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Last year’s Florida Marlins finished the season in last place in the NL East, 30 games out of first place. 2011 is not 2012 for the Marlins. The organization has a new name (Miami Marlins), a new stadium (Marlins Park), a new logo, a new manager (Ozzie Guillen), and new players (Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, etc.). No team went through more change over the offseason than the Miami Marlins. The Marlins are on a similar path as the two times the team won the World Series. Spend on players to build up the team for a run and then bring payroll back down. This is the third time in the organization’s short history it is on this route. I’m not saying the team is going to win the World Series in the next few years (partly because I wouldn’t say any team would), but it is going for it.

(To see an explanation of 2012 MLB team previews and release dates click here)

Over the offseason the Marlins added tons of money to its payroll. In 2011, the payroll was around $57 million. In 2012, the payroll may exceed $98 million. The club added SS Jose Reyes, LHP Mark Buehrle, RHP Heath Bell, and RHP Carlos Zambrano (the bulk of his contract is being paid by the Chicago Cubs). With the moves, the team will move up in the win column and the standings. The Marlins will be in the mix for the biggest win improvement from 2011 to 2012. The organization is banking on the newness and improvements around the organization to generate better fan support, revenue, and a better on the field product (*).

(*) With all the changes made in the organization it will not only be interesting to see how it effects the team on the field but also the Miami Marlins as a business. 

After the moves the Miami Marlins made in the offseason, the team was left with the most lethal left-side of an infield in Major League Baseball – new addition Jose Reyes at shortstop with Hanley Ramirez moving over to third base. There are questions about Reyes’ health and of Ramirez’s mental approach, but when both players are in the lineup, good things will happen. The starting lineup is further assisted by the artist formerly known as Mike Stanton, now Giancarlo Stanton. The 22-year old Stanton is coming into his third MLB season. He has already proven to have major raw power; it wouldn’t be a shock if he hit 40+ homers this season. Stanton is definitely a player the franchise is building around. Left fielder Logan Morrison is an interesting player and has had his moments (and has also clashed with the organization). First baseman Gaby Sanchez is solid and a bit underrated at his position. Emilio Bonifacio (center field), Omar Infante (second base) and John Buck (catcher) make up the rest of the starters. Jose Reyes will add another dynamic to this lineup. Miami potentially has three elite everyday players and the rest of the starters, as a whole, can contribute. The Marlins lineup should be improved from last season.

Josh Johnson’s health is vital to Miami’s legitimacy as a contender. When healthy, he is one of the best starting pitchers in the game. Johnson was only able to start nine games last season. He’ll be at the top of the rotation if he’s healthy. One of the Marlins several major pickups in the offseason was left hander Mark Buehrle who signed as a free agent. Buehrle is solid yet unexciting. He’s consistent year-to-year and will throw 200+ innings. The Marlins took a gamble giving him a four year contract averaging $14.5 million annually at the age of 33. In Miami’s changeover they also took Carlos Zambrano off of the Chicago Cubs hands (**). Zambrano had all kinds of issues with the Cubs; a change of scenery and a manager like Ozzie Guillen may help him find his way again. He’ll be 31 this year and he can still pitch when he’s right. The Marlins have those three big names, but they also have two above average, solid and somewhat underrated starters in Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez. If a few things break in the Marlins’ favor, the team has the potential to have one of the best starting rotations in baseball.

(**) Zambrano is owed $19.25 million this year. The Cubs are paying $16,450,000 of that.

The health of Josh Johnson is vital to the Marlins (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Another signing the Marlins made in the offseason was that of closer Heath Bell (***). Bell has been one of the best closers in the game the last few years. The status of former closer Juan Carlos Oviedo, AKA Leo Nunez, may be up in the air because he was playing under a false identity (****). The rest of Miami’s bullpen is not well known and is young. Most of the relievers had good numbers last year for the team.

(***) One of the themes from these previews is that I don’t like teams giving out big deals to relievers. Bell got a 3-year, $27 million deal at the age of 34. I’m not a fan of that contract.

(****) Everything is new with the Marlins. They have two players going under new names this season!

The Miami Marlins had a lot of change over the offseason. There’s a lot of reason to be excited in the short term with the new ballpark, new identity, and new players such as Jose Reyes. The organization opened its wallet at the right time, coinciding with the new ballpark. The acquisitions the Marlins made in the offseason should help the team quite a bit. It’s conceivable that Miami will be a playoff contender this season and in the next few years.

Offseason Moves:

Additions:

  • Jose Reyes (SS) – free agent
  • Mark Buehrle (LHP) – free agent
  • Heath Bell (RHP) – free agent
  • Carlos Zambrano (RHP) – trade with Chicago Cubs
  • Wade LeBlanc (LHP) – trade with San Diego Padres

Subtractions:

  • Chris Volstad (RHP) – trade with Chicago Cubs
  • Javier Vasquez (RHP) – unsigned
  • John Baker (C) – trade with San Diego Padres
  • Jose Lopez (IF) – signed with Cleveland Indians
  • Burke Badenhop (RHP) – trade with Tampa Bay Rays
  • Clay Hensley (RHP) – signed with San Francisco Giants

Projected Starting Lineup:

1. Jose Reyes – SS

2. Emilio Bonifacio – CF

3. Hanley Ramirez – 3B

4. Giancarlo Stanton – RF

5. Logan Morrison – LF

6. Gaby Sanchez – 1B

7. Omar Infante – 2B

8. John Buck – C

Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Josh Johnson – RH

2. Mark Buehrle – LH

3. Anibal Sanchez – RH

4. Ricky Nolasco – RH

5. Carlos Zambrano – RH

Projected Bullpen:

  • Heath Bell – RH
  • Juan Carlos Oviedo – RH
  • Mike Dunn – LH
  • Ryan Webb – RH
  • Randy Choate – LH
  • Steve Cishek – RH
  • Edward Mujica – RH

Projected Bench:

  • Brett Hayes – C
  • Donnie Murphy – IF
  • Gregg Dobbs – IF/OF
  • Chris Coghlan – OF
  • Bryan Petersen – OF

Variables:

  • Josh Johnson – A healthy Johnson may be the most important element to Miami’s chances at a playoff spot this season. If he does what he is capable of, the Marlins will have a legitimate top of the rotation starter.
  • Jose Reyes – Reyes’ health can be called into question like Johnson’s. When he’s in the lineup he will do series damage.
  • Hanley Ramirez – His health, mental approach, and adjustment to a new position are all up in the air. Last season is probably an outlier for him as he should bounce back; obviously, anything can happen.
  • Carlos Zambrano’s mental state.
  • Logan Morrison – He’s clashed with the organization but could be in line for a nice season if given a chance.
  • Giancarlo Stanton – I would be surprised if Stanton did not have a good year, so my question is how good will it be?
  • Newness – The Marlins underwent change all over the organization. It could effect the team in a variety of ways.

Fantasy Implications:

  • Hanley Ramirez – One of the most interesting players for fantasy baseball this year. He used to be a shoo-in as a top three overall pick, but he had a very poor 2011. He’s still a top 20 player but there are questions with him. His move from shortstop to third base adds another element to his fantasy value. Fantasy owners will be able to play him at either position early on in the season. If Ramirez returns to form he will contribute in every area.
  • Jose Reyes – He won’t help in the power department but he is a big-time stolen bases, runs, batting average performer. He also plays shortstop, a position that is often shallow in talent.
  • Giancarlo Stanton – Stanton is the third of Miami’s top 25 overall players. He’s sort of the opposite of Reyes. He has ridiculous power which is seen in his numbers. If he can hit in the .270 range that would help his value.
  • Gaby Sanchez – Won’t come near the huge numbers the first few tiers of first basemen will put up but he is a solid contributor. He’ll be undervalued.
  • Emilio Bonifacio – I doubt Bonifacio will be able to replicate last year. Still, he has three position eligibility (3B/SS/OF) and will provide stolen bases. If he’s near the top of the lineup his run totals will be helped out.
  • Logan Morrison – Has potential and will be drafted in basically every league. His season realistically could go a number of ways.
  • Josh Johnson – A lot of risk and tons of upside.
  • Starting rotation – Nolasco and Sanchez should be drafted in all standard fantasy leagues. If you wait on pitching they should be there to help. You know what you’ll get with Buehrle but he’s a better real life pitcher than fantasy pitcher. Zambrano may be worth a flyer late in the draft.
  • Heath Bell – It’s very unlikely Bell will end up on any of my fantasy teams. He’ll probably be drafted before I take a closer and I don’t want to pay the going rate.
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