Marlins' Jeffrey Loria has signed off on spending to acquire closer

ByJayson Stark ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has signed off on spending the money required to ink free-agent closers Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman, if his baseball people can reach a deal, a source told on Tuesday.

The Marlins have spoken with the agents for both Jansen and Chapman, although sources say their preference is to sign Jansen, in part because of manager Don Mattingly's familiarity with the formerDodgerscloser from their time together in Los Angeles.

Loria's preliminary approval does not necessarily mean the Marlins will land either closer, however. TheYankees, Dodgers andNationalsalso have been in pursuit of one or both of the two prominent free agents on the market. So both players could opt to sign with a club they perceive to be closer to winning.

It is also possible that the Marlins' front office will balk at the ultimate price tag, which one general manager estimated Tuesday could reach five years, for $85 million to $95 million. And if the Marlins sign Jansen, they would have to surrender their first-round pick in next June's amateur draft, because Jansen last month rejected a qualifying offer from the Dodgers. That pick would be the 14th overall choice in the first round.

The Marlins still have All-Star closer A.J. Ramos on their roster. However, they have told agents and teams they've spoken with that, in the wake of ace starter Jose Fernandez's tragic death in September, they believe they have a better chance of assembling a dominant bullpen than a dominant starting rotation. If the Marlins were to sign Jansen or Chapman, they would be likely to use Ramos as a setup man.

Although Miami battled numerous injuries and finished the season three games under .500 at 79-82 and seven games out in the wild-card standings, the club actually led the race for the second wild card in August, had a winning record as late as Sept. 20 and still had an outside shot at making the playoffs before Fernandez's death in a boating accident on Sept. 25.

So Loria believes his team is talented enough to contend next season and has urged his front office to do what is necessary to win, according to those who have spoken with Marlins officials.

ESPN's Jim Bowden has reported that Jansen is expected to sign before Chapman and could agree to a deal before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

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