The Miami Marlins charged into 2012 with a new stadium, a bevy of free agents, a new manager and a $118 million dollar payroll. During a Titanic like season, core players Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez and Gaby Sanchez were traded. Following the season, the fire sale was completed when the Marlins shed about $160 million in salary obligations in a trade with the Blue Jays.
Shedding expensive players in the name of rebuilding is not always a poor choice. However Jeffrey Loria just stuck Miami and Dade County taxpayers with a huge chunk of the cost for Marlins Park. According to Forbes Magazine
“The stadium’s financing scheme means there will be some $3 billion in interest expenses on the construction loans that will be paid by city and county taxpayers.”
The Miami Marlins trade with the Blue Jays symbolized how far and fast the Marlins had fallen. Last year’s big free agent Jose Reyes was packaged with starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle and valuable utility man Emilio Bonifacio for a package of young players and prospects.
Three of the players received from the Jays may have an impact in Miami in 2013 or the near future. Adeiny Hechavarria is projected to be the Marlins starting shortstop. He features Gold Glove caliber defensive skills but is not a proven hitter. Starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez went 9-14 with a 4.85 ERA in 31 starts for Toronto. Center fielder Jake Marisnick was the top rated prospect in the trade, but will likely begin 2013 in Double-A.
The Marlins pieced together the rest of their roster by signing retreads like Placido Polanco to play third base. Possibly to remind the dozens of loyal Marlins fans of their last title, Juan Pierre was signed to a one year free agent contract and will get an opportunity to start in the outfield.
Now that Loria has reversed course and made the Marlins a small market team once again, there is little hope for 2013. Besides the Pink Flamingoes home run sculpture, the only reason to go Marlins Park is Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton may have the most pure power in baseball, but nobody will throw him a strike in this lineup.
The Marlins starting rotation leaves much to be desired. Ricky Nolasco, who sports a career 4.49 ERA is the most accomplished of the bunch and will serve as the top starter. The bullpen is not much better. Steve Cishek has been an effective reliever for the Marlins, getting 15 saves in 2012. This will be his first season as the full time closer. Jon Rauch was signed as a free agent in the offseason to set up for Cishek. He had a 3.59 ERA in 57.2 IP for the Mets in 2012.
The best hope for the Miami Marlins and their fans lay in the farm system. Christian Yelich is Baseball America’s #15 prospect entering 2013, he could be starting for the Marlins by July. Hard throwing Cuban Jose Fernandez is Baseball America’s #5 prospect entering 2013. He is considered a future ace and could be in Miami by midseason.
But for the near future, things look bleak for the Marlins. A successful season would be beating the Mets for fourth place in the NL East and manager Mike Redmond staying silent on the subject of Fidel Castro.