Updated at: 09/27/2013 8:35 PM
By STEVEN WINE
(AP) MIAMI - The latest purge by Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria targeted the personnel department rather than the dugout.
President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest was fired Friday after 12 years with the Marlins. The move came as the team neared the end of its third consecutive last-place season in the NL East.
In reaction to parting with Loria, Beinfest said: "It was time."
The owner also fired Jim Fleming, who had been with the Marlins for 12 seasons and was Beinfest’s special assistant. Beinfest and Fleming were dismissed with two years left on their contracts.
Loria said he would soon make further announcements about a new structure in baseball operations, and Marlins executive Dan Jennings is considered a strong candidate to replace Beinfest. Jennings has been with the team for 11 seasons and is vice president of player personnel and assistant general manager.
Another possible candidate is vice president and general manager Mike Hill, who has been with the Marlins for six seasons.
Beinfest provided a measure of stability during the Marlins’ frequent payroll purges and changes in managers _ they’ve had five since 2010, with Mike Redmond holding the job this season.
Beinfest was general manager in 2003 when the Marlins made an improbable run to the World Series title. But there has been no return to the playoffs since, with Loria’s tight payrolls making it difficult for the franchise to be competitive.
The Marlins moved into a new ballpark last year, but their fortunes on the field only declined, and their loss total has risen each of the past four years. This season has been especially dismal, with the team ranking last in the majors in runs, home runs and batting, ensuring the seventh last-place finish in the franchise’s 21 years.
Beinfest also worked under Loria in 2001 with the Montreal Expos. When Loria bought the Marlins before the 2002 season, he brought Beinfest along.
"Larry has worked with me for 13 years, making huge contributions to our efforts and serving as a partner to me in the process," Loria said in a statement announcing the firing. "I wish him nothing but the best and know he will make a great addition wherever he lands."
Beinfest sent a text message to media outlets as the Marlins began batting practice before the start of a game against Detroit with a record of 59-100, worst in the NL.
"I was just fired by Jeffrey Loria," Beinfest wrote. "I want to thank the Marlins for the opportunity. I look back positively at tackling numerous challenges, opening a new ballpark and enjoying a World Series championship. I worked with some tremendous players and staff in Miami and appreciate their friendship and professional respect.
"I look forward to continuing my 24-year MLB career in the near future."
Despite the Marlins’ poor record, Beinfest won praise for his acquisitions of prospects after Loria ordered the high-payroll 2012 team dismantled. A blockbuster trade with Toronto last November brought to Miami promising youngsters Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez and Jake Marisnick.
Young starters Nate Eovaldi and Jacob Turner were also acquired in recent deals to trim the budget. And 2011 first-round draft pick Jose Fernandez is a strong contender to win NL Rookie of the Year.
Coincidentally, a player involved in Beinfest’s worst trade was back in Miami on Friday _ reigning AL MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers. The Marlins dealt him to Detroit in a 2007 trade that netted little in return.
A succession of poor drafts under Beinfest also hurt the Marlins, who have never won a division title. They won the World Series in 1997 and 2003 after making the playoffs as a wild-card team.
Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve_Wine
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)