Please check out the Hippeaux's weekly posts at SNY affiliate, It's About The Money.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Offseason Prospectus #20: The Florida Marlins

It was an interesting week for the Fish.  First, they got a symbolic tongue-lashing from MLB and the Player's Union for failing to fulfill obligation laid out in the Basic Agreement.  Whether or not the Florida franchise is being thrown under the bus in order to dissuade further and more wide-reaching accusations of collusion remains to be seen, but the Marlins took little time announcing their first concession, signing Josh Johnson to a $39 Million deal, which will take him through his arbitration years and beyond, in 2013.

What's interesting about this revelation is that although Florida's ownership, led by Jeffrey Loria, is certainly guilty of stinginess (in 2006 they fielded a team that made less than $15 Million), they are hardly the only franchise for whom that's the case, and they are among the few that have fielded consistently competitive teams, even with a miniscule payroll.  The Pirates spent only about $6 Million more than the Marlins in '09 and at least ten teams cut there overall expenditures, citing the tough economy, despite no evidence that their specific industry was suffering.  Tampa Bay, Washington, Oakland, Minnesota, and Kansas City are all among the teams which are consistently among baseball's most thrifty franchises.

In a practice typical of the antitrust-exempted MLB, the league has withheld revenue-sharing figures since 2005, perhaps to dissuade widespread rumors that some teams weren't even spending all of the money they took in as their share of the profits from, DirecTV, and the new MLB Network.  Bud Selig, of course, would point out that such accusations are without basis, which is convenient, since he's the only one with access to the data, which he refuses to share.  Florida is probably being scapegoated here in order to ameliorate the Union, which is showing the first signs of life since Donald Fehr stepped down last June.  Hopefully they won't be the only ones.

Free Agents:

Alfredo Amezaga (32) UT
Kiko Calero (35) RHRP
Brendan Donnelly (38) RHRP
Ross Gload (34) 1B [Signed w/ Phillies]
Nick Johnson (31) 1B [Signed w/ Yankees]

Arbitration Eligible:

Jorge Cantu (28) 3B
Ricky Nolasco (27) RHSP
Leo Nunez (26) RHRP
Ronny Paulino (29) C
Renyel Pinto (27) LHRP
Cody Ross (29) OF
Anibal Sanchez (26) RHSP
Dan Uggla (30) 2B

ETA 2010?:

Jose Ceda (22) RHRP
Hunter Jones (26) LHRP
Jai Miller (25) OF
Logan Morrison (22) 1B
Gaby Sanchez (26) 1B

The organization's most prided prospects, Mike Stanton and Matt Dominguez, are probably still a year or two from the show, but the Marlins will, as usual, field a team full of young, high-octane talent.  The 2009 Rookie of the Year, Chris Coghlan, who they converted into an outfielder last spring, will likely stay in left instead of moving back to his natural position, second base, as incumbent second-baseman, Dan Uggla, is likely to be retained after last week's allegations of illegitimate frugality.

Cameron Maybin is no longer a rookie, as he's had brief auditions in each of his last three seasons, but he's only 23-years-old and should finally be in Florida to stay, after a strong showing in September (855 OPS).  Flanked by Coghlan and Cody Ross, the Marlins should have a strong, speedy outfield defense.

There will be true rookie at first base.  Gaby Sanchez will probably get the Opening Day start.  Sanchez is a bit old for a rookie, at 26, and he doesn't have the power many expect from the position (.485 career SLG in minors), but he is an incredibly disciplined hitter who walked more than he struck out over the course of his minor-league career, plays good defense, and even has a little speed.  Sanchez's upside could be Mark Grace.  On the other hand, he could be Casey Kotchman, in which case we might get a peek at Logan Morrison in the second half.  Morrison has also displayed extraordinary discipline (64 BB/48 K in '09), but profiles for more power and is about four years younger than Sanchez.

It probably shouldn't surprise me that Florida chose to use Josh Johnson to demonstrate their willingness to hand out big contracts.  Johnson is, after all, on the verge of becoming one of the National League's best starting pitcher, coming off a 15-5 campaign.  My fear, however, is that prior to 2009, Johnson had made only eighteen starts in two years, following Tommy John surgery.  Hopefully, he will be among the group of pitchers who never look back, guys like Chris Carpenter, Mariano Rivera, and, well, Tommy John.  But, then again, there's that other, less notable group as well, which includes Brandon Backe, Kris Benson, and Chris Capuano.

The Marlins relatively quietly won 87 games in 2009, which made them the sixth best team in the NL.  No household names are leaving this offseason and the team is filled with young players who could actually improves, so what's to keep them from breaking the 90-win plateau and reaching the playoffs in 2010?  Well, I predict that their fortunes lie with the bullpen.

Florida's bullpen wasn't dominating in '09, yet this offseason they've acted as though they had an excess, sending Matt Lindstrom to the Astros, and so far failing to resign two of the best relievers from last season: Kiko Calero (1.95 ERA, 60 IP) and Brendan Donnelly (1.78 ERA, 25 IP).  The Marlins still have Leo Nunez (4.05 ERA, 26 SV), Renyel Pinto (3.23, 61 IP), Dan Meyer (3.09, 58), and Brian Sanches (2.56, 56), but several new faces will need to emerge in order for the Marlins to have a real shot at the Wild Card in '10.

Projected 2010 Opening Day Roster:

LF Chris Coghlan (L)
1B Gaby Sanchez (R)
SS Hanley Ramirez (R)
2B Dan Uggla (R)
RF Cody Ross (R)
3B Jorge Cantu (R)
CF Cameron Maybin (R)
C John Baker (L)
SP Josh Johnson (R)

SP Ricky Nolasco (R)
SP Anibal Sanchez (R)
SP Chris Volstad (R)
SP Sean West (L)

CL Leo Nunez (R)
SU Kiko Calero (R)
SU Jose Ceda (R)
MR Renyel Pinto (L)
MR Brian Sanchez (R)
LOOGY Dan Meyer (L)
SWING Andrew Miller (L)

C Ronny Paulino (R)
1B/3B Wes Helms (R)
IF/OF Emilio Bonifacio (S)
OF Brett Carroll (R)
OF Jai Miller (R)

No comments: