Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has preliminary agreement to sell team

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has preliminary agreement to sell team

MIAMI — The Miami Marlins are for sale, and owner Jeffrey Loria may have a buyer.

Loria has a preliminary agreement to sell the team to a New York businessman, but the deal could fall through because the final purchase price hasn't been determined, a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations said Thursday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Marlins have not commented publicly on the negotiations.

The preliminary agreement was for a purchase price of about $1.6 billion, the person said, but added that was before the prospective buyer did due diligence. The final offer by the potential buyer could be much lower, the person said.

The person declined to identify the prospective buyer but said other parties are also interested in purchasing the team, and negotiations with them might eventually be reopened.

Forbes reported earlier Thursday, citing two unidentified sources, that Marlins President David Samson has said that there is a $1.6 billion handshake agreement for a sale.

Samson declined to comment to the AP and has been unwilling to say publicly whether the team is for sale.

Loria, 76, bought the Marlins for $158.5 million in 2002 from John Henry, part of the Boston Red Sox ownership group that has celebrated three World Series titles. The Marlins won the World Series in 2003 but haven't been the postseason since, and they haven't finished above .500 since 2009.

They've also finished last in the National League in attendance in 11 of the past 12 years despite moving into a new ballpark in 2012. The small crowds have been blamed in part on antipathy for Loria stemming from the team's perennially small payrolls and a financing agreement for the new ballpark widely viewed as unfair to taxpayers. Public money covered more than three-fourths of the project's $634 million cost.

Loria, a New York art dealer, has kept a low profile in Miami the past couple of seasons. But he approved increasing team payroll by one-third this season to about $100 million, which raised speculation he wanted a competitive team to make it more appealing to potential buyers.

The death of ace Jose Fernandez in a boat crash in September might be a factor in Loria's willingness to sell.

"Jeffrey was obviously impacted emotionally by the loss of Jose very significantly, like losing a child," Samson said last week. "But he continues to be motivated and interested and engaged."

Before purchasing the Marlins, Loria owned the Montreal Expos and became unpopular with their fans as well. He bought 24 percent of the team in 1999, and his share eventually rose to 92 percent. He failed to reverse the decline of the franchise, and it moved to Washington in 2005.

The Marlins' next owner will be their fourth. Wayne Huizenga founded the franchise in 1993.

Miami will host the All-Star Game for the first time in July. When Samson was asked last week if he anticipates that Loria will still own the team when this season ends, he said yes.

Phillies 7, Blue Jays 1: Vince Velasquez and Tommy Joseph show off their power

Phillies 7, Blue Jays 1: Vince Velasquez and Tommy Joseph show off their power

BOX SCORE

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Phillies showed a little power in their 7-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.

Tommy Joseph provided some of it.

Vince Velasquez provided a lot of it.

Joseph crushed a two-run home run to left field and also lined a double off the center-field wall on his way to a four-hit game. The double came off his bat at 109 miles per hour. The homer was his third of the spring.

Meanwhile, Velasquez showed off his big fastball in striking out seven Blue Jays over five innings of work. Vinny Velo's final pitch of the night was a 97-mph dart past a swinging Jose Bautista.

"That pitch felt really good coming out of my hand," Velasquez said. "Sometimes my fastball slips a little bit and I yank it, but this one I got right behind and threw it right through the catcher."

Velasquez actually struck out the side in that fifth inning against three pretty good hitters in Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson and Bautista.

"That last inning, he really let it go," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Pitch economy remains an area that Velasquez needs to improve on. He threw 87 pitches. But he was pleased with the way he attacked hitters in that final inning of work.

"I didn't attack in one inning," he said. "But in that last inning, I stopped fiddling around and trusted my stuff. I need to do that the whole time."

Velasquez gave up just one run, a homer to Martin. He allowed five hits and walked two.

Velasquez had a busy night. He drove home a run with a ground out against Aaron Sanchez. He also walked against Sanchez and scored a run on a dash home from third base after Freddy Galvis got hung up between first and second. Galvis waved Velasquez home. After crossing home plate, Velasquez, rather humorously, almost ran into the netted backstop.

"I just had momentum. I got excited," he said. "As soon as I saw Tulo (shortstop Troy Tulowitzki) make eye contact with Freddy, I booked it. He's going to think, 'Pitchers can't run,' so I showed off my athleticism."

After the outing, Velasquez pronounced himself ready for the regular season.

"I'm good to go," he said.

He made five Grapefruit League starts and gave up eight runs in 19 2/3 innings. He walked nine and struck out 25.

"It's been a strong, healthy, successful spring training," he said.

Velasquez will likely start the home opener on April 7. He will need to get some work in this weekend. The Phillies leave Florida on Friday. He could stay behind for a day and pitch at the minor-league complex if needed.

Offense clicks
The Phillies had 12 hits. They had 15 in Sunday's 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Up next
The Phillies play the Blue Jays again on Tuesday night. That game will be in Clearwater. Aaron Nola will start against Marco Estrada.

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

Andrew Knapp to make Phillies' roster -- remaining roster decisions are close

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The pathway for Andrew Knapp to make the Phillies' opening day roster as the backup catcher was cleared way back in November when he was added to the 40-man roster.

The job all but became Knapp's on Monday when the team released two veteran catchers who were not on the 40-man roster. When Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday were let go, Knapp became one of just two catchers in camp, the other being starter Cameron Rupp (see story).

So it's pretty obvious that the 25-year-old Knapp will open the season with the big club -- even though nothing will become official until rosters are filed with the commissioner's office this weekend.

"Obviously there are four or five days left," Knapp said. "I'm just going to keep trying to make good impressions and try to win a job. I'm keeping my head down, trying not to think about it too much."

Knapp was the Phillies' second-round draft pick of Cal-Berkeley in 2013. He has never played in the majors.

"It would be a dream come true," he said. "Everyone hopes to get called up at some point but to make a team on opening day would be pretty special and it would be the best moment in my career so far."

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin acknowledged that Knapp would probably make the club.

Mackanin would like to have the rest of his roster in order over the next day or two.

"As soon as possible," he said. "Because the last four or five games I'd like to play almost as if it were a season -- using the bullpen that way, using the bench in a certain way, seeing what it looks like, our bench guys, all our hitters. We just don't want to make a bad decision so we're just going to string it out as long as we can."

Roster questions must still be answered on the bench and in the bullpen.

How does the bench shape up? Andres Blanco, Aaron Altherr and Knapp are set. The Phils are expected to go with a five-man bench so that leaves two openings. There are four players vying for those spots: Chris Coghlan, Daniel Nava, Brock Stassi and Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin has impressed, but at 22 years old, he would benefit from playing every day at Triple A.

Mackanin praised Stassi's work on Monday. If Stassi makes the club, the final spot would come down to Coghlan and Nava.

"Stassi has obviously made a great impression, mainly because, not necessarily because of his results, but the fact that he had a lot of quality at-bats," Mackanin said. "It looks like he can handle making adjustments to the different pitchers and different situations. He seemed to handle left-handers well. He made a good impression, as has Coughlan. Nava has also been consistent throughout the spring."

Stassi, Coghlan and Nava are all non-roster players so the Phils would have to clear 40-man roster space to add any of them.

Two spots remain open in the bullpen. Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez, Luis Garcia, Alec Asher and Cesar Ramos are the candidates. All but Ramos is on the 40-man roster.

How will this all shake out?

More answers are probably coming Tuesday.