Penny-pinching Marlins still competitive

Second baseman Dan Uggla was shopped by the Marlins in the off-season for financial reasons.
Second baseman Dan Uggla was shopped by the Marlins in the off-season for financial reasons.
Posted: January 15, 2010

How quiet has the Marlins' off-season been? Even major-league baseball has demanded that Florida spend more money on its roster.

Florida reached an agreement with MLB and the players' union Tuesday to increase its payroll by using more of its money received from revenue sharing. No one ever accused the Marlins of violating the revenue-sharing rules, which require teams to use that money to improve. Then again, no kind of statement like this has ever been issued by MLB.

It's fairly obvious why. Last year, the Marlins' payroll was $36.8 million - dead last in the majors.

Perhaps the first sign that the Marlins have gotten the message is that they recently have come to an agreement with ace pitcher Josh Johnson on a four-year, $39 million deal, according to reports.

Meanwhile, the Marlins have tried to shop second baseman Dan Uggla (90 RBIs) because he is due a raise.

So far, the Marlins' major addition this off-season has been Hunter Jones, a lefty who pitched in 11 games for Boston last season.

So, even with the lack of moves, here is where Florida stands:

2009 record: 87-75, second place, six games back - 772 runs scored, 766 runs allowed.

Last season in 140 characters or less: Lowest payroll in the majors? So what? Florida stuck around until September with a ragtag bunch of rookies and overlooked players.

In with the new: LHP Hunter Jones, RHP Clay Hensley, SS Donnie Murphy, RHP Scott Strickland.

Out with the old: RHP Kiko Calero, 1B Nick Johnson, RF Jeremy Hermida, RHP Brendan Donnelly, 1B Ross Gload, OF Alfredo Amezaga, RHP Matt Lindstrom.

Biggest move: Not trading Uggla. Uggla's moving was the hot rumor all off-season. With the second baseman due a raise in arbitration, the Marlins wanted to deal him. He was linked to various teams, but the Marlins had trouble finding an agreement they liked. Now, with the edict from the commissioner's office ordering the Marlins to spend more money, Uggla could well be on their opening-day roster - a development that seemed highly unlikely a few months ago. It's possible the Marlins and Uggla will agree on a one-year deal. The Marlins might then have him start the season with them, then try to move him before the trade deadline. He has his faults, especially on defense, but Uggla hit 31 home runs and drove in 90 runs last season.

Underrated move: Nov. 5, 2009 - traded Hermida to the Boston Red Sox for Jones and Jose Alvarez

The Marlins finally gave up on Hermida, a first-round draft pick in 2002. Hermida never hit more than 18 home runs in a season or post an OPS above .870 in a full campaign. He struck out too many times, and proved he wasn't an everyday player. So it's notable that the Marlins decided to cut ties with him - not so much for what they received in return but for what it means in the current outfield. Cody Ross will likely shift to right field for good, and Cameron Maybin will take over center field. Maybin, who was acquired in the Miguel Cabrera trade a few years back, started 2009 with the Marlins before being demoted midseason. But he dominated in triple A and then hit .293 in September after his recall to the majors. He looks ready to play regularly.

Projected starters: C John Baker. He started the majority of games and proved he could handle it. The Marlins will take a catcher with a .759 OPS.

1B Logan Morrison. He has never played above double A, but the Marlins believe he can win the starting job.

2B Dan Uggla. It has been a contentious off-season for Uggla, who wants a raise. That meant the Marlins tried to trade him - to no avail.

3B Jorge Cantu. He played most of the time at first last year. Third base is his to lose after a 100 RBI season.

SS Hanley Ramirez. He's one of the premiere players in the game. His steals (27) were down, but the batting average (.342) was way up.

LF Chris Coghlan. The reigning rookie of the year, Coghlan has excellent plate discipline and is a good top-of-the-order guy.

CF Cameron Maybin. The 22-year-old phenom struggled last season, but the job is his.

RF Cody Ross. The pesky outfielder finished with 24 home runs and 90 RBIs, both career highs. He strikes out a lot, though.

Projected rotation: RHP Josh Johnson. When healthy, Johnson is one of the most dominant around, and now he has that new $39 million deal.

RHP Ricky Nolasco. Home runs became an issue for Nolasco, but he remains a good strikeout pitcher.

RHP Anibal Sanchez. Durability is always the concern with Sanchez, who has never started more than 17 games in a season.

RHP Chris Volstad. He'll need a good spring to secure this spot. Control is the problem for Volstad.

LHP Sean West. The rotation is far from carved in stone. The last two spots are up for grabs among Volstad, West, Rick VandenHurk, Andrew Miller and Hayden Penn.

Key bullpen figures: RHP Leo Nunez. He took over the closer's role in midseason and saved 26 games after never having saved a game before in his five-year career.

LHP Renyel Pinto. He struck out 58 in 61 innings but walked 45. That needs to improve.

LHP Dan Meyer. Converted to a reliever full time, Meyer was impressive. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was 2.67.

RHP Brian Sanches. Someone needs to step in and replace Calero and Lindstrom. Sanches, the former Phillie, could be the guy.

The skinny: They don't spend much - ever - but the Marlins always find a way to compete. No, they have not made any notable additions, but there is still a little bit of time to do so. And even if the Marlins don't make any moves, they have a decent enough offense and rotation to stay in the race. But is there enough talent to do more than just hang around?


Keeping Pace

This week, Inquirer staff writer Matt Gelb will be analyzing the off-season moves and changes of the Phillies' rivals in the National League East.

Today: Florida Marlins

Tomorrow: Washington Nationals

Yesterday: New York Mets

Wednesday: Atlanta Braves


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.

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