10/26/2003 3:02 PM ET
Marlins have decisions to make
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Marlins pitcher Dontrelle Willis arrives in Florida with a world championship. (Steve Mitchell/AP)
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NEW YORK -- About 12 hours after drenching themselves in champagne, the Marlins assembled in their downtown Manhattan hotel lobby around noon Sunday ready to board buses to the airport.
Their business on the field done, the Marlins headed back to South Florida as World Series champions after they defeated the Yankees, 2-0, in Game 6 Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.
The team partied into the early hours Sunday, and a bleary-eyed bunch of Marlins packed four buses with their family and friends ready to go home.
Thousands of fans greeted the team's arrival Sunday afternoon in South Florida. Manager Jack McKeon proclaimed to reporters, "This is a great story, maybe the story of the century."
Tuesday will be a day to celebrate the franchise's second World Series title in 11 seasons. Parades are set that day in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
From there, the players will disperse in their separate ways. Who returns when Spring Training begins in mid-February remains unclear.
The Marlins' first order of next-season business is addressing the status of McKeon.
Will the 72-year-old be back?
All signs say yes.
More could be revealed on Thursday when McKeon meets with general manager Larry Beinfest and owner Jeffrey Loria.
McKeon believes the Marlins will field a competitive team next year.
"I think the nucleus is here for a winning team," said McKeon, who replaced Jeff Torborg on May 11 with the Marlins mired with a 16-22 record. "I can't say we will go to the World Series again. That's pretty tough to do."
Once McKeon's situation is resolved, the team will address which coaches return. Then, there is the issue of free agency and arbitration.
All the coaches' contracts expire at the end of October. Third base coach Ozzie Guillen could be gone because he is a frontrunner for the White Sox managerial vacancy.
First base coach Perry Hill, credited for improving the defensive skills of shortstop Alex Gonzalez and second baseman Luis Castillo, has attracted interest from at least four teams.
Hill has invested two years in the development of the infielders, and his decision ultimately could be impacted by how many of them return.
Marlins president David Samson acknowledges that changes on the field will be made, but says there won't be a "fire sale" that will compare to what happened after the team won the World Series in 1997.
"We want to remain as competitive as possible," Samson said Sunday. "That's the goal, but everything has to fit right. A lot of good decisions and tough decisions have to be made."
With a number of arbitration-eligible players and free agents, retaining the entire roster would cost more than $80. The Marlins' payroll this season was about $53 million, and the club isn't expected to bump up player salaries by $30 million.
Still, Samson hopes fans understand that a majority of teams have a degree of turnover. Teams like the A's have shown they can lose top talent and remain a strong contender.
Ivan Rodriguez / C
The key Marlin free agents are catcher Ivan Rodriguez, All-Star second baseman Luis Castillo and closer Ugueth Urbina.
Rodriguez has expressed a desire to return to the Marlins. He makes Miami home and he has answered the critics who questioned his durability. The MVP of the NLCS earned $10 million this season, with $7 million deferred over the next few seasons.
The Marlins are expected to negotiate with Rodriguez, but if it gets into a bidding war, the Marlins may choose to spend their money elsewhere.
Castillo, meanwhile, may have played his last game as a Marlin. The Cardinals, Yankees and Red Sox are expected to show interest in the slick-fielding, switch-hitting second baseman. Castillo could command about $7 million or more, a price that is high for a player without much power.
Urbina, who became the closer late in the year, may also be too pricey for the Marlins to retain. Dealing with arbitration-eligible players is another area that needs to be addressed.
Mike Lowell / 3B
All-Star third baseman Mike Lowell and first baseman Derrek Lee are both fifth-year arbitration eligible players. Both could command $8 million.
Before the All-Star break, Beinfest said he planned to discuss a long-term contract with Lowell. How that situation is being handled now is unclear because rookie Miguel Cabrera is a natural third baseman who is playing the outfield.
Lee's glove is very valuable, and he also hit 31 homers.
Right fielder Juan Encarnacion also is a fifth-year arbitration player, who is not expected back.
Retaining the arbitration-eligible pitchers is a priority since the Marlins are banking on winning with pitching and defense.
Brad Penny, Mark Redman, Carl Pavano, and A.J. Burnett are all arbitration eligible. Rookie Dontrelle Willis and World Series MVP Josh Beckett are not yet in the arbitration process.
The front office will have to make some tough calls. They will do so at the appropriate time. Right now, they are savoring putting together the pieces that resulted in a championship.
We either make ourselves happy or miserable.
The amount of work is the same.