Miami Marlins

Larry Beinfest reflects on time as Marlins GM, is ready for another gig after two years away

Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest appears at Marlins FanFest on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium.
Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest appears at Marlins FanFest on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium. El Nuevo Herald

He traded Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell on a humdinger of a Thanksgiving, never able to sit down for turkey and dressing. He acquired Ugueth Urbina while standing on a balcony at his in-laws’ place in Lake Tahoe. He traded for Juan Pierre while wearing a T-shirt and shorts at the Marlins’ offices at the Dolphins’ stadium.

He dealt Hanley Ramirez in the wee hours while Miami slept.

He was moved to tears when he traded Hee-Seop Choi.

He regrets some of the draft misses and some of the trades that didn’t pan out, including the Miguel Cabrera deal with Detroit.

For 12 years, Larry Beinfest steered the roller-coaster of Marlins baseball, designing rosters on a shoestring budget while experiencing highs and lows — ranging from a World Series title to seven losing seasons.

Now, two years after being fired by owner Jeffrey Loria following four losing seasons in a row, after dropping from the scene in order to take vacations with his family and spend time with his two kids, Beinfest said he’s ready to give it another whirl somewhere else.

“I miss the everyday competitiveness of the job,” Beinfest said in his first public comments since his dismissal. “I’m at the point now where I want to move forward and get back in.”

Beinfest’s contract with the Marlins expires Oct. 31.

After that, if not before, he hopes to be interviewing for a front-office job. There’s an opening in Seattle for a general manager. There’s one in Milwaukee and another in Anaheim. Others could develop as the also-rans look to restructure their front offices.

His résumé brims with experience. Like any general manager’s, it involves deals that worked and others that didn’t, with most landing somewhere in between.

The Marlins lost more games than they won under Beinfest, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

They spent a fraction of the money the New York Mets did during that period — about $800 million less — and won just four fewer games. They also won a World Series, which the Mets haven’t done since 1986.

The 2006 team, comprised of rookies Beinfest either drafted or obtained through trade — and came at a total rock-bottom cost of $15 million — won 78 games and was in contention until early September.

“We had to be resourceful and creative,” Beinfest said.

Like plucking a Dan Uggla out of the bargain-basement bin that is the Rule 5 draft. Or convincing the Cubs to throw in a Dontrelle Willis in Beinfest’s very first trade with the Marlins. Or coming up with a closer on the cheap year after year, from Joe Borowski to Todd Jones, and from Kevin Gregg to Leo Nuñez (Juan Carlos Oviedo).

“I was never frustrated by low payrolls,” Beinfest said. “What was more challenging than the lower payrolls was the roller coaster of the payrolls. They go up. They go down. It made it very hard to plan.”

Beinfest looked back at a few of the highlights, lowlights and emotional moments during his time with the Marlins.

▪ On the trade with the Colorado Rockies in December 2002 that brought Juan Pierre to the Marlins. Pierre, paired with Luis Castillo at the top of the order, was a major catalyst on the ’03 World Series team:

Beinfest said the deal nearly fell through at the last moment when catcher Charles Johnson, who was headed to the Rockies in the deal, exercised his no-trade clause and refused to sign off.

Beinfest said he, Marlins president David Samson and current president of baseball operations Michael Hill walked out of the team offices at (then) Pro Player Stadium dejected, figuring the deal was dead.

“We were despondent,” Beinfest said. “We were all in shorts and T-shirts. Then we looked at each other and decided we were going to go back in and call one more time.”

They found a solution, and the trade got done.

▪ On the Miguel Cabrera trade with Detroit in 2007 in which the key pieces coming to the Marlins were Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, neither of whom fulfilled expectations:

Beinfest said criticism of the trade is “bona fide.” But he also noted that the Marlins had no choice but to trade Cabrera due to his escalating salary.

“I get it,” Beinfest said of the critics. “But Maybin and Miller wen’t just in Detroit’s top 10 prospects. They were in the top 10 in all of baseball.”

Beinfest noted that Maybin and Miller have had successful careers, just nothing to equal the Hall of Fame one Cabrera is putting together. And most analysts at the time considered it a good trade for both teams.

▪ On the mixed-bag draft results. Although the Marlins hit pay dirt with pitching ace Jose Fernandez and outfielder Christian Yelich in the first round, they also shot blanks on several other first-rounders. Jeff Allison (2003), Brett Sinkbeil (2006), Kyle Skipworth (2008) and Chad James (2009) were busts, while a few others provided marginal impact.

“We had our draft misses, but overall the draft was productive and provided a consistent flow of young players,” Beinfest said.

The Marlins also had key finds in the later rounds, including second-rounder Giancarlo Stanton (2007), fourth-rounder Josh Johnson (2002), fifth-rounder Steve Cishek (2007) and third-rounder J.T. Realmuto (2010).

▪ On the most emotional decisions, Beinfest said trading Castillo to Minnesota in 2005 was a hard one, as was firing manager Fredi Gonzalez (on orders from Loria) in 2010.

“The hardest call I had to make was Luis Castillo,” Beinfest said. “He had been a great Marlin for so long. And it still bothers me letting Fredi go. That was tough.”

But the only time Beinfest said any player moved him to tears was when he called Choi into the office in 2004 to tell the first baseman he was being traded to the Dodgers.

“Hee-Seop Choi was the nicest guy ever,” Beinfest said. “Hee-Seop started welling up and crying, and I felt so bad for the kid. He didn’t want to leave. That was the only time I ever kind of welled up.”

Beinfest was tight-lipped about any differences he had with Loria.

“There were a lot of things that will stay private, and things that aren’t unique to the Marlins, either,” Beinfest said. “I think Jeffrey’s like a lot of owners. They want to win and when things aren’t going well, they can be tough to deal with.

“Jeffrey gave me an opportunity, and we had a lot of success and a lot of fun, and I will always appreciate that. I think it’s fair to say that every job probably has a life cycle or shelf life, and mine came to an end. Jeffrey wanted to do something else, and I was ready to move on.”

But now he’s ready to get back into the game.

Related stories from Miami Herald