The Miami Marlins are a flawed team, especially after the numerous trades they pulled to cut salary and unwanted talent from the team. In specific, the 2012 midseason trades that sent away Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, and Omar Infante opened up holes in the infield that were previously resolved through 2013 and 2014. With the Marlins as currently constituted, the results of 2013 may prove to be very ugly, even with the return of Emilio Bonifacio and Logan Morrison from injury.
With that in mind, what the positions of greatest need for the Fish heading into the 2013 season?
The biggest hole left form the most recent trades the Marlins made is the one at third base. The team was expecting to have third base filled through 2014 with Hanley Ramirez manning the position, but Ramirez was so underwhelming in his performance that the Marlins would rather get out from under his remaining contract rather than take a chance on a bounce back. It would seem as though the Fish chose the right move, as Ramirez performed about as well with the Los Angeles Dodgers as he was performing here.
Nevertheless, no matter how logical the move to trade Ramirez away from the Marlins, the resulting aftermath has left the Marlins without any options at the position for a very long time. The team traded its last remaining major league option in prospect Matt Dominguez in the trade for first baseman Carlos Lee, but the deal for Lee did not help the Marlins contend and it left the Fish grasping for straws when the team later dealt Ramirez. Outside of Bonifacio or Solano, neither of whom are good long-term solutions at the position, the Marlins have no choices to play at third base and will need to acquire one via free agency or trade if they do not want to suffer inferior production at the position for another three or four years.
Much like third base, a midseason Marlins trade left a hole at the second base position that was scheduled to be filled through 2013. The Marlins had Omar Infante ready and signed for two seasons before 2012, but in order to acquire a better pitching asset in top prospect Jacob Turner, the team had to include Infante in addition to Sanchez to get the deal to go through. While, once again, the trade was a good one for both parties, it did leave the Fish with a glaring hole at the position. At the time, the Marlins seemed content to fill the hole with Bonifacio, but once Bonifacio and Morrison went down with injury, the team flip-flopped through multiple plans and are still undecided on what to do.
The Marlins seem fairly happy with the performance of Donovan Solano, but as discussed earlier on Fish Stripes, Solano may very well be an illusion. Given how poorly he has played throughout his minor league career, the team would be wise to avoid leaning on Solano for the long haul at the position, no matter how decently he performed last season. But unfortunately for the Marlins, there are few options in free agency at second base, and equally poor options at third base as well.
Left / Center Field
Luckily for the Marlins, there are a lot more options in the outfield, and the outfield options give the Marlins some flexibility in terms of the infield. Emilio Bonifacio's ability to play both infield and outfield allows the Marlins to be flexible with their one signing, if they choose to only go for one player. If the team can fill the outfield position, either in left or center field, it can shift Bonifacio to third base. While this option maintains that Solano is at second base, it at least gives the Marlins an upgrade at one position for 2013, and it is an overall improvement over not making any signings.
For the Fish, they could go after one of six or so outfielders that are available in the free agent market and interested in a starting job. If the team goes after a cheaper option, it may even be able to fill a middle infield position as well, allowing the Marlins to only start Bonifacio in the remaining hole. If the team can find cheap options in both in the infield and outfield, it can avoid starting Solano and play relatively well-known commodities at all three open positions.
For the Marlins, the outfield opening remains the best bet for filling the roster, as the team has the money and there will be the player availability to pursue a good option. With the Marlins short on funds, pursuing two players may be difficult, but it remains to be seen just what the Marlins' plans will be in 2013.