Around the NL East - Heath Bell becomes a Marlin, Nationals first base and catcher controversies, Mets seeking relievers, Phillies playing the arb game

Heath Bell is the newest addition to the NL East, signing a multi-year deal with the newly Miami Marlins. Poor guy will have to wear gaudier uniforms than the Padres' Sunday camo now.

Over the last few offseasons, keeping up with baseball was never a difficult thing to do. With the staggered way Major League Baseball does things like present awards, creates hype about the winter meetings, come up with terms like the Hot Stove, and the fact that the countdown to Spring Training starts pretty much immediately a team's playoff contention the prior year goes kaput, baseball finds a way to stay amazingly relevant even when it's not even in season.

This season has been kind of different though; perhaps it's the unfortunate way the season ended for Braves Country, and maybe as a fan I'm mad at baseball in general. Aside from the wonderful of a time I had with the AFL, my general interest in baseball since the regular season ended has been fleeting, at best. When I've literally got nothing else to do, I'll fire up the Xbox and tune into some Latin American winter ball, and quietly root for Wilson Ramos, or take amusement at the futility of Wilson Valdez, but then I'll find something else to do. Aside from the trip out to the AFL, I partook in National Novel Writing Month (and succeeded, 50,714 words woot), read two books, and spent a lot of time watching television shows (Walking Dead, Dexter, American Horror Story, Storage Wars, Community). But baseball, it's not even remotely in the backseat in my mind - it's like in the trunk, buried under the flannel/fleece sheet that so many of us have in the trunks of our cars. I guess I'm a crappy baseball fan.

What have you guys been doing to pass the off-season? Welcome back to the basement.

And if I may speak freely, GO HOKIES!!!

Heath Bell signs with Marlins, 3/$27M - Fish Bytes
I have mixed feelings about this. I am happy for Heath Bell finally getting his long-awaited payday, as I think he is a fantastic human being, and genuinely probably deserved more than $27M. But on the flipside, he lands in Miami, which will probably be a fanbase that will never appreciate him as much as he should, but furthermore, he's a fearless, unflappable flamethrower, who has that intangible ability to fortify entire bullpens with his presence and attitude he cultivates. I guess whatever they're calling Leo Nunez these days is pretty much getting pushed aside now.

Marlins also in talks with Heath Bell, C.J. Wilson now too - Sun Sentinel
Man, I'd hate to see Heath Bell on the Marlins. I like him too much to have to see him dressed in the Megamind outfit, and being his usual lovable self, but to empty crowds. But the Marlins have never spent more than $3.65M for a single year for a closer, so acquiring a Bell would take them to places never seen before.

Expect Albert Pujols in Jupiter this spring; but not with the Marlins - Palm Beach Post
Despite the Marlins' efforts to sway Pujols to the Fish, supposed insiders and industry people believe that regardless, Albert Pujols will end up back with the Cardinals.

Logan Morrison on management, and the possible need for surgery - Marlin Maniac
Despite all the run-ins with management throughout the 2011 season, LoMo has little ill to say about Marlins management. Also mentions that his problematic knee may require surgery. Better take care of that now rather than during the season!

Ozzie Guillen, always good for an interview - Fish Bytes
I admit, I'm often amused by Ozzie. My favorite line:

I've never managed without a designated hitter, but I'll get used to it. I don't like the DH. I have a bulldog and named him DH because he is so lazy. He just sits there, eats and sleeps.

Burn, all you fat lazy American League designated hitters.

The worst games in Florida Marlins history - Fish Stripes
Although, I like the '99 18-0 beatdown, I kind was hoping there would be something about just last year, when Josh Johnson spotted the Marlins to a big lead, only for the bullpen to meltdown, and Brian McCann's reviewed walk-off homer, which made all 12 Marlins fans have to wait five minutes for the umpires to only declare the Marlins losers.

I actually feel bad for Billy the Marlins now - SBNation
I really hope the Marlins Mermaids outfits are even sexier next year, for you know, his sake.

BASEketball references = instant win - Marlins Diehards

NATIONALS

Nationals having heavy (lol) talks with Prince Fielder - The Nats Blog
It would require a ton of money, but not nearly as much as it would to land Pujols, and Fielder is pretty much a lock to improve whichever club he ultimately lands with. The Nationals have money (even in spite of Jayson Werth), and a good working relationship with Scott Boras. But even if Fielder doesn't land in D.C., not only will D.C. still be afloat, they still have Adam LaRoche to use at first.

1B prospect Chris Marrero tears hamstring in winter ball - Nats Insider
But one guy that Nats won't have any time soon is promising first base prospect, Chris Marrero, who tore his left hamstring down in winter ball. He was thought to be a useful trade chip, if the Nationals were to land Fielder, or be a bench bat or a backup to the LaRoche/Morse demon for the big club, but until that hammy heals, he's neither.

Mike Morse says the Nationals are coming - The Bog
Two years ago, we would have all laughed at this kind of bold statement. But heading into 2012, it's not really that funny - there is a solid core of talent that is on paper, more than capable of being contenders. With an additional playoff spot being added, and variables like the call-up of Bryce Harper to inspire a team, the Nationals really are a team that's just a little bit of health and luck away from being a major threat.

A possible catching controversy brewing up in Venezuela? - Nationals Journal
Earlier this week, Wilson Ramos has begun catching again, after several games of being a DH. He will face immense pressure going into 2012, to put up an encore of his excellent rookie season, as well as the scrutiny on him from his frightening abduction just weeks ago. Meanwhile, Jesus Flores is also playing in Venezuela, but with a GameShark installed, hitting .363 with a .980 OPS, and probably won't be too happy being a backup for another year. Flores would be an excellent trade chip, but everyone would know the Nationals would be selling low, and heaven forbid that happen.

Nationals' market too large to benefit from competitive balance lottery - MASN
As part of the new CBA, there will be a competitive balance lottery, that will give extra picks to the 13 "small market" teams, you know, to help balance the scales. In spite of a reputation for being a poor team over the last five years, the Nationals do not qualify, because Washington D.C. is still a gigantic market, and the team apparently has made more revenue than one would expect a reputation non-contender would.

METS

Jose Reyes sighted in Philadelphia - NY Daily News
The way it almost reads is as if Jose Reyes were a mythical creature, like a sasquatch or a chupacabra, the way he's only described as someone who is "sighted" or "spotted," but not really actually seen...

Jeff Francoeur lures Jonathan Broxton away from Mets with Jeff Foxworthy - NY Post
In a story that practically writes itself, our old friend Jeff Francoeur went bow-hunting with free agent Los Angeles castoff, Jonathan Broxton on Jeff Foxworthy's Georgia wildlife property. In the process, he explained the benefits of playing in Kansas City over New York, most notably the fact that a marginal pitcher like Broxton will have a lot more wiggle room and less criticism for when it's revealed that he's all fastball, little talent. And in spite of efforts from David Wright himself, Broxton ended up choosing KC over NY, for $4M for a year, with incentives.

So they set their sights on targets like Jon Rauch or Brad Lidge - MetsBlog
To be honest, I'd love to see Jon Rauch in a Mets uniform - he's given up six homers to the Braves in just 31.2 innings and being back in the NL East would give him a chance for that number to grow.

So now they want Andrew Bailey, but probably won't get him - NY Post
Because the A's want outfielders, and because they're the A's, they want cheap outfielders, with quality, which the Mets pretty much don't have.

Mets insinuate Ronny Paulino is a crappy employee, seek new backup catcher - NY Daily News
Maybe it's just me, but if I were busted and suspended for drugs, I'd try and make a good impression with my employers that I'm in my first season with. But instead, he's not really good at baseball, and has a bad attitude, and the Mets are already looking to replace him.

PHILLIES

Roy Oswalt's departure and the impact on the rotation - Philly.com
For obvious fear that Oswalt could very well accept arbitration, Oswalt wasn't offered arbitration. With the eternal need of starting pitching around the league prevalent as it's ever been, he doesn't have much fear for not being able to make money. But wanting to win? That would be easiest in Philadelphia. And since the Phillies don't want to add a raise to his 2011 $16M salary, he wasn't offered arbitration. If he likely leaves, what becomes of the rotation of legend?

Raul Ibanez declines arbitration - Rant Sports (h/t TGP)
The interesting thing is that with Ibanez's rapidly decline skillset, there's no guarantee he'll get another job anywhere else. Must've been a gentleman's agreement; maybe the two sides can negotiate a more reasonable rate to become a platoon player, or he'll leave and net the Phillies a compensation pick.

How Alex Gonzalez could affect Jimmy Rollins' cause - Phillies Nation
With the Giants in pursuit of A-Gon (lol), it would set the table and establish the market for Jimmy Rollins, as well as all other free agent shortstops. However, if the Giants go off the board it takes a little bit of leverage from J-Roll.

Just give J-Roll the Liberty Bell and be done with it - Beerleaguer
If any organizational guys want impress some people and make it easier for the team to let Jimmy Rollins walk, the Phillies farmhands for replacement shortstops aren't doing that well:

The Phillies' top three remaining shortstops - Wilson Valdez, Michael Martinez and Freddy Galvis - are hitting a combined .167 in 151 at bats.

But then again, in winter ball the prior year, Wilson Valdez was hitting over .400, but that goes to show that the Winter Leagues are not the be all, tell all.

Speaking of Wilson Valdez, he's arbitration eligible for the first time in his career - High Cheese
Lost in the financial gaming of high-priced free agent Tetris and how to retain Jimmy Rollins, Wilson Valdez is due a raise with the Phillies, if he is tendered a contract.

Phillies bolstering minor league depth - Phillies Nation
Some names that might stand out: OF Scott Podsednik, P Pat Misch, RP Brian Sanches. Also, Pete Orr!

Phillies reached out to Billy Wagner among others, all receive slammed doors - Phillies Zone
Man, I know where Miller School in Charlottesville is, too. I wonder if he gets bombarded with autograph requests at his JV games?

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