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'All-in' 2011 Meetings cautionary tale for Marlins

Club made big free-agent splash signing Reyes, Bell, Buehrle, but results didn't translate to field
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- "All In" became the mantra of the Marlins at the 2011 Winter Meetings, and the organization backed it up by going on the busiest three-day free-agent spending spree in franchise history.

A month after renaming themselves the Miami Marlins, club officials stole the spotlight in Dallas, signing closer Heath Bell, shortstop Jose Reyes and left-hander Mark Buehrle for a combined $191 million. And their efforts didn't end there, as they were a finalist for first baseman Albert Pujols -- then the top free agent on the market -- and lefty C.J. Wilson. Both ended up signing with the Angels, but not before an all-out push by Miami.

MIAMI -- "All In" became the mantra of the Marlins at the 2011 Winter Meetings, and the organization backed it up by going on the busiest three-day free-agent spending spree in franchise history.

A month after renaming themselves the Miami Marlins, club officials stole the spotlight in Dallas, signing closer Heath Bell, shortstop Jose Reyes and left-hander Mark Buehrle for a combined $191 million. And their efforts didn't end there, as they were a finalist for first baseman Albert Pujols -- then the top free agent on the market -- and lefty C.J. Wilson. Both ended up signing with the Angels, but not before an all-out push by Miami.

Hot Stove Tracker

The pursuit of Pujols became so frantic that one night Marlins officials, who remained bunkered in their suite, called out for pizza and sent one executive in the room down to the lobby to retrieve 16 pies, plus breadsticks.

"It was definitely a different pace," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "All this speaks to is where you are at that moment as an organization, and what you're trying to accomplish. Sometimes the makeup of your roster, the circumstances around your club, may make you more or less active. I think that's something that changes from year to year."

The Marlins have had their share of active Winter Meetings. They were at the forefront of making national headline news in 2007 in Nashville, Tenn., when they sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in a blockbuster trade.

For the activity the Marlins have had at Winter Meetings, no single Meetings in club history generated as much non-stop attention for the organization as 2011.

When the 2017 Winter Meetings begin on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., the Marlins again are expected to be extremely active. The difference between '11 and now is the club is open to moving core players in an effort to reconstruct the franchise from the bottom up.

Video: Yelich talks about the Marlins' youthful core

In 2011, the objective was to create plenty of buzz and fan excitement for the Marlins leading into their first season at Marlins Park. Ozzie Guillen was brought in as their outspoken, high-profile manager, and they pursued the top players on the market. Buehrle came over from the White Sox, where he pitched for Guillen.

"I'm very happy to have this kid," Guillen said at the time of the signing. "He's one of my favorite players."

The news broke that Buehrle had agreed to terms with the Marlins as Guillen was being interviewed by reporters.

"The Marlins know how much I love him," Guillen said. "I know how much he can help us. If we have Buehrle, it can make my life a little easier."

Reyes, however, was the biggest offseason catch, joining the Marlins after being an All-Star with the Mets. His six-year, $106 million contract was the richest contract in Marlins history at the time. It surpassed Hanley Ramirez's six-year, $70 million deal.

From the outset, Reyes was Miami's top priority. Former club owner Jeffrey Loria actually met in person with the shortstop in a New York City hotel minutes after the window opened for all clubs to contact eligible free agents.

Video: MIA@WSH: Reyes triples twice, drives in game-winner

The Marlins reached agreement on a deal with Reyes on the Sunday leading into the Winter Meetings, as team officials and the media were arriving in Dallas. The news conference came a couple of days later.

For all the splash the Marlins made at the Winter Meetings in Dallas, the organization was also coldly reminded that "winning the offseason" is no guarantee of being a successful club on the field.

The Marlins' Opening Day payroll in 2012 was $101 million, then the highest in franchise history. It was topped by the $115 million payroll in '17. Yet, the '12 squad lost 93 games.

The fallout?

Guillen, Reyes, Bell and Buehrle spent just one season in Miami, with all of them gone by the 2012 Winter Meetings.

"We know how things played out," Hill said. "But whenever you go into those Meetings, your goal is to find ways to improve your ballclub. That will always be the goal."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins