Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marlins dismiss Ozzie Guillen

BY David Villavicencio

The rumors have been swirling for months but speculation has become fact.

The Marlins just announced that they have dismissed manager Ozzie Guillen.They have also dismissed bench coach Joey Cora.

Earlier this afternoon, a source told me the Marlins decided to fire manager Ozzie Guillen and members of his staff. A second source confirmed that "something is up" with the Marlins but would not confirm nor deny the status of Guillen as the club's manager at that time.

Guillen just finished his first season managing the Marlins and it was a huge disappointment. The Marlins finished 69-93, last in the National League East and 29 games behind the division champion Nationals.

Many have speculated for months that owner Jeffrey Loria would consider changes to his baseball staff. Some assumed that meant Larry Beinfest and his staff in baseball operations while other believed it could be Guillen and his on-field staff that could be replaced.

Guillen had three years remaining on the $10 million contract he signed prior to the 2012 season. Beinfest, Hill and several other high ranking members of the baseball operations staff are under contract through 2015.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Khan passing first test as NFL owner

Shad Khan is facing a tough situation and handling it brilliantly
BY David Villavicencio

School is back in session but there have been tests in Jacksonville for almost a month.

Jaguars star Maurice Jones-Drew is holding out as he tries to get the Jaguars to re-negotiate his contract but team owner Shahid Khan is not giving in to MJD's demands.

Khan was quoted saying Jones-Drew's absence "doesn't even move the needle" in terms of stress. He reiterated his stance Tuesday by saying, "This is not a team about one person."

Khan has spoken out about his disdain for Jones-Drew's holdout and that prompted Jones-Drew's agent, Adisa Bakari, to give his client's side of the story.

"Maurice wants to play for an organization that wants him and for an owner who respects him and values what he brings to a team -- on the field, in the locker room and in the community," Bakari said.

Jones-Drew, who has two years remaining on his current contract, is trying to leverage the Jaguars into negotiating a long-term deal with him. Holding out for nearly a month, the 27-year-old Jones-Drew is costing himself money by not being with the team. He has accrued nearly $1 million in fines and lost bonuses from his holdout already.

The league leader in rushing yards last season, Jones-Drew has proven to be one of the premier running backs in the NFL. Jones-Drew is entering his seventh season. He has 6,854 yards rushing, 2,473 yards receiving and 74 total touchdowns. He carried a career-high 343 times last season, averaging 4.7 yards even though defenses knew he was the focal point of Jacksonville's offense.

Khan called Jones-Drew "a great player" and said "we would love for him to be back." But that does not mean that he is entitled to a new contract. Khan and general manager Gene Smith insist they have no plans to negotiate a new deal with MJD, not wanting to set a precedent of paying players with two years remaining on lucrative deals that included large signing bonuses. 

Jones-Drew may not even be on the Jags' bench this season
The Jaguars feel Jones-Drew needs to honor his current contract, after all, he agreed to it in 2009. If Jones-Drew chooses to continue his hold out, Khan is prepared to move forward without his team's star.

"Train's leaving the station. Run, get on it," Khan said.

Jones-Drew's camp has leaked word that the three-time All-Pro would be open to a trade. But Khan quickly shut down that possibility saying he was "not going to get into all the theses and hypotheses."

While I understand that every player is looking out for his best interests, I applaud Khan and the Jaguars for refusing to cave to their star's threats. Players need to be accountable.

Jones-Drew was more than happy to sign his current deal three years ago. Now it is not good enough for him because he knows he will be 29 and unlikely to land a big deal when his current one expires. He should have thought about that when he signed his current contract. He was always going to be 29 following the 2014 season. Maybe he should have signed for three years instead of five and tried to earn another big deal at age 27.

Now that Jags have all the power and all the leverage. They have a contract. If Jones-Drew doesn't show up before Week 10 of this season, he will not get credit for playing this year and the two years remaining on his deal will roll over. The Jags have nothing to lose. Some say they will lose more games without MJD. They were going to lose plenty of games with him too.

Now it is up to Jones-Drew to decide what is best for him. He already appears to be softening on his stance, saying he would be open to reconciling with the team. What he really means is he is realizing that he is not going to get what he wants and he is starting to understand that it is in his best interests to show up and collect on his current contract instead of get fined trying to get a new one.

Bravo, Shahid Khan. You already passed your first test as an NFL owner.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Marlins trade Mujica & Sanchez, add prospects

Gaby Sanchez and Edward Mujica are moving to the NL Central
BY David Villavicencio

Just an hours before the trade deadline, the Marlins continued to move pieces and look towards the future.

According to MLB.com's Peter Gammons, Miami sent reliever Edward Mujica to the Cardinals for prospect Zack Cox. ESPN's Jim Bowden reported the Marlins also moved first baseman Gaby Sanchez and minor leaguer Kyle Kaminska to the Pirates for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and a competitive balance draft pick.

Mujica, 28, has been a serviceable middle reliever in his career but has struggled for the Marlins this season. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 4.38 ERA in 2012. Mujica was 9-6 with a 2.96 ERA over 76 innings in 2011.

Cox is a talented hitter who can play 2B or 3B
Cox is a talented infielder who has struggled in his first taste of Triple-A. The Cardinals' first round pick in 2010, Cox is an offensive threat at third base though he has hit just .254 with nine homers and 30 RBI for Memphis. He hit .293 with 10 homers and 48 RBI for Double-A Springfield in 2011. He is reporting to the Marlins' Double-A affiliate in Jacksonville.

Sanchez, 28, struggled in 2012 after posting solid numbers in his first two big league seasons. The Miami native hit .202 with three homers and 17 RBI in 2012. An All-Star in 2011, Sanchez has proven capable of succeeding in the Majors, combining for 38 homers and 163 RBIs in 2010-11.

Can Hernandez figure it out in Miami?
The presence of Logan Morrison made it easier for the Marlins to move Sanchez even though Morrison has had his share struggles over the past two seasons. A career .260 hitter, Sanchez should get an opportunity to play first base in Pittsburgh, where Casey McGehee has struggled as the right-handed half of their first base platoon.

Hernandez, who will join the Marlins on Wednesday, is a former highly regarded prospect who has seen his star fade over the years. Once a key piece in the trade that sent Nate McLouth to the Braves, Hernandez has not developed the way the Pirates had hoped. The speedy 24-year-old appeared in 25 games this season with the Pirates, collecting two hits over 24 at-bats. Hernandez has hit .257 with 11 doubles, two triples, two homers, 43 runs scored and 25 RBI in Triple-A this season.

Kaminska is a 23-year-old right-handed reliever that was pitching with Double-A Jacksonville. His 6-3 record and 5.11 ERA are not impressive but his 44-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season is a positive for the Pirates organization.

With two trades already completed, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro reported that more are on the way. While Frisaro did not detail who would be involved, the Marlins have been trying to move first baseman Carlos Lee and catcher John Buck.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Marlins trade Hanley Ramirez to Dodgers

Ramirez is done as a Marlin
BY David Villavicencio

The news broke early Wednesday morning.

Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown reported the Marlins traded former batting champ Hanley Ramirez and left-hander Randy Choate to the Dodgers for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough. The Marlins did not send any money to help cover what is left on Ramirez is contract. He is making $15 million this season and is due $31.5 million through 2014.

The fact the Marlins traded Ramirez does not come as a surprise as rumors have swirled in recent weeks of teams checking in on the three-time All Star.

Ramirez was the key talent the Marlins received in 2005 when they traded Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Red Sox. The next season, Ramirez won the National League Rookie of the Year Award.

From 2008-2010, Ramirez started at shortstop for the National League in the All-Star Game. In 2009, he hit a career-best .342 to win the batting title. Ramirez was viewed by many as one of the top talents in baseball but then things began to change.

One season after leading the league in hitting, Ramirez decided to change his entire batting stance, swing and approach. The new stance and approach did not have the same results as what had previously made him a star.

Ramirez hit .300 in 2010 but many suspect that he pulled himself out of games and eventually finished the season on the Disabled List to assure that he would not finish the season batting under .300.

Everyone remembers this incident
That same season, Ramirez had one of his most infamous moments. The shortstop lollygagged after a ball he let drop in shallow left field as D-backs runners rounded the bases and scored. Then manager Fredi Gonzalez immediately removed Ramirez from the game and an ugly back and forth ensued afterwards with Ramirez questioning authority and undermining Gonzalez because he never played in the Majors.

Things only got worse for Ramirez as he posted a .243 batting average in 2011. His previous career-low was .292 as a 22-year-old rookie in 2006. Combined with a lack of effort, bad attitude, enigmatic personality and selfish tendencies, Ramirez had turned into more of a problem than a franchise cornerstone.

This season, Ramirez shifted to third base to make room for Jose Reyes. Already a bigger shortstop, the move allowed Ramirez to bulk up and prepare to put up the power numbers many expect from a third baseman. It was also expected to help his defense as Ramirez's range had dimished in recent years thanks to his size.

Despite doing a decent job at his new position, Ramirez continued to struggle at the plate. He posted a .246 average in 92 games before being traded to Los Angeles. His final at-bat with the team ended in a called third strike to end Tuesday's loss to the Braves.

The return the Marlins received for Ramirez is underwhelming. The fact that Choate was also included in the deal makes the return even worse as Choate is one of the top lefty specialists in the league. He was essentially thrown in for nothing. Or maybe he is the reason McGough was included in the deal. Either way, the Marlins received a lot less than many would expect for what they gave up.

Nathan Eovaldi was the Dodgers' 2nd best prospect
Eovaldi was considered a solid pitching prospect in the Dodgers' system but he has not have very good results in limited Major League action. The 22-year-old is just 2-8 in the Majors but he has posted a solid 3.96 ERA over 20 big league appearances (16 starts).

Similar to Jacob Turner, who the Marlins acquired on Monday in a trade with the Tigers, Eovaldi is young (22) and has had success in the minors. Where they differ is that Turner is expected to develop into a front of the rotation pitcher while Eovaldi projects more as a middle of the rotation arm.

McGough is a former fifth-round pick in 2011. The hard-throwing right-hander was 3-5 with a 3.99 ERA over 47 1/3 innings for High-A Rancho Cucamonga this season. While McGough has the power arm that most look for in a late inning reliever, he was not considered a solid prospect by several outlets. McGough did not rank among the top 20 prospects in the Dodgers organization.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Selling Begins: Marlins trade Anibal & Infante to Tigers

Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante are headed to Detroit
BY David Villavicencio

Many expected the Marlins to sell at this year's trade deadline but Monday evening the anticipation became reality.

The Marlins traded right-hander Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Tigers for right-hander Jacob Turner and a pair of prospects, catcher Rob Brantly and left-hander Brian Flynn. The teams also made history by swapping competitive balance draft picks. It is the first time in history that draft picks have been traded in Major League Baseball.

The trade should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the Marlins recently. The Fish have lost their last five games, dropping to seven games below .500 and 11.5 games behind the division-leading Nationals. Rumblings of potential deals have increased as the team has underperformed.

Losing Sanchez hurts the Marlins' starting rotation but the right-hander is a free agent at the end of the season and the Marlins were likely to lose him to another team. Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter as a rookie in 2006, immediately upgrades a Detroit rotation that has underperformed behind ace Justin Verlander. The 28-year-old is 44-45 with a 3.75 ERA over 132 big league starts.

Infante signed a two-year deal worth $8 million prior to this season and the 30-year-old has been one of the better Marlins in 2012. Infante started off red-hot and was one of the top hitters in the Majors before injuries slowed him a bit. The 11-year veteran returns to the team that gave him his first opportunity in the big leagues. A career .276 hitter, Infante spent the first six years of his career with the Tigers.

Marlins fans initially reacted negatively when news of the trade broke. But fans may feel differently after they learn a little about what they received in return for two talented but replaceable players.
Jacob Turner

The 21-year-old Turner is the jewel of the group. The No. 9 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Turner ranked as one of MLB’s top 30 prospects in 2010, 2011, and this season according to Baseball America. He’s widely considered one of the top 10-15 pitching prospects in baseball.

Turner is 1-2 with a 8.28 ERA over 25 big league innings but Marlins fans should not be discouraged by his struggles. The fact that Turner was deemed worthy of six big league starts by age 21 should be an indicator of how highly the Tigers thought of him.

Brantly is a 22-year-old catcher with some offensive ability. He is a career .275 hitter in nearly three seasons in the minors but was batting .313 for Double-A Erie before earning a promotion to Triple-A Toledo. Brantly is an intriguing prospect because some feel the former third-round pick could develop into a solid big league. At worst, he adds catching depth to an organization that was sorely lacking it.

Flynn was a seventh-round selection in 2011. The lefty has posted solid numbers in both A-ball and High-A ball. He lost his Double-A debut on July 23, allowing five runs over five innings for the Erie SeaWolves.

Fish fans should prepare for the possibility of more trades over the next week and into August. Many believe any player other than injured outfielder Giancarlo Stanton is available for the right package.

Some obvious players that could be traded include Carlos Zambrano and Randy Choate. Both are free agents at the end of the year and could appeal to contenders. Greg Dobbs could also be moved to a team looking to bolster their bench while Justin Ruggiano could add outfield depth to a contender.

Big names like Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson are rumored to be available for the right price. Johnson is due $13.75 million in in the final season of his contract next year but a contender looking to add starting pitching could put together a nice package for the Marlins' ace.

Ramirez is making $15 million this season and is due $31.5 million over the next two seasons. The enigmatic former batting champ has struggled mightily since 2011. The Marlins seem as open as they ever have been to moving a player they once felt was the face of their franchise. Trading Ramirez is difficult because it is hard to bring back equal value. It is especially difficult because the 28-year-old's stock is lower than ever but the Marlins seem willing to move him if they get an appealing offer.

The Marlins probably want to move Ricky Nolasco and the $11.5 million he is due next season but that will be a tough sell. Nolasco is 72-59 with a 4.50 ERA since 2006. The right-hander has not matched the success he had in 2008 when he won 15 games and had a career-best 3.52 ERA.

John Buck is another player the Marlins would likely be willing to move. The veteran catcher has not lived up to the three-year, $18 million contract he signed prior to the 2011 season. Buck, who is batting .179 this season, is due $6 million next season. Teams searching for catching may look into adding Buck but only if the Marlins are willing to help pay for what is left on his contract.

One player who likely will not be moved is Heath Bell. The right-hander and his three-year, $27 million contract are nearly untradeable thanks to Bell's major struggles this season. Marlins fans looking to move on from the veteran closer should hope he returns to All-Star form because he is probably going to be in Miami for a while.

Monday's trade is likely just the beginning of what could be a very active week for the Marlins. Fans may worry that the team is going to be dismantled like it has been in the past. That may not be the worst thing as this roster has clearly underperformed from the unrealistic expectations that were placed upon it.
The Marlins had a flawed roster this season but they are already working towards an improved future. Miami started that process Monday as they added a legitimate top pitching prospect and a talented catching prospect in exchange for an impending free agent and a good but not great infielder.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Thank you, Jesus!

Allen will experience this again next June after the Heat win another ring.
By David Villavicencio

Jesus Shuttlesworth has arrived.

Veteran sharpshooter and He Got Game star Ray Allen has agreed to join the Miami Heat. The 36-year-old rejected a two-year deal from the Celtics worth $12 million to join the defending champion Heat. Allen's deal with Miami is worth $6.3 million over two years.

Allen is one of the purest shooters in NBA history. The 16-year veteran is a career 40 percent shooter from three-point range and he has averaged 20 points per game for his career.

Heat owner Micky Arison broke the news of Allen's acquisition with a tweet on Friday night saying, “It’s 2:30 a.m. in London and I was just woken up with great news,” Arison posted on Twitter. “Welcome to the family, No. 20.”

Allen will be the biggest free agent acquisition Miami makes this off-season. The 10-time All-Star took the mini mid-level exception that the Heat had to offer potential free agents. All other free agents Miami acquires will have to sign for the veteran minimum that is estimated at $1.3 million.

The Heat are expected to meet with free agents Marcus Camby and Rashard Lewis over the weekend. Camby is not expected to accept the veteran minimum. If he chooses to join the Heat, many speculate that it would be via a sign and trade. Lewis is rumored to be open to signing for the minimum but interest could increase for the two-time NBA All-Star and he may choose to sign with another team for a higher salary.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/07/07/2885419/micky-arison-tweets-that-ray-allen.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dolphins trade Marshall to Bears, confuse everyone

BY David Villavicencio

The Dolphins have seemingly shocked NFL fans everywhere today.

Miami traded star wideout Brandon Marshall to the Bears for a pair of third-round picks. Marshall caught 81 passes for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns in 2011 while earning his third career Pro Bowl selection.

I am not an NFL writer but I don't need to be one to know that this deal on its own makes zero sense for Miami and instantly makes them a worse team than they were 24 hours ago.

Marshall has plenty of negatives. He's a malcontent. His bipolar disorder has gotten him into plenty of issues in the past. He has had spurts of inconsistency throughout his career.

The 27-year-old came to Miami with baggage after causing havoc at the end of his time in Denver. He also instantly became the best receiver the Dolphins have had since The Marks Brothers and possibly even Paul Warfield.

Marshall is 6-foot-4, 230 lbs., and will be just 28 when this season kicks off in September. He is probably among the 10 best receivers in the game today as far as talent and is definitely in the top 20. Despite all of his negatives, the guy is very talented and still relatively young. He definitely has more value than a pair of third-round picks.

Basically, the Dolphins gave him away for pennies on the dollar.

Many speculate that Miami made this move to appease free agent quarterback Peyton Manning. It has been widely reported that Manning was not fond of the possibility of playing with Marshall.

You can almost guarantee that this trade has something to do with Miami's courting of Manning but it may be poorly timed.

Some fans are speculating that this deal sets in motion a verbal agreement with Manning that would ultimately bring him to Miami. Basically, you get rid of Marshall and I will be your quarterback.

That's fine.

Peyton Manning has earned enough respect in this league to make such a request.

But if you're the Dolphins and you are put in this possible scenario, don't you tell Manning to sign with your team and then you will move Marshall?

It only makes sense from Miami's standpoint to keep an asset like Marshall until after they bring in Manning. Once he signs, you can shop him around the league and get something for him. You might even get competing teams looking to add a wide receiver to bid against one another for the right to acquire him.

Instead, it appears like the Dolphins made some under the radar calls and struck a deal just minutes after the new league year started.

Manning and Wayne would help in the short-term but
they are not long-term solutions. They also are not guaranteed
to sign with Miami.
The immediate shock and uproar of today's trade will fade quickly if Miami signs Manning. It will be almost completely forgotten if the Dolphins can add Reggie Wayne to replace Marshall.

But adding Wayne is probably a downgrade as far as production and long-term potential. Wayne will be 34 in November. He probably only has a few years left of football in him.

Had Miami been able to add Wayne to be the second receiver with Marshall, it would have been a much better receiving group. Wayne would have been an instant upgrade over Brian Hartline and Davone Bess would have continued to flourish as a slot receiver.

But today's trade leaves Miami with holes at two receiver spots. They also have a group of free agents they are interested in bringing back. Some of those players, like nose tackle Paul Soliai, will not come cheap. Neither will Manning.

Dolphins fans might argue that they can go add a free agent wide receiver like Vincent Jackson or Mike Wallace to replace Marshall. But the truth is those players are not going to come at a discount. That could complicate things for Miami, especially if they add Manning.

After trading away Marshall, Miami is now $20 million under the salary cap. But they will have a hard time adding Manning, a top-tier free agent receiver and bringing back Soliai or some of their other valued free agents. They also need to address issues with the offensive line. There simply is not enough money to go around.

Dolphins fans will cheer if they add Manning but he cannot be what he was in Indianapolis without someone to throw to.

In his best years, he has Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne at receiver, Dallas Clark at tight end and Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai at running back.

That group has four possible Hall of Fame players (Harrison, Wayne, Clark and James) and another (Addai) who was very good for some time before falling off.

Right now, the Dolphins are offering Manning a chance to play with Davone Bess, Brian Hartline Anthony Fasano and Reggie Bush. Not exactly the type of talents Manning has been used to seeing in his huddle in the past.

Will the addition of Manning make them more productive? Probably.

But Manning is not guaranteed to sign with the Dolphins and that would leave that uninspiring group playing with Matt Moore under center.

Dolphins fans will certainly be livid then.

They'll also be staying up very late on Saturday nights to watch Matt Barkley play for USC because they certainly will not want to watch Moore and Co. play the next day.