This was a new situation for the Marlins.
In winter meetings past, they’ve taken the stage to talk about players they’ve traded away, Tigers slugging first baseman Miguel Cabrera among them back in 2007.
On Monday, though, they were front and center announcing the addition of star closer Heath Bell.
It’s expected to be the first of several significant signings this offseason for the free-spending Marlins, who are opening up their wallets in anticipation of a move into a luxury stadium in the spring.
Star free-agent shortstop Jose Reyes is expected to soon sign a six-year, $106 million contract.
“It is a little different,” Marlins president Larry Beinfest said. “It is a lot of fun. And it’s just part of the whole energy behind the organization right now.
“We’re very excited, and we’re going to continue to work hard.”
The Marlins aren’t expect to rest after Reyes and Bell, who signed a three-year, $27 million deal that includes a club option for a fourth year.
The team also has been tied to star first baseman Albert Pujols and veteran starter Mark Buehrle.
“We’ll continue to be aggressive,” Beinfest said.
All this from a ballclub that’s skimped on player personnel for nearly their entire existence. Recently, the Marlins had a payroll of just a little over $50 million in 2011 and 2010, about $37 million in 2009.
The spending spress is the Marlins’ attempt to get to the postseason for the first time since winning the World Series in 2003.
“There’s a lot of buzz about the Miami Marlins,” said Bell, wearing the newly designed Marlins jersey and cap. “You can see in the ownership, they wanna go win, they built this stadium, they wanna go out and get key guys, and they wanna put a great organization together for not just this year but for many years on.”
Bell, 34, has been among the game’s premier closers the last three years for the Padres, saving 132 games from 2009-11. He’s been an All-Star the last three seasons. The Padres, though, have budget issues like the pre-2012 Marlins, so retaining Bell for more than a year or two wasn’t an option.
With the Marlins, he takes over the closer’s role from Juan Oviedo, who Beinfest called “the closer formerly known as Leo Nunez.” He’s saved 92 games the last three years, but was placed by the team on the restricted list late in the season when it was discovered he had use an assumed name. Beinfest said the Marlins plan to tender the Dominican Republic native a contract for 2012, but currently are working with immigration officials to resolve the issue.
Be sure to check back with Covering the Bases, as Tony Paul blogs throughout the day Monday-Wednesday from the winter meetings.