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Popular Pierre drawing lots of interest

White Sox or Rangers could secure the speedster's services

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com

 

DALLAS -- No fewer than 10 teams have expressed interest in Marlins center fielder Juan Pierre. On Tuesday afternoon, a Major League source said that the White Sox were making a strong push for Pierre. In return, the Marlins would get an outfield prospect. But as of early Tuesday evening, the Cubs were believed to be making a strong push. The Rangers have also expressed a strong interest.

 

Without giving specifics, Marlins general manager Admin Beinfest said that he talked with numerous teams on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. Beinfest, who didn't leave his hotel suite all day, is actively trying to pare down the Marlins' payroll while exploring options to bring in promising players for the future.

 

Beinfest did note that the Marlins are seeking position players, with a priority need at second base now that three-time All-Star Luis Castillo has been traded to the Twins.

 

The World Series champion White Sox, according to a source, are weighing whether to offer an outfield prospect who is ready to step in at the big-league level. In 2003, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was the Marlins' third-base coach.

 

The Rangers could part with outfielder Laynce Nix, who is recovering from shoulder problems.

 

Pierre is expected to be traded before the Winter Meetings conclude on Thursday. If a deal goes through, Pierre would be the latest high-profile Marlin dealt since Thanksgiving.

 

Since Thanksgiving, the Marlins have parted with Carlos Delgado, Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Castillo, Paul Lo Duca and Guillermo Mota.

 

Speaking in general terms, Beinfest said that the Marlins' approach to trades is to decide what they want and then reach out to other teams.

 

"We've found that to be pretty productive because teams know where they stand with us," said Beinfest. "Then we can pick them off one by one and get to whoever fits the criteria."

 

Pierre is fifth-year arbitration-eligible and in line to earn about $5.5 million in 2006 before he can file for free agency.

 

The Cubs, Yankees and Red Sox have talked about obtaining the left-handed-hitting outfielder, who is coming off a down season. Some teams, such as the Yankees, are said to be backing away because they are leery of Pierre's lack of arm strength in center. Other teams are viewing him as a possible left fielder.

 

Pierre hit .276 and stole 57 bases this past season. The Marlins acquired him from the Rockies after the 2002 season, and he quickly emerged as a team leader and was a catalyst on the 2003 World Series title team.

 

He has a .305 career average with 267 stolen bases.

 

With Pierre close to being traded, the Marlins' 2006 payroll is projected to be in the neighborhood of $18 million to $20 million.

 

Are more moves to follow?

 

A rumor floated around the Winter Meetings late Monday night that Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera could also be shopped, speculating that Willis might be available for the right price. But after hearing this, a high-ranking Marlins source strongly said that neither Willis nor Cabrera were available.

 

Willis, coming off a 22-10 season, led the Major Leagues in victories, and finished second to St. Louis' Chris Carpenter in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

 

Willis, arbitration-eligible for the first time, is expected to earn about $4 million in 2006, which appears as if it will be the highest salary on the team.

 

On Wednesday, the Marlins must decide whether they will offer arbitration to their remaining available free agents. Todd Jones, Juan Encarnacion, Alex Gonzalez, Brian Moehler, Ismael Valdez and Jeff Conine are all on the market, and it's unlikely that the Marlins will offer arbitration to any of those veterans.

 

Conine, known as Mr. Marlin, has a strong attachment to playing in South Florida, but with the direction the team is taking, it is a longshot that the veteran outfielder/first baseman will return. Conine has attracted interest from about five teams, who view him as an option as an everyday first baseman or a corner outfielder.

 

The Marlins are interested in signing Moehler and possibly Valdez as veteran starters who can work with the suddenly younger pitching staff.

 

On Tuesday, A.J. Burnett officially signed with the Blue Jays. The hard-throwing right-hander, the Marlins' all-time leader in victories, with 49, agreed to a five-year, $55 million contract.

 

Burnett departed the Marlins on bad terms, being dismissed in the final week of the season after publicly criticizing the team.

 

"The only regret I would have is the timing -- it was not appropriate," said Burnett. "I spoke from my heart. It got me a week's vacation before the winter. I love those guys down there, man. I played for them for six years. I felt for them. I couldn't take it. That's all I'm going to say about it. The timing was off. But I'm going to miss a lot of friendships down there."

 

Burnett hasn't spoken to anyone from the Marlins since he was asked to leave. He did say that if the club had kept the players from the 2003 World Series championship team, the organization may have experienced more playoff success. He said that he and other players speculated what could have been had Derrek Lee and Ivan Rodriguez stayed.

 

"We'd talk about it once in a while in the dugout," said Burnett. "Even the team last year was a lot better than how we performed."

 

The Marlins will now spend the next few weeks seeking someone to play second base. Some candidates could be available later in the month if the players are not tendered contracts.

 

The vacancy at catcher is also being discussed. Beinfest said that Josh Willingham, a converted infielder, will likely have a chance to be the regular behind the plate. Willingham also may see action in Spring Training at first base and left field.

 

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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I'd like to see us get either a second baseman or a left fielder for JP. With Willy catching, we can plug Aguila in center. I like Chris's defense.

 

On another note, I think someone else mentioned this earlier, Willy Mo Pena appears to be available. He asked the Reds to trade him. I'd love to have him in LF if we can work that out. JP for a second baseman. Pitching prospects for Willy Mo Pena. Not a bad lineup.

 

1. Aguila?

2. Willy

3. Hermida

4. Miggy

5. Pena

6. Jacobs

7. Han Ram

8. 2B

 

That's not a bad lineup at all. :thumbup

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It was the latest incarnation of the rumor sending Florida's Juan Pierre to the White Sox -- in this instance, in exchange for a couple of top prospects.

 

"Really?" said Williams with a broad smile, looking as surprised as any of the reporters to hear the rumor. "I haven't talked to [Florida general manager] Admin Beinfest since the general managers meetings."

 

On paper, Pierre certainly would seem to fit with the White Sox. He's a fleet-footed, left-handed-hitting center fielder, who could serve the role of a prototypical second hitter -- all of which would interest manager Ozzie Guillen. Pierre is available as the Marlins try to obtain young talent for veterans with big salaries.

 

But a source close to the White Sox said the team simply is not in the market for an outfielder. The organization is content to have rookies Brian Anderson, Jerry Owens and Chris Young battle it out for the starting center field position, with Anderson given the early edge to win the battle.

 

Williams expressed his confidence in Anderson, especially, during his talk Monday. Guillen reiterated that point during his manager's interview session Tuesday afternoon, when he was asked if someone other than the rookies will be playing center field for his team.

 

"Not the way we built this team," Guillen said. "Right now, we're counting on one of those kids. My concern is that Anderson should be ready to play at this level. With the kind of team we will have, he will fit real well but he's not there yet.

 

"They have to show in Spring Training not what they can do on the field but what they can do overall -- on the field, off the field, with their teammates. They have to fit right on the team. But [Anderson] will get the best shot."

 

Although assistant general manager Rick Hahn recently stated at the Jim Thome press conference that the White Sox could find room in their budget for the right player, Pierre and his nearly $4 million salary doesn't appear to be that right fit. Williams figures business will accelerate after Wednesday, when teams have to offer arbitration to their existing free agents.

http://chicago.whitesox.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb...t=.jsp&c_id=cws

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A rumor floated around the Winter Meetings late Monday night that Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera could also be shopped, speculating that Willis might be available for the right price. But after hearing this, a high-ranking Marlins source strongly said that neither Willis nor Cabrera were available.

 

 

For once it's nice to hear a Marlin official deny a trade rumor.......

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Conine, known as Mr. Marlin, has a strong attachment to playing in South Florida, but with the direction the team is taking, it is a longshot that the veteran outfielder/first baseman will return. Conine has attracted interest from about five teams, who view him as an option as an everyday first baseman or a corner outfielder.

Who are these teams? Can't be the O's with Javy spending more time at 1B/DH, Gibbons back and Bigbie and Byrnes. Red Sox I could see, but they could afford better. Braves, Yankees, White Sox, Astros, Angels, Rangers, Mets - nope. Cardinals, unlikely. Cubs I could see.

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That sucks that we can't get Willy Mo Pena. That would have been a nice addition.

 

So what second basemen or left fielders can we get for Pierre? Ramp and Iowa, what do you guys think?

 

To tell you the truth, I've always just figured Niner would be back this year... The team that seems like a good fit for JP, to me, would be Arizona. Scott Hairston would be a guy we could get.. I'm not sure how exciting that would be though. He was once very highly regarded but is now what, 25 years old? They also Sergio Santos who should be expendable with Stephen Drew.. so maybe Santos could make the swtich to 2B. I'm not sure how close to MLB ready he is. Obviously there is guys in their system like Carlos Quentin who is a corner OFer and Conor Jackson, who can play OF.. but those guys are complete studs and I doubt they'd move them.

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Still hoping we can spin Robinson Can? somehow. Just tell the Yanks that the mystery Red Sox GM (probably Manny) is waiting on the line to inquire about Pierre to replace Damon.

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Anyone else find it odd that we're expected to offer arbitration to none of our free-agents?

 

Encarnacion and Gonzalez I can understand, but Jones and especially Conine should be arbitration candidates, given their small '05 salaries, the interest from other teams, and Conine's type-a status.

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Anyone else find it odd that we're expected to offer arbitration to none of our free-agents?

 

Encarnacion and Gonzalez I can understand, but Jones and especially Conine should be arbitration candidates, given their small '05 salaries, the interest from other teams, and Conine's type-a status.

 

 

 

Jones and Gonzalez should be musts. 95% sure they don't take it.

With Encarnacion its to close to call it like 60%

Now with Conine there is now way in hell we should offer him arbitration cause what he is set to make through a arbitrator will be more than what he will get on the open market.

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