Before the 2003 season the Marlins traded some prospects to get Mark Redman from the Tigers and finish out their rotation. He went on to go 14-9 with a 3.59 ERA and help the Marlins collect their 2nd World Series Championship ring in his only year as a Marlin.
One of those prospects of that trade was pitcher Nate Robertson, who went on to win 12 games his rookie year in 2004 and has made a name for himself in Detroit ever since (good or bad). In 7 years as a Tiger he was 51-68 with a 4.87 ERA averaging 193 innings a year, but injuries and surgeries have set him back the last couple seasons. This time Robertson finds himself as the bigger name in a trade bringing the pitcher back to the team he was drafted by in 1999, the Marlins.
The left handed pitcher was traded by the Tigers with cash consideration (he makes $10 million this season) for pitching prospect Jay Voss and cash. He will take over what was thought to be Clay Hensley’s job, as the 5th starter, which now makes him the only lefty in the Marlins rotation. Larry Beinfest has confirmed that Clay Hensley will make the team but in a role to be determined, maybe middle relief/spot starter.
The final bullpen spot might have been decided by week’s end but trading for Nate Robertson could’ve ended the conversation right there. With the release of Seth McClung and Hayden Penn being claimed off waivers by the Pirates, there were 2 pitchers bidding for an Opening Day spot. Rick VandenHurk and Tim Wood probably were excited to be in the final 2, before winds of the Robertson trade came through the clubhouse and might have knocked them both out of contention. The need for a lefty in the rotation and the way Clay Hensley has played this spring couldn’t be ignored, so sliding Hensley into the bullpen spot leaves zero room for anyone else. Safe to say though the rotation is set for 2010.
On another front, the 1st Base job has been won unanimously by Mr. Gaby Sanchez and the tremendous spring stats he has produced. He’s sporting a batting average just under .400 with 2 HR, 5 RBI and 5 doubles. Everyone was pretty sure after the 2nd week into Spring Training games that Sanchez had an edge in experience and seemed a little more confident over at 1st. After winning out the job last year only to be sent down to AAA before Opening Day because of injury probably makes this time all the sweeter, Congrats to Gaby!
Less than a week away til the Marlins open up with Josh Johnson against the Mets, so Wednesday’s start should be a good preview even though they’re in Florida. Opening Day JJ will face off with Johan Santana in New York and I can’t wait!
UPDATE: Within hours of the acquisition of Nate Robertson, the Marlins optioned Rick VandenHurk and Tim Wood to AAA New Orleans to be in their rotation and bullpen, respectively. The Marlins seem to have their pitching staff set for April 5th, just one bench spot left to solidify the 25 man roster.
All those off-season questions should be answered within the next few weeks of Spring Training as roster spots, starting positions, and rotation vacancies are given to those who stand out. There are a significant amount of team members returning but nothing is set in stone, especially with the rotation and bullpen.
Besides the 1-2 punch at the top (J.J. & Nolasco) there are several talented pitchers vying for starter job. I think Anibal Sanchez is finally healthy and can put up a solid season like his stellar rookie campaign [10-3 with a no-hitter]. Chris Volstad has got to be over his sophomore slump by now because giving up as many home runs as games started  is unacceptable. If that leaves one more spot open it should go to a lefty, either Sean West or Andrew Miller. Both show sparks of being able to handle 7+ innings, but inconsistencies and inexperience need to be improved now that everyone knows their name and what they throw. The dark horse candidate would be The Incredible Hurk AKA Rick VandenHurk. He made big strides at the end of last season and you can’t go wrong with (future Hall Of Famer) Bert Blyleven as your personal pitching coach. That leaves Hayden Penn (who I don’t trust in the rotation) to become more of a middle relief like Burke Badenhop and Ryan Tucker, if not released altogether.
Another decision to make is who will fill that lefty off the bench roster spot. As early as it is in the spring the top 2 strongest candidates are Rule 5 draft pick Jorge Jimenez and veteran Mike Lamb. It seems manager Fredi Gonzalez has taken a likening to Jorge Jimenez and if so that could put the other Jorge (Cantu) back at 1B with his diminishing arm. On the other hand, in only 2 games Mike Lamb has 3 hits including a pinch-hit RBI single.
To throw another hat into the circle, Hank Blalock has still has yet to make a decision on which team he would rather play for this season. Blalock is choosing between the Rays and Marlins, so if he ends up signing with Florida he could very well snatch up that last roster spot over Lamb and Jimenez.
In a few days there will be a clearer view of things like Hank’s choice of whether to play in Tampa Bay or Miami, the “Race at First Base” between Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez, and the plethora of pitchers fighting for bullpen spots will dwindle because of injuries or lack of production. Check back after the weekend…
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
Hello Everyone and Welcome to the Blog! Let’s start this off with great news…
For once the gods of baseball were listening to a request from the Marlins camp. The deal few thought would get done, including his agent, had the Marlins signing Josh Johnson to a 4 year/$39 Million dollar contract Thursday evening. Being one of those hardcore fans, I am ecstatic to know J.J. will be the team’s ace pitcher for the next couple years. A great sign for Marlins fans everywhere (even with some nudging from the MLBPA) that the front office had instincts to know this is a special player and he deserves every penny of that contract. J.J.’s contract has him with the Marlins through 2013 (buying out 2 arbitration years and the first 2 years of free agency), making him 29 when his current contract is up and a viable candidate to re-sign with the team when revenues kick in from the new stadium. Keeping J.J. the next 4 years gives me a premonition he will take over all the Marlins pitching records along the way such as wins and strike outs (68 Wins/757 K’s by Dontrelle Willis, respectively). This makes the Marlins a solid competitor in the NL East for years to come, especially matching up very well against Johan Santana and newly acquired Phillie, Roy Halladay. Excellent…
Getting very excited now for pitchers and catchers to report, as the next bit of news should be the arbitration signings of Cody Ross, Jorge Cantu, etc. The Dan Uggla plot thickens now that we are forced to open the cash register and can’t find any value with a trade partner, the speculation is that he should stay. Keeping him at 2B for now is an easy decision in my opinion, being a 2-time All Star plus Coghlan shows he’s a better fitted athlete in LF. The 30+ HRs is hard to come by especially for a 2B and his errors are way down (3 All Star game errors don’t count), so in comparison to the NL teams who is above Uggla overall besides Chase Utley? Discuss amongst yourselves….