Marlins cap

The Marlins are gonna spend some money this winter

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There are very few franchises out there whose decisions have been influences by payroll constraints and, in some cases, unadulterated parsimony than the Florida Marlins.  Every year the story is the same: incremental improvements, hope the kids get better and then, at some point, the departure of someone who has the audacity to make more than a couple million bucks a year.

But, as Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post reports, the fish may be swimming to a different … er, wait. You don’t “swim” to a “tune.” That’s just dumb.  Oh well, read this. I’ll be back with you in a moment:

This winter will be different. With a new $515-million ballpark set to open in April, the Marlins will raise their payroll to at least $85 million, a franchise record … “The payroll is going up. We want to make a very good showing in the new ballpark and add excitement. There’s a lot of things we’d like to do this winter.’

The 2011 payroll was $57 million, so if the team is to be believed, they’re going to spend a minimum of $28 million more in 2012. That pretty much puts any single move on the table from Albert Pujols on down.

No, to be sure, team president Larry Beinfest says the priority is pitching because it’s always pitching. And, as we’ve seen over and over again, a number of smaller, positive moves are usually more effective than making some big free agent splash, so don’t go thinking that the Marlins who — Jeff Loria at the top of the org chart notwithstanding — are run by some fairly smart people on the baseball side will just throw money at people all willy-nilly. But something different appears to be afoot in Miami. The actual opening of the purse strings.

At least as long as this isn’t all bluster as the Marlins try to sell season tickets to their new ballpark, later say “we just didn’t see what we needed on the market,” and go into 2012 with another $60 million payroll.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.