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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Talks progressing on new Marlins' home- MLB.com

The Marlins want to call South Florida home for many years to come and now MLB has begun to step in to see that this becomes a reality. Despite not having a strong fan base, the fish have been very successful in their 14 years of existence and they want to continue their winning ways in the city of Miami.

MLB helping team secure funding for stadium in South Florida
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com

MIAMI -- If no news is good news, then this was an encouraging week for the Marlins' stadium effort.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball president Bob DuPuy was in South Florida taking part in a series of stadium-related meetings with team and local officials.

Securing funding for a new Marlins' home has become a high-league priority, and Major League Baseball has assumed an active role in the push to end more than a decade of stadium struggles in South Florida.

The Marlins had no comment on the meetings, which have quietly been going on outside of the public's eye.

MLB.com has learned that stadium talks are progressing.

One proposed site that is gaining momentum is the city of Miami, just south of the Miami Arena off I-95. Pompano, in Broward County, is also a viable location. And the city of Hialeah, in Miami-Dade County, is another possibility.

Since their inaugural 1993 season, the Marlins have been sharing Dolphin Stadium with the Miami Dolphins. A series of leases to remain in a park designed primarily for football expires after the 2010 season.

To secure the long-term stability of the franchise, the Marlins have long been searching for their own park, which would offer the team a much more favorable revenue stream.

With the Marlins having to be out of their current home after 2010, the clock is ticking to get a deal done in the near future. It takes three years to build a park, and ideally the team would like to move into a new home in 2010 rather than remain for the final year of their Dolphin Stadium deal.

Due to South Florida's scorching hot temperatures, and unpredictable rain patterns, the Marlins insist that a retractable-roof park is a necessity. One reason the city of Miami site is attractive is because parking isn't part of the estimated $430 million cost for a 38,000-seat facility.

The city of Miami has ample public parking already in the surrounding areas, plus the stadium would be accessible by the Metrorail train system.

DuPuy's presence at these meetings is significant because it shows the league's desire to keep baseball entrenched in South Florida.

Last year, the Marlins were granted permission to seek relocation after a proposed stadium plan next to the Orange Bowl in Miami fell through.

Marlins officials visited other markets, and while San Antonio, Texas, was impressive, there is no talk now of relocation.

MLB and team management want the franchise, with two World Series titles in their relatively brief history, to remain in South Florida.

Finding the Marlins a new home has moved up on the league's priority list because a series of events -- which includes the launching of the first World Baseball Classic, the new collective bargaining agreement and the Twins and A's stadium stalemates -- have all been addressed

Wells and Blue Jays agree to $126 million, 7 year extension- AP

Blue Jays Outfielder Vernon Wells was given an early holiday present on Friday as he agreed to a new contract worth a whopping $126 million. By keeping their franchise player, Toronto is able to keep their quest alive of over taking the Yankees and winning the AL East.

By ROB GILLIES, Associated Press Writer
December 16, 2006

TORONTO (AP) -- Vernon Wells said he wanted to take care of his kid's kids. He'll get that chance with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The All-Star center fielder and the Blue Jays agreed Friday night to a $126 million, seven-year contract extension through 2014, the sixth-largest deal in baseball history.

"How can you not be happy?" Wells said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press hours before terms of the deal were finalized. "Like I said, my family comes first. Obviously this gives me an opportunity to set my family up for a couple of generations. That's the biggest part of this thing. And this gives me a chance to do something special in Toronto that hasn't been done in a while."

The contract value trails only those of Alex Rodriguez ($252 million), Derek Jeter ($189 million), Manny Ramirez ($160 million), Todd Helton ($141.5 million) and Alfonso Soriano ($136 million). It is the 13th $100 million deal in baseball history and the third of the offseason, following those of Soriano with the Cubs and Carlos Lee ($100 million) with Houston.

Wells is due $5.6 million next season in the final year of his old contract. The extension calls for a $25.5 million signing bonus, payable in three $8.5 million installments each March 1 in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He will receive a salary of just $500,000 in 2008 and $1.5 million in 2009, but his salary jumps to $12.5 million in 2010 and $23 million in 2011. Wells receives $21 million in each of the final three seasons.

Under the extension, Wells has the right to terminate his agreement after the 2011 season and become eligible for free agency.

He gets a full no-trade clause and could earn bonuses of $250,000 for MVP, $200,000 for World Series MVP, $150,000 for league championship series MVP and $100,000 for receiving the most votes in his league in All-Star game balloting.

In addition, he will donate $143,000 annually to the Jays Care Foundation.

Wells hit .303 with 32 homers and 106 RBIs last season. He would have been eligible for free agency after next season.

He thought about trying to play with his hometown Texas Rangers.

"The ballpark is 20 minutes from my house. It's obviously a temptation, but (with) everything that I've gone through with Toronto and the relationships I've built there, it's tough to leave," Wells said.

The contract is the largest in franchise history -- dwarfing the $68 million, four-year deal that Carlos Delgado got from Toronto in 2000.

"We've said all along we're going to make every effort to sign him," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said Friday afternoon.

Ricciardi inherited Delgado's contract when the team's payroll was around $50 million, but it will be more than $90 million next season. A stronger Canadian dollar and ownership of the Rogers Center is allowing the team to spend more.

In the final month of the season, Rogers Communications chief executive officer Ted Rogers agreed that the team needed to increase its $72 million payroll to compete with New York and Boston in the AL East. The Blue Jays finished second in the division, trailing New York, which had an opening-day payroll of $198 million. Boston ($120 million) finished third.

Ricciardi said retaining Wells gives Toronto one of the best lineups in baseball.

"I know Gibby likes him in the third hole. We like our lineup. We think it's as good a lineup as there is in the American League," Ricciardi said.

Toronto could have traded Wells if it didn't get an extension done. While Toronto lost out on signing free agent pitchers Ted Lilly and Gil Meche, Ricciardi denied that those decisions freed up the money to sign Wells.

The contract is somewhat of a surprise because Ricciardi said after the season that if Wells wanted a contract similar the seven-year, $119 million deal Carlos Beltran got with the New York Mets two years ago they wouldn't be able to handle it.

The Blue Jays didn't include Wells in advertisements this winter, leading many to speculate that they wouldn't re-sign him.

Wells said the contract doesn't necessarily mean he'll retire a Blue Jay.

"It all depends on where my career is," he said.

AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

Updated on Saturday, Dec 16, 2006 2:58 am EST

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