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Marlins make offer to Benitez

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NEW ORLEANS -- The Marlins remain focused on fortifying the back end of the bullpen and general manager Admin Beinfest is exploring free agency and trade options.

The search zeroed in on free agent Armando Benitez, who pitched for the Mets, Yankees and Mariners last season.


Late Sunday morning the Marlins extended a contract offer to Benitez, agent Mike Powers said.


Powers added Benitez is weighing offers from multiple clubs. The agent did not elaborate on the teams or terms on the Marlins' offer.


"The Marlins are a nice team for Armando," Powers said. "They are in the National League East, which Armando is very familiar with."


Beinfest repeated on Sunday that securing the bullpen is the primary objective at the Winter Meetings.




Benitez notched 21 saves in 28 opportunities with 50 strikeouts and 24 walks in 49 1/3 innings with the Mets last season before he was traded to the Yankees and eventually the Mariners. In the American League, he combined to go 1-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 24 games. He was 0-for-1 in his only save opportunity, and struck out 25 but walked 17.


Depending on how negotiations go with Benitez, the Marlins have other options. Re-signing fifth-year arbitration eligible Braden Looper is a possibility.


Looper led the team with 28 saves in 34 opportunities.


Looper was used in closer and setup roles during the World Series championship season.


In the playoffs Florida turned to Ugueth Urbina as closer.





The Marlins are thin in the back of the bullpen. Veteran Chad Fox, who can close, re-signed with the team recently. The Marlins see using Fox in a setup capacity.


Although an offer is on the table for Benitez, Beinfest engaged in trade talks for a closer with a couple of clubs.


"We've had bullpen trade discussions over the last couple of days," Beinfest said. "We'll look at anything. It's just got to be equitable on both sides, if we match and we think it's fair value for what we're getting."


One trade possibility is right-handed reliever Scott Williamson, who had 21 saves in 26 opportunities with the Reds in 2003. Williamson was dealt during the year to the Red Sox, and in 24 games he was 0-1 (6.20) with no saves in two chances.


Boston's signing of Keith Foulke makes Williamson available.


Williamson previously pitched for Marlins manager Jack McKeon when they were both in Cincinnati.


In 1999, Williamson was 12-7 with a 2.41 ERA. That year he had 19 saves in 26 opportunities while appearing in 62 games and throwing 93 1/3 innings.


Williamson had a heavy workload in 2000, going 5-8 with a 3.29 ERA, tossing 112 innings in 48 games.


Until the Dec. 20, the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration players, the Marlins expect to be busy. Deals are possible as all teams decide which players they want to retain.




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