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MILWAUKEE -- Miami Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest walked into a seventh-floor room at Milwaukee's Pfister Hotel on Day 2 of the GM meetings on Tuesday evening, noticed a large media contingent approaching and said,"Holy cow."
Typically low-budget operators, the Marlins are being aggressive this offseason and creating buzz. Among the attention-grabbing actions: They showed off their new ballpark and wined and dined free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes last week in Miami.
FoxSports.com reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed source, that the Marlins have extended an initial offer of $90 million over six years to Reyes
"In terms of Reyes, he's just a dynamic player," Beinfest said. "We've seen him a lot in our division. The speed tool, the fielding, the enthusiasm -- he plays with just a lot of joy on the baseball field -- and he's a game-changer in a lot of ways because of the tools he brings. He's a good player. He's a tough guy to play against."
Asked if he thought the pursuit of Reyes might drag out, Beinfest quipped about his relative lack of experience pursuing big-ticket items.
"You're probably asking the wrong guy," Beinfest said."We haven't been big in free agency here in a while. I know we signed Carlos Delgado in '05. Given our situation, we haven't been involved in a lot of free agency. I don't know. The truthful answer is you just don't know the timing of these things. You don't know what other peoples' agendas are. And you don't know where things are heading.
"We would love to secure some players as soon as possible and try to get this team together so we can try to work on the rest of the offseason and make sure our payroll allocations are in the right place. It's just hard to say. Again, we've been aggressive on a number of fronts because we want to improve the team."
Of course, the last time the Marlins went on a spending binge, they ended up having a fire sale the following offseason as the payroll dropped from $60 million to $15 million. In addition to trading Delgado and Paul Lo Duca to the Mets, the Marlins shipped Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Boston Red Sox during the 2005-06 offseason.
"We thought we had a good ballclub in '05," Beinfest said."And you never know how things are going to go. Unfortunately, we had to make that market correction after the '05 season. We just kind of rebuilt with a young team, and that core by and large is still here and part of a team we think is going to be really good. But I think it is different. I think we have stability now in the franchise that we didn't have in '05. We're in our new ballpark. We're going to enjoy the revenues of our new ballpark."
The new ballpark will be spacious -- the outfield wall is 422 feet from home plate at one spot -- and conducive to a player such as Reyes who depends on speed.
"We just don't know how it's going to play with the roof closed, roof open, grass on the field, people in the stands," Beinfest said."The previous place we played, in Sun Life, is a pitcher's park. We've enjoyed that. We've had some speed guys. We've had some power. We would like for this to be a little more of a pitcher's park. We'll just have to wait and see. But the dimensions are generous."
Asked if incumbent shortstop Hanley Ramirez was on board with being displaced for Reyes, Beinfest said: "We'll keep it between us, but Hanley wants to win."
As for the Marlins creating considerable buzz this offseason, Beinfest added: "I think it's just an exciting time for the franchise. Forget about 'free agency this,' and 'we're having lunch with him' and all that kind of stuff. I know it's kind of cute and exciting. But it's just in general the excitement around the franchise, that we have a home, we have a new manager, we have new uniforms, we have a vision of where we want to go. I think it's just excitement in general."Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com.