the D-backs for third-base prospect Yordy Cabrera.

Trimming high-priced, high-profile players has reduced payroll from $100 million in 2012 to what projects to be around $40 million in '13.

Miami is pretty much at its salary range after the signing of free-agent outfielder Juan Pierre to a one-year, $1.6 million contract.

"There is a payroll component here," Beinfest said. "It is part of it, but I don't think we should lay it all on payroll, and we should really be realistic about the team that wasn't winning, wasn't going to win."

Also factoring into management's decision was the fact the Minor League system had thinned in recent years.

Parting with established players was a tough call, but in part, it was done to strengthen the depth in the Marlins' system, which should improve the franchise in 2013 and beyond.

"You couple those things, along with the payroll component, and we made this decision to move ahead in the manner we did," Beinfest said.

The Marlins still could be active at the Winter Meetings. But their focus has switched from courting the marquee names on the market to bargains.

Bottom line, after spending $100 million on a last-place team, Miami is planning to be more thrifty.

Still, there are some needs that the Marlins are looking to address.

"We'd love to add some power to the lineup, if possible," Beinfest said.

But at what cost?

Power production, like front-end starting pitching, can be expensive.

Already there are stories circulating that the Marlins may listen to trade offers for slugger Giancarlo Stanton, who is a year away from being eligible for arbitration.

The Marlins have expressed that Stanton is not available. But after making so many changes already, it's natural that teams are calling regarding Stanton.

Ricky Nolasco's name also has floated around in rumors.

The right-hander, who projects to be the ace, is under contract for one more season at $11.5 million, making him the team's highest-paid player.

Miami officials have indicated Nolasco isn't on the market, but perhaps they will be tempted by an offer or an idea presented next week.

There are still plenty of questions surrounding the Marlins right now. At the Winter Meetings, there should be some more answers.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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