MIAMI – A year ago, the Miami Marlins went on a shopping spree at the winter meetings and came home with three All-Stars.
Next week in Nashville, Tenn., they’ll be in the market for bench help.
The Marlins’ brief era as big spenders ended when the team with the biggest payroll in franchise history flopped. That prompted the Marlins’ latest dismantling, which included a blockbuster sell-off trade with Toronto two weeks ago.
The trade left Miami with a projected payroll of about $43 million, which meets owner Jeffrey Loria’s budget for 2013. So the team is unlikely to swing any big deals at the meetings that begin Monday.
“We’d like to do some more things,” president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said Thursday. “We’re going to explore some things in Nashville. If something makes sense, we’ll move ahead. But are we talking about huge free agents? I’m not sure that’s the mode we’re in right now.”
The Marlins made a big splash at the meetings in Dallas a year ago, when they signed shortstop Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle and closer Heath Bell to deals totaling $191 million. All three players have since been traded, and the Marlins are back to their historically thrifty ways, angering fans who believed the team’s new ballpark would mean bigger payrolls for years to come.
“Last year in Dallas was really the exception,” Beinfest said. “Last year was special. It was unique. I’ve never really been through a winter meetings like that.
“I would assume this year, in contrast, will be much like the other 20-plus I’ve been a part of.”
The trip to Nashville also stirs Marlins memories because that’s where the team swung a trade now ranked among the worst in baseball history. Paring payroll at the 2007 winter meetings, the Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers for six players, led by highly regarded prospects Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller.
Cabrera won the Triple Crown this year for Detroit. Maybin and Miller were busts in Miami.
“I wish it would have worked out better for us,” Beinfest said. “We thought we got the right guys at that time, and it didn’t work out.”
The priority at the meetings next week will be to improve depth, Beinfest said. Most of the lineup and rotation appear set, although the Marlins will be young and unproven at several spots.
Adeiny Hechavarria and Yunel Escobar, both acquired in the Toronto trade, are expected to make up the left side of the infield. Escobar has indicated he’s willing to move from shortstop to third base, Beinfest said.
Slugger Giancarlo Stanton was upset by the trade, and there has been speculation he might be the next Miami star to go, although he remains a financial bargain because he’s not yet eligible for arbitration.
“Our plans for him in ’13 are for him to be our right fielder in the middle of our lineup,” Beinfest said.
Another candidate for the trade market is right-hander Ricky Nolasco, under contract for $11.5 million next year.
ANGELS: Ryan Madson finalized a $3.5 million, one-year deal with Los Angeles, which believes the right-handed reliever will make a strong comeback from elbow ligament replacement surgery. The longtime Philadelphia reliever, who can make up to $7 million, missed all of last season with the Cincinnati Reds, who signed him in January after a stellar performance in 2011 with the Phillies.
CUBS: Scott Harris, 25, is Chicago’s new director of baseball operations. He spent the past two years as Major League Baseball’s coordinator of major league operations, providing transaction support and analysis to teams.