Major League Baseball owners unanimously approved the sale of the Marlins from Wayne Huizenga to John Henry. Henry plans an introductory news conference on January 19, 1999 alongside his friend and current Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. As a sign of goodwill, Henry is likely to simply give away his share of the New York Yankees, a share valued at $10 million.
Pat Watkins, a former first round pick, was acquired by the Marlins from the Cincinnati Reds for minor league pitcher Pedro Minaya. The 26 year old outfielder was added to the team’s 40-man roster and is expected to provide needed right hand hitting off the bench. Watkins split the season between the Reds and their AAA affiliate, while Minaya split the season between A and Rookie League.
The Marlins acquired short stop Benji Gil from the Chicago White Sox in the Rule V Draft. Gil, 26, once a starter for the Texas Rangers, played last year in AAA Birmingham. In the same draft, Eric Ludwick, who started last season in the Marlins’ rotation, was taken by the Detroit Tigers and then traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Ludwick was the third player taken in the Rule V Draft. He must remain on Toronto’s 40-Man Roster or he will be offered back to the Marlins for $25,000. The first pick belonged to the Marlins, who acquired left handed pitcher Alberto Blanco from the Houston Astros and then traded him for cash to the Detroit Tigers. The Marlins also lost minor leaguers Tim McClaskey (RHP), Portland, Scott Dewitt (LHP), Portland, and Ismael Reynoso (SS).
The Marlins have traded all-star shortstop Edgar Renteria to the St. Louis Cardinals for three minor leaguers: Shortstop Pablo Ozuna (20), Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year after hitting .357 last seaston) and pitchers Braden Looper (RHP, 24) and Armando Almanza (LHP, 26).
The Marlins acquired another catcher, Guillermo Garcia, from the Reds in exchange for pitcher Manuel Barrios. Barrios and Oscar Henriquez were both acquired in the Alou trade, and now both have been traded for catchers. Barrios was also part of the Great Trade of 1998, only to be released by the Dodgers and resigned by the Marlins. The 26 year old Garcia had a good season in AAA and played in 12 games for the Reds. He is expectected to challenge Mike Redmond for the backup job.
Josh Booty, John Roskos, Rob Stanifer, Kevin Millar, Eric Ludwick, and Bruce Aven all passed the ten day assignment period and have been sent to AAA. The Marlins release Brian Daubach.
Gregg Zaun was finally traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations depending if Zuan makes the Rangers’ roster. Zaun struggled last season, hitting only .188. With Mike Redmond emerging as a solid backup, the Marlins decided to improve the starting position by acquiring Jorge Fabergas on 11/20/98. Zaun was designated for assignment, allowing the team 10 days to seek a trade. Gregg backed up Charles Johnson in the World Championship season. With his departure only 10 players from the 1997 season are still with the team: Antonio Alfonseca, Alex Fernandez, Livan Hernandez, Kirt Ojala, Luis Castillo, Craig Counsell, Edgar Renteria, Todd Dunwoody, Cliff Floyd, Mark Kotsay.
Blessed with great talent in the middle of the infield (Craig Counsell, Amaury Garcia, Alex Gonzalez, and Edgar Renteria), the Marlins are looking to trade Luis Castillo. Seattle and Toronto have expressed some interest. This depth also means that the arbitration-eligible Renteria could be traded. If Renteria departs, it will not be related to his salary, but rather a very impressive package. The Marlins wanted Tornonto to give up Chris Carpenter or Roy Halladay, two very talented Major League pitchers. Expect one of the five infielders to be traded before the season begins.
Former University of Miami catcher Jorge Fabergas is the newest member of the Florida Marlins. The Marlins received Fabergas and $500,000 from the Mets in exchange for pitcher Oscar Henriquez. Henriquez was acquired in the Alou trade. Fabergas is joining his fifth team in two seasons. The 28 year old hit below .200 with 2 home runs and 35 RBI while missing most of the season with an ankle surgery. Fabergas will make $1.85 million next season, and is a career .255 hitter with 12 homers and 135 RBI in 397 games.
The Marlins filled their fourty man roster with minor leaguers, mostly to protect them from the Rule V draft. The newest members are: Hector Almonte (P), Brent Billingsley (P), A.J. Burnett (P), Jaime Jones (OF), Nelson Lara (P), Bobby Rodgers (P), Nate Rolison (IF), Michael Tejera (P). As a result, the Marlins designated for assignment the contracts of catcher Gregg Zaun, outfielder Bruce Aven, infielders Josh Booty, Kevin Millar, and John Roskos, and pitchers Eric Ludwick and Rob Stanifer. The Marlins must trade the player, assign him to the minors, or release him. Booty is likely to end up back in AAA.
The Marlins brought back Russ Morman from Tampa Bay. The first baseman was part of the Marlins organization for 4 seasons.
The Marlins signed free agent DaRond Stovall to a minor league contract. The 25-year old switch hitting outfielder was invited to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Stovall started last season on the Expos major league roster before being sent down to AAA.
The Marlins did not raise ticket prices for the coming season. See prices in stadium section.
The papers are officially signed. John Henry wrote a $158 million dollar check and the Florida Marlins are no longer part of Huizenga Holdings. Huizenga and Henry met in Wayne’s office, hugged and laughed, and then completed the sale. Now Henry just needs the League’s approval, a mere formality considering their familiarty with Henry.
Prospective owner John Henry and Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga have once again claimed they have no deal only to return to the negotiation table. Clearly two serious businessmen playing the negotiation game.