Buehrle signing caps whirlwind week for Marlins
MIAMI – There was a moment of confusion Friday at the start of the Miami Marlins' news conference to introduce newcomer Mark Buehrle, with team officials unsure whether he should first pose for photos.
Following a brief discussion about how to proceed, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest grinned.
"We've never done this before," he said.
Actually, the Marlins added a succession of All-Stars in the past week, with Buehrle the latest. After passing a physical, he signed a $58 million, four-year deal reached Wednesday, capping a whirlwind spending spree by the heretofore frugal Marlins.
"A fun and very productive week," Beinfest said. "This is a great way to end it."
Along with Buehrle, the Marlins signed NL batting champion Jose Reyes and closer Heath Bell, and the three contracts totaled $191 million. There are more moves to come, with another starting pitcher the top priority, but the Marlins believe they've already upgraded enough to compete with Philadelphia and Atlanta in the NL East.
"We'd like to play tomorrow as is," team president David Samson said.
Buehrle bolsters a rotation that struggled this year without ace right-hander Josh Johnson, who made only nine starts before being sidelined for the season by right shoulder inflammation. Johnson's expected to be ready for spring training, and he and Buehrle could form a formidable combination.
"When you have a stud like Josh Johnson at the top of the rotation, it's hard to beat," Buehrle said. "I'm coming here just to try to fit in."
But Buehrle will play more than a supporting role. Since his first full season in 2001, the durable left-hander leads the majors in games started and innings pitched while ranking fourth in wins with 157, all with the Chicago White Sox.
"He was the primary free-agent pitching target," Beinfest said. "It's easy to understand why if you look at his accomplishments, and the one thing that stands out is winning. He just wins."
A four-time All-Star, Buehrle went 13-9 with a 3.59 ERA this year and won his third consecutive Gold Glove. He chuckled about being reunited with fast-talking manager Ozzie Guillen, who made the jump last month from the White Sox to the Marlins.
"When he's talking to you, you kind of laugh and giggle, and when he turns around and walks away you look at everybody, 'Does anybody understand what he said?'" Buehrle said.
"He's like one of the players. I love playing for him. He's a great guy. He keeps everybody loose."
The roster for Guillen remains under construction. On Friday the Marlins also designated for assignment right-hander Clay Hensley, who went 6-7 with a 5.19 ERA last year.
One day after returning from the winter meetings in Dallas, team executives assessed their free-agent bounty and met to discuss what other moves they might make.
"We're not celebrating anything yet," owner Jeffrey Loria said. "There's nothing to celebrate. You celebrate in October. In December you try to put it together correctly."
The Marlins were outbid this week for slugger Albert Pujols, the top free-agent prize, who signed a $254 million, 10-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels. The Marlins offered Pujols a 10-deal deal for slightly more than $200 million, but slugger Prince Fielder wasn't on Miami's shopping list, Samson said.
"We never viewed Prince the way we did Albert," Samson said. "Albert Pujols is the best hitter of our generation. There's Albert and then there's everyone else when it comes to that type of franchise-changing contract."
Buehrle's news conference took place across the street from the Marlins' new ballpark, which is already generating revenue that made the team's spending binge possible.
Thanks to the recent deals, business is brisk. Three times in the past week, the team achieved a new record for one-day season-ticket sales, Samson said.
When Buehrle posed for photos, he held up a No. 56 Marlins jersey, and an hour later the same shirt went on sale at the Marlins souvenir shop. The team is spending like never before — and making money, too.