Phillies' NL East foes: Rebuilding year for Marlins

Phillies' NL East foes: Rebuilding year for Marlins
February 5, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Our four-part series sizing up the Phillies’ NL East foes continues today with the Miami Marlins.

The last 16 months for the Marlins have been filled with drama ... everywhere except the field. Let’s review:

Sept. 29, 2011: Marlins trade two minor-leaguers to the White Sox for manager Ozzie Guillen.

Nov. 11, 2011: Team name officially changes from “Florida Marlins” to “Miami Marlins.” New logo and uniforms follow.

Dec. 5, 2011: Heath Bell signs in Miami for three years, $27 million.

Dec. 7, 2011: Marlins sign Jose Reyes to a six-year, $106 million contract.

Dec. 9, 2011: The Marlins’ $191 million week ends with a four-year deal for veteran lefty Mark Buehrle.

Jan. 5, 2012: Marlins acquire temperamental right-hander Carlos Zambrano from the Cubs.

April 4, 2012: Brand new Marlins Park opens and the Fish lose, meagerly, 4-1 to the Cardinals.

May 6, 2012: A day after blowing his fourth save in seven chances, the Marlins demote Bell from the closer’s role. Bell later says he lost respect for Guillen because of the undefined role, and recognizes that his teammates probably lost respect for Bell because of the way he handled the situation.

June 30, 2012: After winning a franchise-record 21 games in May, the Marlins finish an 8-18 June that drops them to three games under .500.

July 4, 2012: Despite being four games under .500, the Marlins celebrate Independence Day by trading for 36-year-old first baseman Carlos Lee. Lee hits .243 in Miami with just four home runs, and the Marlins spend the next three months trying to unload him.

July 23, 2012: Now seven games under .500, the “braintrust” of owner Jeffrey Loria, president David Samson, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and GM Michael Hill pulls the plug on the 2012 season, trading Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit for prospects.

July 25, 2012: Two days later, the Marlins trade former batting champion Hanley Ramirez, once regarded as a superstar and untouchable, to the Dodgers for salary relief and a mediocre young pitcher in Nate Eovaldi.

Aug. 20, 2012: Showtime cancels The Franchise, a reality series following the Marlins, after seven episodes. “There was an option to do more but given the state of our season, it was decided that the original [seven] would suffice,” team president Samson tells the Palm Beach Post.

Oct. 20, 2012: The Heath Bell experiment ends as the Marlins trade the embattled closer to Arizona in a three-team deal. Bell’s one season in Miami: 19-for-27 in saves, 5.09 ERA, 1.56 WHIP.

Nov. 13, 2012: As news trickles out that the Marlins are planning a huge salary dump-off, star rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton tweets: “Alright, I’m pissed off!!! Plain and simple.”

Nov. 19, 2012: The Marlins complete yet another firesale and close the book on their spending spree from a year earlier by trading Reyes, Buehrle, right-hander Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and utilityman Emilio Bonifacio to the Blue Jays for seven players. A pure salary dump.

And that leads us to present times. The Marlins opened 2012 with a $102 million payroll. As of Tuesday, their 2013 payroll is $37.3 million.

The latest firesale will surely impact attendance at Marlins Park in 2013. The new stadium was supposed to draw more fans because of its novelty and a retractable roof that prevents nightly rain delays, but the stadium was at less than 74 percent capacity in 2012, drawing just 27,400 fans per game. The Fish were still toward the bottom of the league in attendance, but it was an upgrade over 2011, when they sold 48 percent of tickets.

Offense
Juan Pierre is projected to start in left field and lead off. Placido Polanco is penciled in as the two-hitter and third baseman.

Stanton is a monster who practically any player in the majors would trade bodies and skill sets with. He has 50-homer potential, but he won’t be pitched to in 2013. He is Miami’s only legitimate weapon, and he’ll be protected in the order by either Logan Morrison (a disappointment so far) or 2012 surprise Justin Ruggiano.

The Marlins’ projected starters at second base (Donovan Solano), shortstop (Adeiny Hechavarria) and catcher (Rob Brantly) have a combined 566 plate appearances at the big-league level.

Greg Dobbs is the only notable bench player.

This is going to be one of the worst offenses in the majors.

Starting pitching
Ricky Nolasco is still around despite Miami’s best efforts to unload him. He currently accounts for 31 percent of the Marlins’ 2013 payroll.

Aside from Nolasco, the Marlins will trot out four unknowns: righty Henderson Alvarez, lefty Wade LeBlanc, Eovaldi and right-hander Jacob Turner, who was acquired in the Sanchez-Infante trade.

This is going to be one of the worst starting rotations in the majors.

Bullpen
Lanky, deceptive right-hander Steve Cishek is back as closer after saving 15 games with a 2.69 ERA last season.

Mike Dunn and Ryan Webb will be the primary setup men. The rest of Miami’s bullpen is up for grabs, and will feature four names few baseball fans have ever heard of. Among the candidates: Dan Jennings, Chris Hatcher, Scott Maine, Tom Koehler, A.J. Ramos, Brad Hand, Jonathan Albaladejo.

Season outlook
This isn’t a 2012 Oakland A’s situation where a team with very few recognizable names goes on to win a division. Oakland had tremendous pitching in a pitcher's park.

The Marlins have no rotation depth, little offense and a bullpen filled with question marks. It’s clearly a rebuilding year for Miami, and 2014 probably will be, too.

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