After a year of courting, the Marlins finally acquired 3B Mike Lowell from the New York Yankees. In exchange, the Marlins paid a heavy price by sending Eddie Yarnell, Mark Johnson, and Todd Noel. All three are pitchers.
Yarnell, a left from Coral Springs, was originally acquired in the Piazza trade from the Mets. Johnson was acquired in the Alou trade and Noel was acquired in the Felix Heredia trade. Lowell is a power hitting third baseman, considered the top prospect in the Yankees organization. He was the key name circulated when the Yankees tried to acquire Randy Johnson (Lowell was then supposed to be traded to the Marlins for Louis Castillo), but that fell through. Lowell spent most of last season in AAA where he hit .304 with 26 homers and 99 RBIs. He had 15 at bats for the major league team and he had 4 hits. The 24 year old right handed hitter will wear number 28 and live in Coral Gables, where he grew up. He was a college All-American at Florida International University.
Lowell will be given the opportunity to win the starting job from Kevin Orie.
The Marlins have invited 19 players to spring training as non-roster invitees. The 19 are: Hector Almonte (P), Bruce Aven (OF), Fletcher Bates (OF), Chris Clapinski (IF), Archie Corbin (P), Benji Gil (SS), Lionel Hastings (C), Tim Hyers (IF), Kevin Millar (IF), Chris Norton (C), Pablo Ozuna (SS), Dario Perez (P), Ryan Robertson (C), Bobby Rodgers (P), John Roskos (C), Dennis Springer (P), Rob Stanifer (P), Darond Stovall (OF), and Ed Yarnall (P). The first full squad work-out is scheduled for February 26. The Marlins expect 58 players in camp.
Josh Booty, a former first round pick, star high school quarterback, and opening day third baseman has been given a release from his contract. Booty, signed a lucrative contract including a $1.6 million signing bonus. But the contract explicitly stated that Booty may not play football. After a failing minor league career, the Marlins have released Booty from his contract so he can play football at LSU. The only condition is that the Marlins own his right, should he choose to play baseball in the future.
In a first validation of John Henry’s committment to succeed, the Marlins signed Cliff Floyd to a 4 year $19 milllion contract. Floyd was the team’s best player last year and many believe he will develop into a superstar. Floyd becomes the second highest paid Marlin (second to Alex Fernandez). Floyd will earn $2.5 million this season, $4.5 million in 2000, $5.5 million in 2001 and $6.5 million in 2002.
John Henry held his first press conference as the owner of the Florida Marlins. Henry’s main points: he is committed to raise the payroll ($10 – 15 million more than last year); he needs the fans help to build a ballpark (the more public money, the more he will invest in payroll); and fans need to buy season ticket (call 930-HITS). Henry will not name a team President to replace Don Smiley. Jim Ross will handle the marketing and non-baseball issues, CFO Jonathan Mariner will handle the finances and the new ballpark, and Dave Dombrowski will oversee the baseball operations.
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.