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Running down the rosters: Miami Marlins

Feb 21, 2012, 11:30 PM EDT

Marlins Spring Baseball AP

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.

Josh Johnson – R
Mark Buehrle – L
Anibal Sanchez – R
Ricky Nolasco – R
Carlos Zambrano – R

Heath Bell – R
Edward Mujica – R
Michael Dunn – L
Ryan Webb – R
Randy Choate – L
Steve Cishek – R
Wade LeBlanc – L

Restricted list: Juan Oviedo (R)
SP next in line: Brad Hand (L), LeBlanc, Alex Sanabia (R), Sean West (L)
RP next in line: Jose Ceda (R), Chris Hatcher (R), Chad Gaudin (R), Sandy Rosario (R)

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.

SS Jose Reyes – S
CF Emilio Bonifacio – S
3B Hanley Ramirez – R
RF Mike Stanton – R
LF Logan Morrison – L
1B Gaby Sanchez – R
C John Buck – R
2B Omar Infante – R

C Brett Hayes – R
1B-3B Greg Dobbs – L
INF Donnie Murphy – R
OF Scott Cousins – L
OF Aaron Rowand – R

Next in line: C Clint Sammons (R), 3B Matt Dominguez (R), INF Nick Green (R), INF Gil Velazquez (R), OF Austin Kearns (R), OF Chris Coghlan (L), OF Bryan Petersen (L), OF Kevin Mattison (L)

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.

  1. icanspeel - Feb 21, 2012 at 11:50 PM

    I think its funny over half of their bullpen were members of the 2010 Padres

    • Old Gator - Feb 21, 2012 at 11:58 PM

      I think the brush fires scared them off.

    • smoothaswilkes - Feb 22, 2012 at 12:23 AM

      ha. I was thinking the exact same thing.

  2. Old Gator - Feb 21, 2012 at 11:57 PM

    Can’t fault anything you say here, Matthew. If Hanley pouts, though, it will be because he isn’t playing third base well and it gets into his head, affecting his performance at the plate: balls are skipping past him down the line and he’s making those offline throws to first base that he made from shortstop distressingly often – except that every trig whiz can tell you that if you move the apex of the angle further away, the distance from first that your wild throw would have achieved from closer in will be that much…well…more distant. I see the daddies in the field boxes collecting more souvenirs for their kids, hopefully without letting them hit the little darlings in the teeth first.

    The Feesh kept plenty of Scrooge McLoria’s money in their pockets when Arte Moreno swung down on Albert Pujols like Tarzan’s chimp and snatched him to the sunset side. That they didn’t invest it in finding themselves a real third baseman bothers me more than anything about the offseason, with the possible (or even probable) exception of scoring Krazy Karlos Lamebraino to be Slobbering Ozzie’s rubber ducky instead of using their freshly pickled drachmas to make a run at Matt Garza – or Roy Oswalt. I’m afraid that these mistakes are going to prove even more problematic for them than their failure to find a good guy off the bench. Fortunately, there’s still the next two months, roughly, to size up the materials at hand and make some big trades or acquisitions.

    My other issue is that I think Tweeter, for all the solicitude the Feesh have shown towards him, is an overrated ballplayer and then some. In the outfield, especially as capacious as it will be at Macondo Banana Massacre Field, he’s got an awful lot to learn about going back and coming on the ball. At the plate, frankly, he will have to improve mightily on his .146 RISP of 2011. Frankly, I don’t really expect him to do all that much better and I suspect that he’s going to be the new Jeff Francoeur, his keyboard jibbering definitively beside the point.

    And then there’s that nightmarish Plan 10 from Outer Space trompe l’oeil out there in the outfield, waiting for those rare occasions when someone besides the Iron Giant deposits a probe entirely beyond the gravitational field of home plate. I think the Van Allen Belt hugs the planet more closely than those outfield walls hug the playing field. I can see the next batter up trying so hard not to laugh his bright orange tushy off every time that ridiculous contraption throws one of its fits that he can’t swing level at the incoming “crush me” sign.

    • hasbeen5 - Feb 22, 2012 at 8:49 AM

      Mixed in the jibberish, your analysis is mostly solid. I disagree about finding a “real” third baseman though. 3rd is an easier position to play, and the throw is easier a lot of times. At short, the angle of your throws varies more because of the greater range that has to be covered. At 3rd, the throw is a lot more consistent. The exception would be the backhand play deep behind the bag, but that’s pretty rare, and Ramirez has enough arm to at least make it close when it does happen.

      • Old Gator - Feb 22, 2012 at 11:04 AM

        I’ve seen the Hanster set nicely and still throw the ball in the dirt. I’ve also seen him go through periods when he couldn’t catch a beachball if his hands were covered with unset epoxy – hard to say why he goes on those streaks of stonehandedness, but they happen. Plus, there’s also the issue of the increased velocity with which a ball comes at a third baseman, a consequence of closer proximity to the hitter. It remains to be seen how the Hanster will deal with that, especially if he still hasn’t found a way to rid himself of his accursed .342 amulet. I still think the Feesh would have been considerably better off moving him to the outfield and finding that third baseman out of their apparently repressed unconscious.

        As far as first basemen, it seems to me that folks are still, for some reason, implicitly comparing Gaby to the ignis fatuuous of Albert Pujols whereupon Sanchez necessarily comes up wanting. It’s ridiculous. By that logic 29 teams are “a power hitting first baseman” behind the curve. Albert isn’t there. Get over it. Gaby is an all-star first baseman with solid .285 BA, a more than decent OPS and 20-plus home run power (adjusted for the ridiculous distances to the fence at Macondo Banana Massacre Field – but that will be true of Feesh and visitors). Plus, in the Feesh’s marketing scheme of things, he’s a hometown Cuban-American – and though I question the validity of that entire mindset, he probably represents more of a local attraction than some imported ballplayer with five more potential dingers on his resumé.

        And frankly, given the rising tide of rotten news about how this stadium was forcefed to this community, Gaby is a decent, enthusiastic guy who makes for a nice offset to the crooks, carpetbaggers and weasels who own and run this organization and the equally corrupt and incompetent politicians with whom they’ve cooperated to rip us all off.

  3. florida76 - Feb 22, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    Marlins have had a strange existence, it was assumed Miami’s diverse population would bring a strong baseball interest, and attendance would be adequate. On the field, the club hasn’t been a consistent winner, yet has won as many World Titles as the Phillies, Cubs, and Indians. Miami has actually won more World Championships than either the Braves(in Atlanta), or the Giants(in San Fran).

    Odd, the way things have worked out. If support doesn’t increase with the new stadium, one could say it wasn’t a smart idea to expand into a state best known for spring training. The Rays have figured out how to win, but not put fans in the albeit hideous stadium.

    • Old Gator - Feb 22, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      You need to look at the history of insults and disappointments Feesh owners have perpetrated against the fans of the team to understand why some of this has happened. Rather than build upon a tradition of winning the team could have established with its 1997 championship, Wayne Huizinga immediately dismantled it and brought us a disaster in 1998. Bitter fans defaulted in droves. Then, John Henry breezed into town vowing to build himself a stadium if the State wouldn’t do it – and of course, we all know what happened then; he was full of shit, skipped town, yet another disappointment and slap in the face to the fans just a few years after Huizinga’s disgrace. We wound up with the erstwhile assassin of the Expos, Scrooge McLoria, who parlayed the solid base Dave Dombrowski left behind with a few smart trades into another inexplicable championship in 2003 – and then, when the stadium didn’t fill up within a couple of years, promptly dismantled it again and kept it half-lame until this season. There’s been no real consistency, no sense that this franchise was loyal to its fans, and to top it all off, there’s been a sordid history of backroom political deals, incompetent planning and flat-out lying to the public about the team’s financial position. None of this has inclined the locals to any sense of loyalty, or even much interest.

      It remains to be seen whether moving the stadium so far off-center from its fan base, geographically speaking, will translate into a new set of negative influences on attendance.

  4. kingjoe1 - Feb 22, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    Wow. They are a power hitting firstbaseman away from being a top tiered team. If their pitching gets hot watch out.

  5. hasbeen5 - Feb 22, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    They’re close to top tier anyway, whether Sanchez hits for much power or not. I’m with Matthew though, my first thought when looking at the lineup was”man their bench is weak.” I think depth could be a bigger issue, on the mound and with position players.

    • buddaley - Feb 22, 2012 at 11:10 AM

      I agree. If that is the rotation and the backups, it looks very thin and also very fragile. At least 3 starters have questions about health, makeup or past performance, and behind them are decidedly mediocre at best replacements.

      Of course, if all 5 provide 30+ starts and fulfill their potential, it is an excellent rotation, but that is betting on a long shot.

      • Old Gator - Feb 22, 2012 at 11:51 AM

        It is. Back to what I said before. They had the money. Oswalt is out there. Maybe Garza, for the right price. But they buckled to Slobbering Ozzie and sprung for Lamebraino on the cheap instead. Sheesh.

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