Marlins likely retaining Cantu
Trade talk stalls; team leaning toward keeping slugger at third
LAS VEGAS -- Opinions of players and trade scenarios seem to change by the minute at the Winter Meetings. Caught up in the swirling speculation is the Marlins' Jorge Cantu, who may end up staying put.
Florida has fielded calls and considered offers for the 26-year-old infielder. The most realistic possibility is a deal that would send Cantu to the Giants for left-hander Jonathan Sanchez.
As of Tuesday morning, that proposed move has stalled.
Cantu, who is in line to make between $3.5 million-$4 million in arbitration, likely will remain with the Marlins, securing third base. Assuming that Cantu signs with Florida, the club is considering switching him to first base.
The organization appears to be leaning toward keeping Cantu at third base, and giving prospect Gaby Sanchez the inside shot at first base. Spring Training, of course, will settle how the lineup shapes up.
Infielder Emilio Bonifacio, obtained from the Nationals this offseason for Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham, will get a look at third base in Spring Training. If Cantu stays at third base, Bonifacio would be looked at in a utility role, but he may end up spending most of the season at Triple-A New Orleans.
On Monday night, Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said Bonifacio is versatile enough to play the outfield. A switch-hitter, he is currently playing the outfield in the Dominican Republic Winter Leagues. However, the team looks at Bonifacio as an infielder.
"We think he's a plus defender anywhere we put him," Beinfest said. "He's played shortstop and second. Is this an absolute that he's going to be a third baseman? I don't think that was our thinking, but we want to take a look."
In Bonifacio, the Marlins see a blazing runner who would dramatically upgrade the speed in the lineup. The question about him is whether he makes enough contact to hit at the big league level.
"The guy can fly," Beinfest said.
The Marlins envision a lineup that someday features speedsters Bonifacio, Cameron Maybin and Hanley Ramirez.
"That's something that would be exciting to us and bring a different dynamic that we haven't had in a few years," Beinfest said. "We just think he's an above-average defender, so we're going to take a look."
As for playing Bonifacio in the outfield, Beinfest noted that in 2006, versatile infielder Alfredo Amezaga showed he can be above average in the outfield.
If Sanchez isn't ready to assuming the starting role at first, Cantu remains an option to switch across the diamond.
So the Marlins' projected infield will be Sanchez and Cantu at the corners, with All-Stars Hanley Ramirez (shortstop) and Dan Uggla (second base) as the double-play combo.
According to several well-placed sources, the Marlins have received several calls regarding Uggla, but the team isn't biting.
On Monday, team president David Samson said Florida is not under a mandate to move any players because of salary. However, the Marlins have a blanket policy of listening to any possibilities, and if a deal makes sense to them, then they would decide if they should pull the trigger on a trade.
Cantu has drawn interest for obvious reasons. The 26 year old is coming off a terrific 2008 season, when he batted .277 with 29 home runs and 95 RBIs.
If Cantu stays, the Marlins once again would feature a powerful infield. In 2008, they set an MLB record by becoming the first team with four infielders connecting on at least 25 home runs apiece. Cantu, Ramirez and Uggla combined for 94 home runs.
Indications are the Marlins will probably not complete a trade at the Winter Meetings. The team is monitoring interest in outfielder Jeremy Hermida and catcher Matt Treanor.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.