After a disappointing 2011 campaign(72-90) the Miami(Formerly Florida) Marlins added a new fiery skipper in Ozzie Guilen, 2 all stars(new closer Heath Bell and shortstop Jose Reyes) and 2 veteran starting pitchers(LH Mark Buehrle, RH Carlos Zambrano) to the team as the club prepares to kick off its first season in new spacious Marlins Park. This team has major upside as well as talent and should be a fun watch in 2012. Health as always is a major issue with a key being a healthy return of RHSP Josh Johnson. The 2010 NL ERA champion did not pitch after May 16th in 2011 but was 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA in 9 starts. Lets focus on the two areas that will be drawing the most attention as camp starts(Pitchers and Catchers report by February 22nd, Full squad February 26th).
1- Hanley to 3rd- With the offseason signing of 2011 NL Batting champion Jose Reyes, the plan is to have veteran SS Hanley Ramirez move to 3b. The 6 year veteran and 3 time all star has had two injury plagued campaigns back to back but remains a favorite of Guillen. “Hanley is the biggest piece of the puzzle, and I’ve got to make it work. You are going to see a different guy on the field. I guarantee, when you see Hanley in spring training, he is going to have a smile.” A healthy and happy Hanley would provide 20 plus homers and steals with a 300+ batting average while turning a good team into a dynamic team. Something to ease the minds of Marlins fans: Star Shortstops such as Cal Ripken Jr. and Alex Rodriquez have made the transition from SS to Third base successfully. This move will be the monitored and discussed throughout the 2012 campaign.
2- Who is in Center?- This position is different than 3B where the club is moving a star who is being sub planted by another star. The Marlins have 2 options here with super utility man Emilio Bonifacio, who hit .296 with 40 steals in 2011, and Chris Coghlan, the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year in Left Field, who was the opening day CF in 2011 but saw an injury marred season end after 65 games. Coghlan had shoulder and elbow issues throughout 2011 while undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in November 2011 . He can play some 3b as well and would be a good player to carry on a National League club. Minor Leaguers Scott Cousins and Bryan Petersen are also candidates to make the club. After a strong 2011 campaign, this job is Bonifacio’s to lose.
Separate reports from ESPN, Fox and CBS sports have the Miami Marlins completing a deal for volatile Chicago Cubs Right handed starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano as early as Thursday January 5th. The Marlins would send starting pitcher Chris Volstad to Chicago per CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman while Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal reported that the Cubs would pay between $15-16 million of the $18 million Zambrano is owed in 2012. The righty has a no trade clause from the Cubs but that is not reportedly an issue. Meanwhile, Volstad has started 102 of 103 major league games over the past 4 years and was 32-39 with a 4.59 in those contests. He was 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 2011.
Zambrano is a tremendous talent but has finally worn out his welcome in Chi town, the final straw occurring August 12th when he gave up 5 home runs , then threw at the head of Atlanta Braves icon Chipper Jones and was ejected. He then left the stadium early,said he was retiring and was placed on the team’s disqualified list. He was 9-7 with 4.82 ERA in 24 2011 starts and 125-81, 3.60 ERA in 319 games . Zambrano pitched a no hitter in 2008 and ranks 2nd in Cubs history with 1542 strikeouts. He has a strong relationship with new Marlins skipper Ozzie Guillen, as the are both natives of Venezuela and regularly worked charity events together in Chicago. Interesting to note that he has hit 23 career home runs, the most since St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson retired in 1975 after hitting 24.
Kevin Goldstein released his list of the top eleven Marlins prospects and there’s some potential stars at the top of the list. Number one on the list is Christian Yelich. The 2010 first round pick, Yelich raked at Low-A and he’ll move up the chain to High-A in 2012. He’s still a couple of years away but this could looks like a keeper in the outfield.
Number two is Jose Fernandez. They locked up their top pick in 2011 in time for him to pitch in a couple of games but we’ll get to see how he does at Greenboro in 2012. He’s a few years away but this guy has the potential to pitch in the middle of the Marlins rotation in the future.
Marcell Ozuna is number three and he’s another young outfielder. This guy brings a lot of power but he’s a couple of years away. J.T. Realmuto (C) and Chad James (LHP) round out the top five.
John Sickels posted his Miami Marlins Top 20 Prospects list and while there’s some optimism in Miami because all of the signings, but the farm system is thin right now with the top guy getting only a B+. Topping that list is outfielder Christian Yelich. This guy can rake and he’s a power/speed guy but Sickels talks about how he has a problem against left handed pitching. Number two is also an outfielder, Marcell Ozuna. He’s also a solid power/speed guy and he’s also good out in the field. It’ll be fun to see whether these two guys both make it into the Marlins outfield.
Number three is the top pitcher, Jose Fernandez and he’s the last of the straight B’s. He hasn’t pitched yet though and it’ll be interesting to see if he ends up in as a starter or as a reliever. Rounding out the top five is J.T. Realmuto (C) and Matt Dominguez (3b).
The Miami Marlins signed a top free agent Wednesday but it was not Albert Pujols! The team signed veteran LHSP Mark Buehrle to a 4 year, 58 million contract, the team’s 3rd high profile signing in three days. The southpaw, who broke in with the Chicago White Sox in 2010, was 13-9 with a 3.59 ERA over 205 1/3 innings in 2011. He is one of 6 pitchers all time to throw both perfect game AND no hitter. You cannot underestimate the role of new Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen in this signing, who was Buehrle’s manager with the White Sox from 2004 thru 2011. The signing also allows the other members of the rotation to fit in slots that are more ideal as well as realistic. RH Josh Johnson, Buehrle and RHs Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad should form an excellent starting staff. Many media reports had the Marlins close to signing St. Louis Cardinals superstar 1B Albert Pujols but team president David Samson confirmed at the Winter Meetings Wednesday night(12-7) that the team was out of the bidding. Several outlets had the Miami offer being for 10 years and 220 million dollars. Pujols or no Pujols, this has been a huge week for the Marlins. The team has now focused on LHSP C.J. Wilson, a free agent from the Texas Rangers. However,he is reportedly close to signing with the LA Angels.
Numerous media sources are reporting that free agent (and ex New York Met) SS Jose Reyes has signed with the division rival Florida Marlins late Sunday night. No specific documented numbers have been established but ESPN’s Buster Olney has the deal at 6 years, 106 million. Fellow ESPN expert Jayson Stark has a 6 year,102 million number with an option for a 7th year guaranteed at $4 million. Reyes,28, played 9 years for the Mets and won the National League batting title this season after hitting .337. During his tenure in Queens, he batted .292 with 370 steals and 740 runs scored. As more information becomes available, I will comment further but this looks like a done deal. This is a tremendous move for the Marlins, obviously, supplying them with an elite leadoff man and defensive stud at SS. Additional reports have current Florida SS Hanley Ramirez agreeing to move to 3B in the spring of 2012, a major position of weakness for the club. Supersub and spark plug Emilio Bonifacio and 2009 NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan will battle for the vacant center field position. Meanwhile, many media outlets have the Marlins preparing to meet with St. Louis Cardinals free agent 1B Albert Pujols agent Monday or Tuesday at Baseballs Winter Meetings “to make an aggressive run at Pujols over the next two days,” according to Stark. Incredible off season so far for the young and up coming Florida franchise.
Numerous media reports late Thursday night, early Friday morning(December 1st and 2nd) state the Marlins and free agent closer Heath Bell(Formerly of the San Diego Padres) reaching agreement on a 3 year deal. The contract is for 3 years/27 million and will be finalized after Bell takes a physical in Miami December 2nd. The Marlins have reportedly decided to non-tender their 2011 closer Juan Carlos Oviedo(formerly known as Leo Nunez) as he continues to deal with the ramifications of his identity scheme in his homeland , the Dominican Republic.
The Florida Marlins top 10 prospects according to the November 14-27,2011 issue of Baseballamerica.com.
1- Christian Yelich,OF
Grades(Based on 20-80 scouting scale with 50 being a major league average)
2- Marcell Ozuna, OF
3-Jose Fernandez, RHP
4- Matt Dominguez, 3B
5-J.T. Realmuto, C
6- Chad James, LHP
7- Rob Rasmussen, LHP
8- Noah Perio, 2B
9- Scott Cousins, OF
10- Adam Conley, LHP
After a an injury plagued 72-90 2011 campaign look for Florida Marlins to be major players in free agency and the trade market in 2012. With the influx of revenue from their new home in downtown Miami, this team wants and needs to make a big splash. A big middle of the order bat, starting pitching and late inning reliever have to be on the wish list of Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest. Lets take a look at possible target areas.
SLUGGER: Rumors all over the internet about the Marlins being linked to the top two names in the 2012 free agent class, First Basemen Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals and Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. Florida’s 1B Gaby Sanchez made the 2011 NL all star team and is a solid run producer but not an elite stick like these two. A signing could clear way for a position change or trade. 3B is a need area for the Marlins as well with top prospect Matt Dominguez definitely in the mix. Chicago Cub free agent 3B Aramis Ramirez would make a lot of sense at this spot. Veteran INF Greg Dobbs manned the hot corner for Florida in 2011 but is more of a situational lefty bat of the bench at this point in his career. If the team decides to trade LF Logan Morrison, a corner OF bat might be needed. But based on his history with talented but high maintenance players, I think new Marlins skipper Ozzie Guillen wants to try to make Morrison the player everyone thinks he can become.
STARTING PITCHING: Many around the game expect RHP Javier Vasquez to retire at the age of 35. Young veterans Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad and Anibal Sanchez will be in the rotation again while ace Josh Johnson should be healthy when the team breaks camp after missing most of 2011 with right shoulder inflammation. This is an area that Marlins figure to spend serious dollars on and a lefty is needed on this righty dominated starting staff. Texas Rangers LHSP C.J. Wilson has to be on the top of the the teams list while veteran long time Chicago White Sox LH Mark Buehrle should be another name to remember. Florida has some depth and kids but needs a top of the rotation arm to compete with the big boys in the NL East.
BULLPEN: While this unit was greatly improved in 2011 after a disastrous 2010, they still have needs. Due to closer Leo Nunez continuing legal problems(He is currently on the restricted list due to an identity issue in his home land, the Dominican Republic) , the team needs to focus on signing a 9th inning man. San Diego Padres Heath Bell, Milwaukee Brewers Francisco Rodriquez, Boston Red Sox Jonathan Papelbon and Philadephia Phillies Ryan Madson are the top free agent closers and the Marlins are sure to target one of them. Bell makes a lot of sense in Miami. The rest of pen remains solid with veteran RHPs Edward Mujica and Clay Hensley joining Lefties Mike Dunn and Randy Choate to man the set up group.
Things are about to get real interesting in Miami. The long rumored merger between the Florida Marlins and Manager Ozzie Guillen came to fruition September 29th and the ex- Chicago White Sox skipper signed a 4 year deal(10 million dollars total) to become the face of the franchise. Known as a fiery, feisty leader who laces interviews with four letter words, the ex Marlins Third Base coach brings energy and attention to a team that needs it. He guided the White Sox to the 2005 World Championship and the 47 year old was a 15 year major league player(12 years with the White Sox), making 3 all star teams. He clearly has established the number #1 goal of his regime: getting former all star SS Hanley Ramirez back on track. “To me, Hanley Ramirez is the biggest piece of the puzzle,” Guillen said. “My job is to make this guy put a smile on his face, enjoy this game and enjoy the game the way it should be played. Not the way Ozzie thinks it should be played, but the way it should be played. A lot of kids look up to him, I look up to him myself … but there’s one thing I’ve got to tell you: This kid is going to be back to where he was and he’s going to be playing the game the way it should be played. … This kid is one that might take off to the prime-time.”
MIAMI MARLINS: The team played its final home game at Sun Life Stadium as the Florida Marlins September 28th and the club’s name will officially change to the Miami Marlins on November 11,2011 as they prepare to move to their new retractable roof ball park in the Little Havana section of Miami. Since the Marlins inaugural 1993 season the team has shared homes with the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and more recently, the University of Miami football program, so this a big moment for the franchise.
JUMBO JAVY: Veteran RHSP Javier Vazquez was named National League Pitcher of the Month after winning all 5 of his starts and posting a 0.71 ERA. He tossed complete games in 2 of his last 3 starts and had a 29 inning scoreless string in mid month. The 14 year veteran has made hints that this season was his last but his post all star performance(10-4,2.15 ERA) show he can still do it at the major league level. Vazquez sites his desire to spend time with his family as reason he would walk away from the game.
MARLINS NOTES: Guillen is already at work, actively recruiting Chicago Cubs controversial RHSP Carlos Zambrano to join him in Miami. The volatile Cub has been in trouble off and on for about 5 years due to on field behavior and was placed on the disqualified list after telling teammates and members of the coaching staff he was going to retire after he was ejected from a game August 2nd for throwing at Braves star 3B Chipper Jones, The 30 year old was 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA in 24 starts and is under contract thru 2012. Zambrano is owed $18 million in 2012 plus he has a vesting option for 2013 totaling $19.25 million if he finishes in the top 4 in the 2012 CY Young voting. The Cubs would carry him to Miami if the Marlins ate this contract, big circus with him in Chicago…. Marlins resigned INF Omar Infante to a two year $8 million dollar contract September 27th and he should be the everyday 2B for the length of the deal.
FREE AGENTS: INF Greg Dobbs, INF Jose Lopez, RHP Javier Vazquez
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Burke Badenhop, C John Baker, INF Emilio Bonifacio, RHP Clay Hensley, RHP Edward Mujica, INF Donnie Murphy, RHP Leo Nunez(on restricted list due to legal problems), RHP Brian Sanches, RHP Anibal Sanchez, RHP Chris Volstad
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