Monday, March 5, 2012

Offseason Review: Miami Marlins

Last years batting champion, Jose Reyes.
After years of penny pinching and frenetic front office management, the Marlins decided to make a "splash" (HAHAHAHAHAAHAH!!!! Cuz of fish!) and sign three huge free agents. I understand the intention of breathing new life in to a long stagnant team by pairing a new fancy stadium and spending like crazy on a haul of free agent talent, but I legitimately feel like the Marlins kind of missed the mark this Winter.

First; Jose Reyes. I totally understand that by all means Jose Reyes is a great shortstop. He's athletic and fast, decent on defense and an incredible hitter. Here's the thing about all that. Hanley Ramirez is even better. If you stack these two dudes up side by side Ramirez is statistically elite offensively and as a shortstop. I know you can't blame a fan for abiding to the stigma of a batting title, but upper management? Hanley Ramirez is too young and has been too successful to be replaced. Also, while Ramirez was banged up a bit in 2011 he looks like goddamn Iron Man compared to Jose Reyes. I realize that when you sign someone for a contract that huge you only really expect them to perform for half of it, but the narrative of Reyes' career is so riddled with injuries that it wouldn't shock me at all if he missed whole seasons of time on the DL.
Heath Bell, pumped.
Then there is Heath Bell. The fish needed to fill the closer role since Leo Nunez was revealed to be Juan Oviedo so they went out and signed the biggest free agent closer not named Papelbon. Heath Bell has been dominant the past few years and it would be a mistake to underestimate his value, but the fit here doesn't make too much sense to me. If you're going to make a worst-to-first team happen, spending a lot on a closer doesn't really add up, especially in the very competitive NL East.

The last two major moves by Miami are the signing of Mark Buehrle and the acquisition of Carlos Zambrano, from the South and North sides of Chicago respectively. Out of everything the Marlins did this offseason, I find the most logic in Mark Buehrle's contract. Buehrle is known to be a clubhouse leader and already has an established rapport with new Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen.  The Marlins then decided to gamble derailing all of that chemistry and stability by needlessly acquiring the washed up, wailing baby Carlos Zambrano. I know that sounds harsh but I seriously can't stand someone who so thoroughly epitomizes unsportsmanlike conduct. If the Marlins seriously think this dude is gonna stay chilled out once the enchantment of a "new" team wears off then they don't know no Carlos Zambrano.
Get used to this shit, Miami fans.
I don't want to come off as fatalistic for the Marlins, because it's not like their situation warrants it. I do think that they are going to be better, but better in a division like this doesn't mean championships, you need excellence. The Marlins have a core of young players who could all reach excellence (Mike Stanton is pretty much already there) so it's not like their shot at a division title is totally out of the realm of possibility, I just feel like they jumped the investment gun a little too soon. Also Zambrano was a really stupid acquisition. I mean I know Chris Volstad is a not good, never going to be good pitcher but at least he's not going to choke an umpire out.

One thing to consider is that the Marlins, after acquiring all three big name free agents, still made a very serious run at signing Pujols. That means they have money that they are willing to dole out. The market isn't going to be as crazy as it was this past offseason, but Albert Pujols doesn't come around more than once in a lifetime. I wouldn't be shocked at them trying to acquire Josh Hamilton or Cole Hamels or something like that. I don't think the Marlins as they are right now are going to contend within their window at a division title, but I don't think they are too far off. I'd say they end in second last place ahead of the Mets, the x-factor being Josh Johnson's health.

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