Feb 21, 2012, 11:30 PM EDT
The hopes are high with LeBron James having one of the greatest statistical seasons in NBA history and the Dolphins potentially landing Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn as their new quarterback. Also, the baseball team has a new name, a new stadium and a new star shortstop. Let’s see if that does the Marlins any good.
Along with their $106 million outlay for Jose Reyes, the Marlins spent $58 million on Buehrle and $27 million on Bell, adding stability to a staff that has lacked it for several years. Buehrle won’t contend for a Cy Young, but he’ll be at least a bit above average over the course of 200 innings. Bell’s best years are probably behind him, but he figures to be a quality closer for at least a couple of more years.
The Marlins have plenty of upside elsewhere. Johnson would be a legitimate Cy Young contender if he could stay healthy. Sanchez has posted an ERA in the mid-3.00s each of the last two years. If those two combine to make 60 starts and either Nolasco or Zambrano can rebound (probably too much to expect both to do so), then the Marlins would be definite threats for the wild card.
Obviously, much depends on Hanley here. In him, Reyes and Stanton, the Marlins may well possess three of the NL’s top 10 position players. Day one went off without a hitch, but it still remains to be seen whether he’ll make an issue of the move to third base. A pouting Ramirez figures to be an unproductive Ramirez, but if Ozzie Guillen can get through to him — and who better to make the attempt — then the lineup could be dynamite.
What is disappointing is that the Marlins didn’t make much of an attempt to upgrade their bench over the winter. But Bonifacio’s versatility does help there. If Reyes or Infante gets hurt (and the Marlins don’t want to move Hanley back to short), Bonifacio can move back to the infield, opening up center for whichever outfielder is playing better. The Marlins do have plenty of competition for those outfield bench spots: one figures to go to a lefty (Cousins, Coghlan or Petersen) and the other to a righty (Rowand or Kearns).
In the Marlins’ case, I’m skeptical that the whole will be the equal to the sum of its parts. There’s some terrific talent here, and it wouldn’t be stunning to see the team win 95+ games and maybe even overtake the Phillies in the NL East. It also wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Hanley force his way off the team and Johnson spend the bulk of the year on the DL, leading to a fourth-place finish. My guess is that they sneak into the postseason via the wild card, but I’m far from confident.
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