In 2010, the Florida Marlins finished the season with a record of 80-82, two games under the .500 mark. Considering the front office classified this squad as a "playoff contender", finishing the season losing two more games then they won was considered a failure. One can come up with a variety of excuses for why this team failed to reach expectations. Some will say the expectations were too high in the first place, and some will criticize the front office for getting rid of a manager in the middle of a season, when it should have been done in the previous offseason. Others will say that the bullpen was terrible, and the consistent winning streaks just were not there. No matter what you say, this team has plenty of room to improve, and that is exactly what the front office will look to do.
The World Series marks the official end of baseball season, and the start of an offseason in which big name players such as Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, and Cliff Lee will be available to all 30 teams that want to show interest. The Marlins, as expected, will most likely not go out of their way to sign these huge names. However, they have made it very clear that this team's flaws could be fixed quickly without spending an insane amount of money. The payroll will apparently take a jump to about the fifty million dollar range. This is only a few million dollars more than the payroll set for the 2010 season, but every penny will be needed and used for the upcoming season.
All Star's Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson will take up a good portion of the 2011 salary. The Fish have already shown interest, and it should be considered an obligation, to resign Dan Uggla and Ricky Nolasco. Although they both are at different points in their careers, money wise, they have had a huge impact on the team and the outcome of many games throughout the course of the last few seasons. Uggla combines with SS Hanley Ramirez to form what could be regarded as one of the best middle infields in the game of baseball. Uggla has also set some records, becoming the first ever MLB second baseman to hit 30 or more homers in four consecutive seasons, and has passed Mike Lowell on the all time Marlins home run list. It is essential to have a successful number two starter behind Josh Johnson, and Ricky Nolasco is exactly that. He could be considered one of the most consistent Marlins pitchers, giving his team a quality start 9 out of 10 times he gets the baseball.
The Marlins have three free agents on the team, and if they want, have the ability to bring some if not all of them back. The front office has stressed picking up a left handed reliever or two during the offseason. Will Ohmen, who was injured during the final stretch of the 2010 season, was acquired from Baltimore at the trading deadline, and is now a free agent. The Fish may not resign him because of the injury factor, but in the NL East with hitters such as Ryan Howard, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Adam Dunn (who may or may not be a National next season), it is and should be a priority to have at least two valuable and trustworthy lefties in the bullpen.
The other two free agents, Jorge Sosa and Chad Tracy, may be invited back on minor league contracts, but they will most likely end up elsewhere. The Marlins failed to fill the position Ross Gload had in 2009, which was lefty bat off the bench. Wes Helms has already been signed for next year, so finding a lefty he can platoon with off the bench is very important. Chad Tracy is capable of filling this currently vacant position, but the Marlins tend to find players they can bring in on minor league contracts to fill this job. A lefty with a breakout Spring Training usually wins the job.
Putting a ton of money into the bullpen is not the solution. Finding consistent pitchers that will complete their job when called upon is the answer to fixing the bullpen problems. A decision will also have to be made on whether to release Leo Nunez, or keep him either as a setup man or as a closer. The inconsistencies of the 2010 Marlins led to a disappointing season, and until we reach 2012 in a ballpark containing players whose salaries add up to 70 million dollars, excepting the low payed and low profile Marlins will have to do. While they most likely won't pursue a Lee or Crawford, it will be a pretty busy winter for the Florida Marlins.