Well after a bit of a hiatus, a draining offseason, and a hope for the future.. we kick off the 2011 season with optimism for the Fish. It’s their last season in Sun Life Stadium (Dolphins Stadium) and the transition to the Miami Marlins started with a few offseason moves, including spending money. Something we haven’t done since 2005 when we signed Carlos Delgado to a 4 year/$40 million contract.
Dan Uggla traded to the Braves for Omar Infante and Mike Dunn. I hate parting with Uggla and all his power but his money needs were to high rejecting the Marlins 4 year deal for 5 with Atlanta. Infante is another All-star who hit .321 last year and can play 2nd or 3rd. Mike Dunn is a hard throwing lefty (1.89 ERA, 27K in 19 innings) our bullpen could use in the late innings, so all in all the talent we got back is worth it.
Signing John Buck to 3 year/$18 million deal. Marlins made a cash splash starting the offseason by spending money instead of dumping it. Going out and getting a free agent needed to be done to a position that could not stay healthy. Losing John Baker to Tommy John in early May and Ronny Paulino had issues with PEDs and was released in August. Even Baker’s replacement Brett Hayes seperated his shoulder in August thanks to Nyjer Morgan’s tirade, leaving us with a 4th string (Brad Davis) to finish out the year.
Buck’s signing is a major upgrade because of his leadership behind the plate and a veteran presence he can give our staff. Also he was a All-star last year as well as Infante and could put up some numbers similar to Uggla’s.
Cameron Maybin was traded to the Padres for Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb in bullpen reserves. Good move, I was about to give up on Maybin myself with all the injuries but he is still only 23.
Andrew Miller traded to Red Sox for Dustin Richardson. Miller had run out of options and wasn’t going to make the squad, so getting someone is better than nothing in this 2007 trade bust.
Non-roster invitee Dewayne Wise, from the infamous over the wall “Catch” saving the Mark Buehrle prefecto, might wind up as the 4th outfielder.
Chris Coghlan moves from LF to CF (Logan Morrison now owns left). Will it be a hard transition with that knee surgery that ended his season last July? Something tells me no.
Roughly two weeks away from Opening Day and things are starting to take shape in the Marlins camp. The biggest news so far has been the “return to sender” policy of Rule 5 pick Jorge Jimenez back to the Red Sox. The Marlins save $25K of the $50K they spent on Jimenez for not including him on this year’s lineup, but got barely anything for Matt Lindstrom from the Astros besides some low level prospects. Be that as it may, the decision to release Jimenez makes the infield picture look more in focus, more importantly 3rd and 1st base.
Third base is now where Jorge Cantu will primarily play, while Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison continue to fight for the 1B job. Although, Gaby has looked pretty good so far holding a smooth .387 through Saturday (T-2nd on team with 12 hits) and connecting on his 1st spring home run to almost secure the position. Logan on the other hand has had a rough start out the gate and just recently got his average up to the Mendoza line (.200 avg). Although those few hits have been extra base hits (3 doubles & 1 triple producing 6 RBIs), his defense has been shaky trying to adjust to 1B at the major league level. There’s still some time left but I’m beginning to see it’s more likely Gaby Sanchez will be starting on April 5th.
Now let’s move to the pitchers…
As expected, a slew of the pitchers were sent back down to AAA New Orleans or re-assigned to minor league camp. Familiar roster names like Jose Ceda, Cristhian Martinez, and Taylor Tankersley trying to make it back onto the roster will have to work on pitch control as a member of the Zephyrs. Speaking of comebacks, Derrick Turnbow’s attempt is over barring he gets a whole new arm. His mechanics haven’t been the same since 2006 and the Marlins released him almost the second he came out of the game last Tuesday against the Nationals
The stronger candidates for bullpen and rotation spots are budding their heads out like the spring itself. Anibal Sanchez has gone out on the field every start and showed why he belongs in that 3rd spot in the rotation. That leaves 2 spots left for the remaining pitchers in the mix. Sean West was recently sent down to AAA after walking 7 in 3 innings of a B-game last week, halting his chances to return to the rotation where he finished 8-6 last year.
Chris Volstad might have pushed his name forward as the 4th spot with his last outing against the Nationals. His bread and butter sinker was really working and forced quite a few ground outs, which is what the Marlins wanna see out of the 6′ 8″ righty. That 5th spot is looking pretty nice for Clay Hensley if he can keep up the good work. He’s looked excellent forcing the grounders as well as getting out of situations, holding a 0.00 ERA through 10 1/3 innings. You can’t ask for more from a pitcher, but Hensley does have an opt out clause if he is not on the roster by April 1st.
If the Marlins decide on throwing Hensley in the bullpen with Burke Badenhop (also looks great) as a long reliever, that might make Rick VandenHurk or Andrew Miller the viable choice. Hayden Penn has shown his true colors and should be moved soon, taking him out of consideration in my book. Between Vandy and Miller the smarter decision would be promoting VandenHurk, while Miller still has an option left on his contract to start the year in AAA without losing him. Miller’s delivery is being retooled for the 3rd time and looks like he will still need time to feel comfortable with it.
And finally, the off-the-bench position players are fighting for 2 spots and Jorge Jimenez was in the running for both. The competition for left handed pinch hitter looks like it might have a winner with the resurgent Mike Lamb. The release of Jimenez on Sunday morning must’ve motivated Lamb because, he knocked a pinch hit 3-run double to all but solidify that late inning bench role. The other roster spot is an infield reserve that’s not Emilio Bonifacio (in case he’s already out there). Without Jimenez the Marlins seem to be leaning towards Brian Barden who was with the Cardinals AAA team last year. He plays all over the infield and has .292 avg with 6 RBIs this spring.
At 10-9 and 2 weeks to go it could be worse, but plenty of positives to take out of it. Ronny Paulino and Chris Coghlan are already on fire (14 hits a piece), just note worthy and hope they can keep it up. Until next time…
So Before the full squad workouts start for Spring Training, I’m gonna take a stab at Opening Day’s lineup and rotation (hoping against injury)…
1.) Chris Coghlan – LF
2.) Cameron Maybin – CF
3.) Hanley Ramirez – SS
4.) Jorge Cantu – 3B
5.) Dan Uggla – 2B
6.) John Baker – C
7.) Cody Ross- RF
8.) Logan Morrison -1B
9.) Josh Johnson – P
1.) Josh Johnson – RHP
2.) Ricky Nolasco – RHP
3.) Chris Volstad – RHP
4.) Sean West – LHP
5.) Anibal Sanchez – RHP
Closer.) Leo Nunez – RHP