Thursday, December 3, 2009

Florida Marlins---Hot Stove Preview

  • Winter Preview----Florida Marlins:

Time for another Marlins housecleaning and reloading.

What they need: A power outfield bat; a veteran starting pitcher; bullpen help, specifically a veteran who can close if necessary; a backup catcher.

Free agents: RHP Kiko Calero; RHP Brendan Donnelly; 1B/OF Ross Gload; 1B Nick Johnson; RHP Luis Ayala

Both Calero and Donnelly were typical Marlins scrapheap pickups from whom they managed to get some valuable use. Calero had a fantastic year----durable and effective against both lefties and righties. No way he's back.

Donnelly was languishing in the minors, bouncing from club to club when he was recalled by the Marlins and automatically took a major role as a set-up man and even notched a couple of big saves. He might be back.

Gload wants to return to the Marlins and they want him back, but sheer finances and his value make that unlikely. Gload had a load of big hits off the bench for the Marlins and should get at least a 2-year deal from someone. He'd be a great fit for the Mets, the Phillies and the Braves to name three teams. Gload was born in Brooklyn and I have a feeling he'll wind up with the Mets.

Nick Johnson showed why he's in demand and is a massive risk all in the span of one season. He had an excellent season for both the Marlins and Nationals, hit well and played solid defense and got on base. He also got hurt with a strained hamstring late in the season, severely compromising the Marlins playoff run. Someone will sign him to a good multi-year deal. He won't be back.

Ayala gives up a lot of homers, but he has use as a set-up man. He might be back.

Players available via trade: 1B/3B Jorge Cantu; 2B Dan Uggla; SS Hanley Ramirez; RHP Josh Johnson; OF Cody Ross; C Ronny Paulino; RHP Brian Sanches; RHP Matt Lindstrom; LHP Renyel Pinto; RHP Ricky Nolasco

It's a cycle with the Marlins----and a successful one----that once their players start to make big money, they clear the decks and extract the best minor leaguers or underappreciated talents from whomever they're trading with. After two years of contention and overachievement (at least in the eyes of the stat zombies----I'm still waiting for props for my accurate call on the Marlins this year; I'm not holding my breath), it's time for another housecleaning. And that includes everyone on the roster.

Cantu and Uggla will both be moved. After being dumped by the Rays and Reds literally for nothing, Cantu rejuvenated his career with the Marlins. He's a determined, clutch power hitter and racks up the RBIs.

Uggla is nothing if not consistent. A team acquiring him knows what they're going to get----hard nosed play, poor defense, power and strikeouts. He won't be looked at as simply a second baseman either. Teams in need of a first baseman or corner outfielder will want to make a move on Uggla as well.

You hear endless stuff about Ramirez and Josh Johnson not being on the block. Maybe not, but they are available for the right price and that price would be steep. I don't think they'll be traded this off season, but they're in play if someone calls the Marlins and wants to chat.

What a shock! Another productive player the Marlins got for nothing in Cody Ross can be had via trade. Ross is arbitration-eligible, is due a giant raise from his $2.25 million salary and will be moved.

Paulino is arbitration-eligible, had a fine year splitting time with John Baker and is a useful all-around player. They can find someone to replace him in a flooded market. There is a chance he stays and I think he will.

Sanches, Pinto and Lindstrom are all arbitration-eligible. Sanches and Pinto's salaries aren't likely to be so expensive that the Marlins will dump them; I say they stay. As for Lindstrom, there will be teams lining up to get their hands on his 100-mph fastball. I still do not know what was going through Mets GM Omar Minaya's head when he traded Lindstrom for the hideous Jason Vargas. Lindstrom's going to be traded.

Nolasco pitched so horribly early in the season that he wound up back in the minors after winning 15 games in 2008. It woke him up and he pitched very well from June to the end of the season. He's arbitration-eligible and due a big raise from his $2.4 million salary. Unless they're bowled over with offers, he and Johnson will be with the Marlins to start the season when they'll be held up for auction if the team struggles.

Non-tender candidates: OF Alfredo Amezaga

Amezega's about to turn 32 and doesn't do much of anything to justify the raise he'll get in arbitration from his $1.3 million salary. Gone.

Players to pursue:

Via free agency: RHP Rich Harden (Cubs); C Ramon Castro (White Sox); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); LHP Joe Beimel (Rockies); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); C Yorvit Torrealba (Rockies); RHP Brandon Lyon (Tigers); RHP Fernando Rodney (Tigers); RHP Doug Brocail (Astros); C Miguel Olivo (Royals); RHP Carl Pavano (Twins); RHP J.J. Putz (Mets); OF/1B Xavier Nady (Yankees); C Jose Molina (Yankees); RHP Justin Duchscherer (Athletics); INF Bobby Crosby (Athletics); RHP Pedro Martinez (Phillies); RHP Brad Penny (Giants); SS Khalil Greene (Cardinals); RHP John Smoltz (Cardinals); C Rod Barajas (Blue Jays)

The Marlins don't jump capriciously into free agency, but they do mine the market for bargains on mutually advantageous contracts. Harden, Penny, Bedard and Smoltz fall into this category as starting pitchers.

Pavano had his greatest success with the Marlins and we know he likes the beach.

A veteran closer would be a useful asset to the Marlins and Putz, Rodney and Lyon would presumably be willing to act as set-up men/tutors for the ultra-talented Leo Nunez and/or Lindstrom.

Greene's value couldn't be any lower after the rotten years he's had on and off the field in recent years----he's a perfect fit for the Marlins on a low-cost flier.

They may or may not need a backup catcher who can play relatively regularly. Castro and Olivo are both former Marlins. Torrealba and Barajas fill that bill as well.

Via trade: RHP Joba Chamberlain (Yankees); RHP Phil Hughes (Yankees); C Jesus Montero (Yankees); RHP Clay Buchholz (Red Sox); RHP Daniel Bard (Red Sox); RHP Michael Bowden (Red Sox); SS Casey Kelly (Red Sox); INF Gordon Beckham (White Sox); RHP Matt Harrison (Rangers); LHP Derek Holland (Rangers); RHP Neftali Felix (Rangers); RHP Brandon Morrow (Mariners); LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith (Mariners); RHP Kyle Drabek (Phillies); LHP J.A. Happ (Phillies); OF Michael Taylor (Phillies); Jayson Heyward (Braves); Tommy Hanson (Braves); RHP Bobby Parnell (Mets); RHP Mike Pelfrey (Mets); OF Fernando Martinez (Mets); RHP Jason Motte (Cardinals); 3B Josh Vitters (Cubs); SS Starlin Castro (Cubs); SS Alcides Escobar (Brewers); 3B Mat Gamel (Brewers); OF Matt Kemp (Dodgers); LHP Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers); RHP Jonathan Broxton (Dodgers); RHP James McDonald (Dodgers); OF Dexter Fowler (Rockies); OF Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies); RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies); LHP Madison Bumgarner (Giants); RHP Chris Young (Padres); RHP Heath Bell (Padres)

Yeah, these are the top prospects/young players from any and every organization that would or should have interest in Josh Johnson and/or Hanley Ramirez.

You want 'em?

Give it up.

And the Marlins do not miss when they target a prospect and there's very little ambiguity or negotiation.

"You want ? You gotta give me ."

We'll see what happens and who's willing to give up the biggest package(s) for the Marlins superstars. Teams would be well-served to back away from Roy Halladay and go after Johnson. It's going to cost a huge package of the whole farm system anyway and they won't have to dole out the contract extension that Halladay will require to keep him.

Don't be stunned to see a massive Marlins BLOCKBUSTER sometime during the winter. You heard it here.

  • Braves sign Billy Wagner:

In a good deal for both sides, the Braves solved their closer problem by signing the veteran Wagner to what amounts to a 2-year deal. He's guaranteed $7 million next year with a vesting club option of $6.5 million that kicks in if he finishes 50 games in 2010.

Wagner will get to pitch in the South and close to his Virginia home for a team that promises to be a legitimate pennant contender next year and he's better than both Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez.

That said, the Braves should know what to expect from Wagner. He looked very good for the Mets and Red Sox after returning from Tommy John surgery and I'd expect him to stay healthy for the two years----Wagner keeps himself in great shape. He'll rack up most of his save opportunities during the season, but if they're expecting him to get big outs in September and October, they'd better be prepared to walk the tightrope.

While there are big game closers you can trust----Mariano Rivera, Bobby Jenks, Jonathan Papelbon----there are the next tier who you don't know what they'll do in a playoff or playoff-type game. Those guys are Trevor Hoffman, Joe Nathan...and Billy Wagner.

Believe me when I say this because it was Wagner's blowing Game 2 of the NLCS in 2006 that was one of the major factors that cost the Mets the World Series. I've seen it firsthand and if the Braves know this going in, they won't be shocked when it happens to them.

  • Viewer Mail 12.3.2009:

Mike writes RE Brian Cashman:

I agree that in the past cashman has been quite the prospect hugger--but let me ask you a question. I was shocked that he didn't offer damon arbitration. I just can't see Boras letting him accept so now Cash is losing those prospects. any thoughts on this?

It was a shock that he didn't offer Damon arbitration. I would think that it'd be a very cost-effective thing to do if Damon didn't get the offers he wanted on the market; but considering the year Damon had and that it's highly unlikely that he's going to repeat those numbers again, a strategy of going on a "1-year deal and try free agency again" simply wouldn't make sense for Damon at age 36. I'd think that in the worst case scenario, someone----the Mariners, the Giants, the Cardinals----would offer Damon at least a 2-year deal, so he wouldn't have even accepted arbitration. It's a little weird that they declined to make the offer.

This might be a sign that the Yankees are playing it cool, acting like they're out of the big free agent market and will quick strike at Matt Holliday just as they did with Mark Teixeira last year.

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Brad Lidge and the lack of free agent action:

I CANNOT WAIT for the rips to begin on Lidge again in 2010. I got so used to dipping into the neverending pile of Lidge jokes that I don't think I could handle him being good again.

Your take on the odd new angle by executives during the offseason is something to certainly think about. Most analysts are blaming the economy for the non-action and it seems that the front offices are going to ride this excuse -- and all its tentacles -- to the very end.

I truly don't know which Lidge will show up. And nor do the Phillies.

As for the economy, this can't be classified as collusion if no one's paying out for the big players. And if even the Yankees and Red Sox are holding their fire, players and their agents are going to panic sooner rather than later. You can't argue with teams not wanting to spend a load of money on a certain player when they could find similar production for a fraction of the cost; I just don't want to hear about the coveted draft picks when they ain't all that coveted if you go by history.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Jason Giambi:

I like the idea of Giambi taking the place of Stairs on the Phillies. He probably takes a lot more walks and he can still belt HRs off the bench. Besides, I miss the 'stache.

Unless an American League team thinks Giambi can contribute as a DH for 85 or so games, he's not going to have much choice but to take a Matt Stairs-type situation; and why not go to a contender like the Phillies, Braves, Giants, Dodgers or Cardinals as a lethal lefty bat off the bench?

Franklin writes RE free agency:

I actually think most of the posturing is to lower the prices of free agents.

It's not a bad strategy to be honest; and since they have to come up with an excuse, I guess the draft pick theory isn't out of this world ludicrous, but people who know the success rate and cost of prospects can tear apart the theory with little effort. The thing is, this attempt to hold down costs looks like it's working!

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