Around the NL East - Marlins buy Jose Reyes and Mark Buerhle, Mets bolster bullpen, Jayson Werth in center, Jimmy Rollins saga continues

The Miami Marlins are going to see at least one playoff appearance within the next two years. Mark it.

And it has nothing to do with the acquisitions of Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle and Heath Bell, and that Hanley Ramirez will instantly grow up and mature and take his third-base assignment like a man and hit for a triple crown. And Josh Johnson will go all of the next two years completely injury free and make up for lost time and throw three no-hitters in the process. Or the fact that MLB is adding additional playoff spots, increasing the pool of contenders by one per league.

No, none of that actually matters at all, because the one and only thing that does is the fact that there are going to be some NEW UNIFORMS.

Throughout the history of sports, simply getting new uniforms have historically been somewhat good luck for the teams receiving them. Nevermind the history of free agent pickups, trade deadline acquisitions or good luck or health, because none of those wishy washy myths are actually true, because it's always been about the power of new uniforms. New uniforms have had a high percentage of success at inexplicably turning basement dwellers into instant contenders, or pushing teams that couldn't get over the hump to that next level, and absolutely nothing else did. Examples:

  • The New Jersey Nets (NBA) of the 1990's were this perennial cellar-dweller whose three season win totals prior to new uniforms were 30, 30, 26 (out of 82 games), but in the 1997-98 season, introduced new uniforms. Instantaneously, they won 43 games, and made the playoffs.
  • Karl Malone and John Stockton (NBA) pick-and-rolled their way in and out of the playoffs all through their careers in dorky purple and gold from the team's New Orleans roots, but in 1997-98 the Jazz also received new uniforms, and made it to the NBA Finals in consecutive years, where they had never made it to in any year previously.
  • After Natrone Means (NFL) stampeded over the highly-favored Denver Broncos in 1996, enough was enough. Out the door went the tangerine orange and royal blue, and in 1997, the darker, meaner looking identity of the Denver Broncos emerged, and they responded by immediately winning the next two Super Bowls.
  • Also in 1997, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) ditched the swashbuckling creamsicle uniforms, and went to the gunmetal dark side. For the first time in 17 years, the Bucs won double digit games, and made the playoffs five of the next six years, winning the Super Bowl in 2002.
  • Speaking of 2002, that's when the Anaheim Angels decided to ditch the Disney wings and clouds, and go back to the pointy halo A. Coincidentally, the Angels would make the playoffs for the first time in 16 years, and go all the way to the top, beating the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
  • In 2007, the magic of the fabulous turquoise and purple was essentially dead, so the Arizona Diamondbacks went Sedona red for their new colors. And in their first year of new unis, they won the NL West for the first time in the last five years, and went all the way to the NLCS.
  • And in 2008, the Rays decided to kick the devil out of St. Petersburg, and completely rebrand the entire team. The newly enshrined [just] Rays exploded with a worst-to-first turnaround, and charged all the way to the World Series for their first division title, pennant, and WS appearance in one fell swoop. The Rays have remained in the upper echelon of the American League since.

The Miami Marlins probably didn't need all these expensive free agents, when they could have simply coasted on the power of the new unis for some instant notoriety. But I guess when Pujols, Kemp and Reyes, Buerhle and Bell available, it's best to snatch them up while they could be had.

Welcome back to the basement.

Jose Reyes signs six-year, $106M contract with the Miami Marlins - Fish Stripes
Unless you've been living under a rock, you know by now that Jose Reyes is now a Miami Marlin. The Fish were hell-bent on making a splash with their inaugural season, and they're off to a good start by signing Jose Reyes. As Fish Stripes also points out, the contract is heavily backloaded, so regardless of the no-trade clause, it would be difficult to find anyone who would want to take on the later years of this kind of deal.

Mark Buehrle signs four-year, $58M contract with the Miami Marlins - Miami Herald
How much influence Ozzie Guillen had to do with this is left to speculation, but regardless of the fact, Mark Buerhle is now a member of the new Miami Marlins, looking to make a huge splash in 2012. Now as human beings, I like Buerhle way more than I ever liked Derek Lowe (dog lovers unite), but all the justification and the speak of consistency and "he just wins" remarks that are being tossed around in regards to Buerhle, it's a lot of the same things heard when the Braves signed Derek Lowe. Now Buerhle's two years younger at the start of this deal than Lowe was in 2008 and may probably age more favorably, but I'm just sayin'.

Marlins were the high-bidders on Pujols and Wilson too, but it's not always about the money - Fish Bytes
In regards to Albert Pujols, he was offered anywhere between $255-275M over a ten-year deal, which essentially trumps what he signed for in Anaheim. But a no-trade clause appeared to be the difference in choosing the Angels over the Marlins; he clearly does not want to go anywhere. C.J. Wilson was reportedly close to a 5/$100M deal from the Marlins, but being a native Californian, opted to go with the significantly lower 5/$77M deal and play in California instead.

"If it was about the money, I'd be a Florida Marlin," Wilson said.

Amidst the free agent spending spree bonanza - the incumbent Hanley Ramirez - Sun Sentinel
What we have here is a failure to communicate. Spanish-language outlets are reporting/twisting/fabricating Hanley Ramirez's supposed displeasure at the notion of having to move to third base to accommodate Jose Reyes and that he wants to be traded, not long after declaring himself the short stop, and even further, mouthing off at Jeff Conine that he'd be the next "Mr. Marlin." But then there are outlets in English talking about how none of it is true and that Hanley will not be traded. The bottom line is that I can't believe that Hanley Ramirez is completely content with the Jose Reyes' arrival and that he's happily willing to move aside from shortstop for the new guy; all young shortstops want to be Cal Ripken, Jr. or Derek Jeter, and hold onto that position until they're in their late 30s, not be moved aside at 27 for someone getting more money.

Feds open probe into Marlins ballpark deal - Sun Sentinel
Yeah, I'd be curious too if there was a team owner, notorious for being a penny-pincher who often cried poor, who found a way to get the city to cover almost 80% of a $634M ballpark, and then turn around and offer almost $500M worth of contracts to just five baseball players.

Jose Reyes will have to cut his hair now that he's a Marlin - Big League Stew
The NY Daily News reports that Reyes is not happy about having to do such a task despite being paid $106M. Figures.

Why Heath Bell will succeed in Miami? - Marlins Diehards
Because apparently, there's a tradition of success when it comes to fat closers playing for the Marlins.

In news not involving those plebeian incumbent Marlins - Sun Sentinel
Juan Carlos Oviedo (Leo Nunez) will likely be tendered a contract despite the fact that he would be on the restricted list, and he was also (finally) arrested for identity theft, Logan Morrison had some surgery to clean out his knee that went well, and Javier Vazquez hasn't formally announced any sort of retirement so the Fish would like to get him back.

NATIONALS

Jayson Werth open to idea of playing center field - Nationals Journal
The Nationals have made finding a CF a priority this winter, but in the event that they can't land a free agent or make a trade, there's always Jayson Werth. He's no stranger to CF, but his abilities tend to look better out in right.

Bryce Harper will get "a fair shot" at making Major League roster out of Spring Training - Nationals Journal
Part of the reasoning behind moving Werth to center is the idea that Harper may be good enough to make the big league team out of spring, which would put him in right. But a team that's trying to portray itself as financially responsible, the Nationals will probably end up holding him back until July "to make sure he gets enough at-bats versus AAA pitching" while getting the bonus of preventing him from becoming a Super-Two.

So where does this leave Roger Bernadina? - Nats Inquirer
The guy that was once supposed to be a mainstay is now looking at the possible twilight of his Nationals career. Great speed, can play all outfield spots, but lapses in fielding judgment as well as a bat that hasn't quite caught up to the rest of his tools, Bernadina is on the cusp now, especially with the ideas of a Morse/Werth/Harper outfield tandem. But, with no more minor league options available, I have to imagine he becomes fourth outfielder, or someone will probably pluck him if the Nationals try to clear him through waivers.

Adam LaRoche allegedly 100 percent - Nats Inquirer
Good news for our old pal Roachy, reports are saying he's feeling 100 percent recovered from the torn labrum that shelved his opportunity for another typical strong LaRoche second half. However, it sometimes seems like the Nationals weren't thinking about such development, as they've been looking at various scenarios that involved Mike Morse or the acquisition of Prince Fielder at first instead.

At least the Nationals have good first base depth, too - MASN
Even though the Nationals have lost Chris Marrero to a torn hamstring, they still have LaRoche and Morse as first base options. Even in the minors, is another name that was sort of leapfrogged by Marrero in the system, who might be a viable option, in Tyler Moore, just two years removed from a 30+ home run season that garnered him Carolina League MVP. Often considered a typical all-bat, no-glove first baseman, much like Marrero once was considered, he's apparently made some good defensive strides, and could possibly get a chance sooner, rather than later.

A drawback to good depth - Nationals Journal
It was pretty obvious that this was going to happen, but Ivan Rodriguez's future with the Nationals is pretty much non-existent anymore. With Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, and Derek Norris all young and talented options, there's little room for the class-act Pudge, whose not quite ready to become a full-time mentor just yet, and still has aspirations to inch closer to 3,000 hits, even if it's for someone else.

A confusing article about spending money when opening ballparks - The Bog
Stan Kasten is confusing me. He claims that spending money upon opening a new ballpark is the way to go, despite not doing it himself when Nats Park opened, and then claiming the Marlins doing it as "odd." I'll say I like the way the Nationals have built a possible contender through drafting and developing, but when their park opened it had Odalis Perez as it's first ever pitcher. At least the Marlins are trying to make a giant splash from the get-go.

Official Mike Morse clothing - Nats NQ
Look, I know Morse had a tremendous year in 2011, but there's still a part of me that refuses to believe that he's the real deal, and that he should be treated as any sort of a franchise cornerstone, worthy of such luxuries like his own line of BEAST MODE clothing. But seriously, $39.99 for a t-shirt?? I could recreate this shirt in two minutes (seriously, Helvetica Neue Narrow, -60 kern) and undercut them like Armageddon. Even shirts at normal retail price on MLB.com don't cost $40.

METS

The penultimate post-Jose Reyes post - Amazin' Avenue

An example of how the New York outlets portray the same story - Various
"Reyes Says Mets Never Made Him an Offer" - NY Times - Vanilla, straight to the point, and without any real bias.
"Reyes says Mets didn't make real offer to keep him" - NY Post - Note the word "real" in the headline, to create the misdirection that the Mets gave him a fake one, or one so low that Reyes insensitively construes it as a fabrication, because the Mets are evil and the Yankees are good.
"Jose Reyes introduced as newest Miami Marlin, says NY Mets ‘didn’t want me’" - NY Daily News - Goes straight to the emotional heart, with the "didn't want me" part.

Now that the money is gone, it's time for Sandy Alderson to play Moneyball? - NY Daily News
I've been a long time listener to the Howard Stern Show; Gary Dell'abate AKA Baba Booey, also widely considered the worst ceremonial first pitch ever, is also a big Mets fan. Upon being asked if the Mets should try to be Moneyballing, his response was along the lines of "We're New York, we don't do that (crap). That's for teams like the Oakland A's."

Mets fortify bullpen with free agents Jon Rauch, Frank Francisco - NY Post
Neither guy is going to set the world ablaze, but they aren't going to be complete embarrassments either, maybe. But what gets me is that in 2011, the Mets barely spent maybe $8M (if that) for their entire bullpen (minus K-Rod), but with Rauch (1/$3.5M) and Francisco (2/$12M), they're approaching almost $10M in just two guys alone for 2012. I thought the Mets were supposed to be poor?

Mets trade Angel Pagan to Giants for CF Andres Torres and RP Ramon Ramirez - Amazin' Avenue
Hmm. I'm not quite sure what to think of this, really. I liked Pagan a lot, and figured he could get to at least a compromise between 2010 and 2011 going into 2012. But in return they get a defensively capable, ML-ready CF in Torres, and a cog to fortify their previous weakness in Ramirez. AA has it best, really though:

it's not a slam dunk for either team.

LOLBrewers: K-Rod accepts arbitration - Brew Crew Ball
I'm often glad I took enough Spanish classes in high school to be able to decipher baseball news on Spanish language deportes sites. Once I found out Fernando Rodney signed with the Angels for two years, about a week before it was announced in the U.S.

Blade references = Win - The Apple
Although Blade references most certainly = win, I really just wanted to let Randy know that it's okay to take down the Jose Reyes underwear pictures. The all black shadowy crotch makes it look like he's nekkid. It'll be like the first step to healing!

PHILLIES

Winter meetings conclude with no progress with Jimmy Rollins - Phillies Zone
Not only did the Phillies not really make any progress with re-signing Jimmy Rollins, now there's possible competition on the horizon. With Pujols now gone from St. Louis, the Cards suddenly have money to spend, and one of their wish list items, is a shortstop. Still, some remain optimistic that he'll stay in Philadelphia, but I have to imagine - at this point in J-Roll's career, what else does he have to prove to justify taking hypothetically less money to stay in Philly? He's got a ring, an MVP award, all sorts of awards and all-star selections; for the most part, he's been underpaid his whole career versus his production, so why wouldn't he simply go for the highest salary?

Retaining Rollins would be nice, but it doesn't solve the bigger issues - Beerleaguer
Because Jimmy Rollins is 33-years old, it is absolutely irrefutable fact that he is declining. Chase Utley has hip and knee problems, and Ryan Howard will be fielding grounders while riding a stolen rascal from Whole Foods. Placido Polanco is old and fragile, no matter how much pain he plays through. All the top-tier starting pitching in the world means nothing if the infield faces worst-case scenarios.

Ryan Madson predictably rejects arbitration - Phillies Nation
The ironic thing is that despite nobody being able to blame him, the most righteous way he could have stuck it to the Phillies, was to accept arbitration. Instead, the Phillies will get two compensatory draft picks when Madson goes elsewhere. Hey, the Marlins are handing out money, maybe he should go there and become a one-two punch with Heath Bell!

Who thinks the Marlins can beat the Phillies - Phillies Zone
See, Heath Bell is one of those guys that brings "the swag" to any bullpen. I admire his ability to speak candidly without coming off d-baggy, and with the rash of acquisitions for the new Miami team, it's easy to make such statements. But the truth of the matter is that the Marlins are still crap against the Phillies until proven, with an 11-25 record against Philly over the last two years, and an overall 39-51 over the last five.

Acquiring a guy like Gio Gonzalez could make Cole Hamels expendable - Ken Rosenthal
This kind of line of thinking goes to show just how much teams tend to favor controllable years over a free agent acquisition.

Laynce Nix signs two-year deal with Phillies - TGP
Typically, most Phillies fans shouldn't really care much about this move, as he's essentially going to be a worse Raul Ibanez type of player, but at a significantly cheaper cost, but all I remember about Nix is how he went crazy on the Braves in 2011, to the point where the Braves began intentionally walking Laynce Nix. The Nation thinks they could have done better, namely Johnny Damon.

Unemployed Aaron Rowand looking for job, Phillies say no - Phillies Nation
It's easy to judge contracts preemptively, but often times guys like Aaron Rowand go neglected because they've never really been that good, when it comes time to analyze the aftermaths. Went crazy in 2007 for the Phillies, Phillies wisely let someone else overpay for him, namely the Giants who gave him a 5/$60M deal, before cutting him in year four because he actually really stunk (Just +5.0 WAR in four years despite $12M annual value), making him a free agent again. It's not often that I praise the Phillies, but they're easily wise for avoiding a reunion with his have-to-pee-pee batting stance.

George Sherrill may be the droid the Phillies are looking for - Phillies Zone
Seeking a veteran lefty to pair with the young Antonio Bastardo, George Sherrill may be a possible target. If anything at all, it prevents Sherrill from being a pest to guys like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

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