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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