High-ranking Marlins executives traveled to New York to make a pitch for marquee shortstop Jose Reyes at 12:01 a.m. last Thursday, the very second teams could begin courting free agents. They are sending a contingent of 13 to the Dominican Republic on Thursday to eyeball Yoenis Cespedes, a Cuban defector and coveted five-tool center fielder who could cost a bundle.
For years, the Marlins have been among the most frugal spenders in the majors. Now, as they close in on the opening of their new ballpark, they’re giving every sign of going from blue-light bargain hunters to Fifth Avenue shoppers.
Their bid for Reyes is the strongest sign yet that the Marlins are serious about pumping money into the payroll. Reyes is a four-time All-Star who is widely regarded as one of the premier position prospects in this year’s free agent class, along with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
“He would be big for the Marlins,” a National League source said of Reyes, an oft-injured yet talented shortstop who has spent all nine major-league seasons with the New York Mets.
Reyes won the National League . batting title last season with a .337 average despite making two trips to the disabled list with hamstring injuries. A speedster, Reyes has led the league in triples four times and stolen bases on three occasions.
If the Marlins acquired Reyes, Hanley Ramirez would likely change positions, either to center field or third base. When asked about just such a possibility in September, Ramirez said he would be fine with the move.
“It would be nice to play next to him,” Ramirez said. “He’s an energy guy.”
Reyes will likely command a five- or six-year deal paying in excess of $15 million annually. His agent, Peter Greenberg, did not return calls Monday. But the fact that the Marlins’ top brass made a special trip to make a pitch for Reyes is a strong indication that they are enamored with him.
It’s also a sign the Marlins could be willing to increase their 2012 payroll in excess of widely speculated $80 million to $90 million figures.
If Reyes doesn’t work out, the Marlins could also go after Pujols or Fielder, whose salary demands would far exceed anything the Marlins have ever given to a player.
They’re definitely making a push for Cespedes.
“The Marlins love him,” said one major-league insider with direct knowledge of the Marlins’ interest.
There has been speculation that a deal for Cespedes could cost as much as $30 million, and a number of teams — including the New York Yankees — are interested in the outfielder.
Cespedes, 26, is regarded as one of the premier players to emerge from Cuba in years.
Some say Cespedes could be ready to play in 2012. If the Marlins are successful in signing both he and Reyes, Ramirez would surely wind up at third.
Source: Miami Herald