Brandon Contes. 13th January, 2012 - 10:17 pm
Before the start of every season, we hear, "Watch out for the Marlins as a sleeper pick" because they have a lot of young talent and could be a surprise. Well this is the year that I am finally buying into the Marlins and willing to consider them a legitimate playoff contender.
No longer known as the Florida Marlins, the Miami Marlins come fully equipped with a new stadium, logo, uniform, manager, and players. The Marlins haven't been too active during the offseason the last few years, however, this year they were much more active as they try to completely revamp the franchise. With the additions of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buerhle, Carlos Zambrano, and even the hiring of Ozzie Guillen as their manager, the Marlins had one of the more impressive offseasons in baseball.
Is this going to be the way the Marlins operate? Or is this just a ploy to get fans in the stadium during its inaugural season? There is a very good chance that the Marlins will be looking to unload players next off-season just as they've done in the past. Following their 1997 World Series win, they unloaded every player that they could and went on to lose 108 games. After signing Carlos Delgado to a multi-year contract in 2005 they decided they couldn't afford him, and he was traded to the Mets. But I do believe that this time it could be different for the Marlins. Having a new, smaller, more modern stadium will definitely help them to attract fans. Changing from Florida to Miami and getting a new uniform will make them much more marketable. The Marlins will never be a big market team, but I do think they will be able to consistently afford a payroll over $80 million.
The Marlins have a chance to be very competitive for the next few years. They have all of the tools necessary to build a playoff team; a dynamic offense with speed, power, and can hit for average. They have a very good starting pitching staff and one of the best closers in baseball. Add a great manager in Ozzie Guillen, and the Marlins should be a real force.
I don't want to oversimplify things, but there are two reasons why the Marlins could miss the playoffs. The first is the fact that they'll be in the toughest division in the National League. With the Phillies and Braves, both of whom can be 100 game winners, along with the improving Nationals, this is a division that can beat up on each other (and each team can beat up on the Mets). If the Marlins were in the NL Central or West, they would have an opportunity to win the division, but the NL East is going to be tough.
The next reason the Marlins could have a disappointing year is injuries. Injuries have been a problem for them in the past and adding a player like Jose Reyes certainly won't help. Last year, Hanley Ramirez had back trouble and Josh Johnson had arm trouble. I thought the Mets should stay away from Jose Reyes, so I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't say he'll have his injury problems with the Marlins too. I do think they can get three good years out of him, and hopefully he gives you 140 games in those three seasons.
If healthy, this is a dangerous team. We're not just waiting for a young team to mature anymore. I do believe there's no reason why the Marlins can't win with the roster they now have. A dynamic MVP caliber player in Jose Reyes at the top of the order, along with Hanley Ramirez, can make this one of the most exciting lineups in baseball. Mike Stanton will continue to improve and should become a superstar bat in the middle of the order. The pitching rotation is led by Josh Johnson who is a Cy Young candidate when healthy. Mark Buerhle will give veteran presence to a very talented pitching staff, and Heath Bell will provide a reliable closer that the Marlins haven't had in years.
There are a lot of personalities on this team, including the manager himself, but Ozzie Guillen is the right guy to control the clubhouse and squeeze everything he can out of this roster. His act may wear thin on players after a few years, but for now he's a great fit. Adding one more bat to give Stanton some protection would help the Marlins a lot, unless Logan Morrison can step up and be that guy. The Marlins will battle the Braves for the Wild Card and I expect them to be 90 game winners.
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