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Marlins checking list twice


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12/08/2003 8:00 AM ET

Marlins checking list twice

Hot Stove heats up with Winter Meetings this weekend

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com



Marlins Winter Meetings checklist

MIAMI -- Item by item, Marlins general manager Admin Beinfest is taking care of business.


Sign Luis Castillo? Check.


Sign Mike Lowell? Check.


Inking the two All-Stars to multiyear contracts eliminates a bulk of the heavy lifting Beinfest is handling this offseason. Marlins' management is striving to retain the core of the World Series championship team while operating within a budget reportedly close to $60 million.


The signings of Castillo and Lowell gives the team five players under contract for next season, joining outfielders Juan Pierre and Jeff Conine and infielder Mike Mordecai. Marlins management heads into the Winter Meetings in New Orleans armed with more tough decisions to make before the first of the year.


"It does cross things off the list," Beinfest said of bringing back Castillo and Lowell. "We will go to the Winter Meetings and talk to the other clubs. Everybody is there. We'll see what opportunities are available and move on."


Since winning the World Series, the entire organization has been in a whirlwind, recovering from the postseason hysteria while seeking to be competitive enough for a chance to repeat in '04.





"In a very short period of time following a euphoric postseason run, we had to put things together and get back to work," Beinfest said.


Florida's amazing run pushed the season into late October, putting the front office in a catchup position for next year. Along with signing core players, team executives are preparing for arbitration and the Rule 5 draft.


In mid-November, Beinfest was presented payroll boundaries by owner Jeffrey Loria.


The team's first major move came in late November when Gold Glove first baseman Derrek Lee, who hit a career high 31 home runs in '03, was traded to the Cubs for first baseman Hee Seop Choi.


The trade gained steam after the general manager meetings in Arizona and the Marlins entertained an offer from the Orioles.


Dealing Lee, who was projected to make about $7.5 million in arbitration, gave the Marlins flexibility to re-sign Castillo and Lowell.


Beinfest also extended a contract offer to catcher Ivan Rodriguez, a free agent.


Sources say the deal is worth about $16 million over two years.


"We still continue to cross things off and move down the list," Beinfest said of his immediate itinerary.


Signing Lowell and Castillo to multiyear contracts makes the starting lineup look much clearer.


The outfield will feature Conine in left, Pierre in center and Miguel Cabrera in right. Choi takes over at first, with Castillo at second, Lowell at third and Alex Gonzalez at shortstop.


If Rodriguez doesn't return, Ramon Castro and Mike Redmond will likely split catching duties.


Beinfest calls the starting pitching the strength of the team.


Re-signing them also is challenging. Four of the team's 13 arbitration-eligible players are starters: Brad Penny, Carl Pavano, Mark Redman and A.J. Burnett.


The Marlins already have said they will tender Burnett a contract.


The hard-throwing right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in May and is expected to be back around June 1. Burnett could be in the rotation or see action initially out of the bullpen.


"He is progressing nicely in his rehab from Tommy John," Beinfest said. "We will get a better feel when he gets back on the hill, sometime during Spring Training. Again, you never know in a medical situation the exact timing."


World Series MVP Josh Beckett, who tossed a complete-game shutout against the Yankees to clinch the title, is the expected Opening Day starter. Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis will be in the rotation.


Counting Redman, the Marlins are in the envious position of having a surplus of starters. Six, in fact, once Burnett returns.


Redman, who stands to make the most money in arbitration, has already been mentioned in trade talks.


The bullpen is another area that must be addressed. Closer Ugueth Urbina is a free agent who is not expected back. Braden Looper, who had a team-high 28 saves, is up for arbitration and could make $4 million. That may be too pricey for the hard-throwing right-hander to remain in Florida.


The Marlins are interested in re-signing reliever Chad Fox, who has experience closing.


"Certainly we are looking at the bullpen," Beinfest said. "We are talking to a number of different players. We are looking at a number of different things to address the bullpen.


"Obviously, we do think that pitching is a priority. We look at it in black and white. We believe starting pitching is the strength of this team. We need to have a bullpen to back up a strong starting staff. We have an eye on the bullpen. We understand there are some challenges there. We are working on it."


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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