The Miami Marlins head into the 2012 winter meetings with an entirely different approach than last season. Last year, the team was aggressive in chasing free agents, being linked to names like Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Albert Pujols, and C.J. Wilson. The Marlins seemingly considered every top name in the market last year, and they were good enough to sign Reyes and Buehrle, along with Heath Bell, to free agent contracts to bolster a team that was in last place but had a decent chance to bounce back in a big way. As a result of these signings, everything seemed to be going right for the new-look Miami Marlins.
But it all dissipated quickly as the 2012 season went down the drain and the Marlins ended the year short of 70 wins for the first time since 1999. As a result, the Miami Marlins went on yet another fire sale to reset what they believed to be a failed experiment and a failed roster in only one season of time. Gone are Reyes, Buehrle, and Bell, along with Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck, all players expected to play a major role at least through 2012 and into possibly 2013 and 2014.
Instead, the Marlins are slated to open the 2013 season with a plethora of prospects and stopgaps filling out their starting lineup and rotation. But just because the Fish are going to be lacking in the name recognition department outside of Giancarlo Stanton does not mean that the team is ready to enter next season with this roster. The Marlins apparently want to make some additions to this team, as odd as that sounds given their recent mass exodus. Fish Stripes is here to review just what is in store for the Fish in the 2012 winter meetings.
Looking For Power
As mentioned earlier this past week, the Marlins are primarily searching for a power bat to hit behind Giancarlo Stanton. But as I mentioned last week as well, the Marlins may have difficulty finding a part both useful enough to be an upgrade for the team at a current position and cheap enough to be within their salary range. A player like Mark Reynolds may appeal to the Marlins, even with their current third base position filled by Yunel Escobar, but would that be a real upgrade over anything the club already has?
In this pursuit of power hitting, the Marlins appear to be chasing a characteristic rather than following a model I have often touted on this blog: chasing wins. Rather than trying to find players who fit a particular criterion like power, this Marlins team should be more focused on finding wins wherever it can.
Unfortunately, the team is more focused on finding someone to protect Stanton, but the market is fairly thin on power hitters, especially at the positions the Marlins need and the prices the team can afford. With offense down league-wide, it may also be difficult to acquire a power hitter via trade, especially one with a favorable contract.
The Marlins are an extremely young team, and the club may also be in the market for a veteran starter who can help anchor and mentor the staff next to incumbent Ricky Nolasco, who himself might be dealt. Currently, Carl Pavano seems to be interested in a Marlins return, and he would fit well as a fifth starter for the team, pushing Wade LeBlanc to a more suitable long relief role.
A signing of a player like Pavano to a minimal contract does not help or hurt the Marlins much. Pavano did spend two seasons prior to this with the Minnesota Twins pitching really well for a pitcher his age, and at this rate a one-year deal could not hurt the Fish. The team may even be able to turn him into a minor league asset at midseason if he proves himself healthy enough to stay on the field and effective. Anything a player like Pavano provides off the field in the form of tutelage to a young staff led by top prospect Jacob Turner is a bonus.
Their Own Trades
Do not believe for one second that the Miami Marlins are potentially done making trades, either to acquire or unload talent. The Marlins have claimed that Giancarlo Stanton is off limits, as well he should be given how difficult it would be to find a fair trade for him. But the Marlins still have some other players with whom they may be willing to part for the right price.
Ricky Nolasco: Nolasco is the last vestige of the 2006 era of the Fish, but he is only here because no one else seems to be interested in him. Nolasco is in his final season of a three-year extension that will pay him $11.5 million in 2013. A number of teams have expressed interest in Nolasco, and if the Marlins are able to dump the majority of his salary, the team could get some payroll relief with which to sign a player on a one-year flier. If not, the Marlins can at least take on something in return for a final year of Nolasco which will not amount to any contention or good play.
Yunel Escobar: The Marlins may very well not be interested in paying for Escobar's paltry $5 million despite the fact that, as bad a hitter as he was last year, he was at least a one-win player in the worst season of his career. Despite having talked to him and gotten his approval to move to third base, the Marlins may still opt to trade him and his remaining guaranteed contract year (with an additional two club options at the same price) for whatever young players they can find.
Personally, I believe this to be a mistake, as the Marlins can likely get more out of an Escobar deal if they let him play out the start of 2013 and see if he cannot have a bounce back performance. If he is able to bounce back and do well, the team can trade him for better value if it is still concerned about his meager salary. If not, the team has an answer at third base for a couple of seasons.
There have been rumblings of the Marlins being interested in Ryan Raburn, who could provide some pop to the middle infield, third base, or a corner outfield spot. His plate discipline is shabby and his defense in the infield leaves a lot to be desired, but the Fish could do worse than a guy who has averaged 19 home runs per 600 PA for his career and at least has the versatility to man multiple spots. If the team can sign him to a short-term deal, it would at least strengthen the bench.
The Marlins may also still be in the market for a center fielder, and there are still players available who can play the position at the price the team can afford. In particular, Nyjer Morgan seems like an interesting choice to bolster the bench and supplement the lineup in case Justin Ruggiano falters in his first full season as a starter. Morgan could be acquired for cheap and would have a season remaining in arbitration, though his skills would probably be on the decline. Still, a one-year deal definitely could not hurt.
Rule 5 Draft
The Marlins recently claimed first baseman Joe Mahoney from the Baltimore Orioles and placed him on the 40-man roster. That leaves the Marlins with two spots open on the 40-man which could be used for the Rule 5 draft. This draft holds a specific interest to Marlins fans because it brought in one of the better Marlins of recent history in Dan Uggla. Uggla came in the 2005 draft and immediately contributed to the 2006 post-fire sale Marlins in a big way. Can the team find another name this season to fill one of their various holes?
These are some of the stories that you should be following with the Marlins in the 2012 winter meetings, and rest assured, Fish Stripes will be following these stories. Keep an eye out for more as the winter meetings progress here on Fish Stripes.