Offseason In Review: Miami Marlins

The Marlins quieted skeptics by signing three of the top 20 free agents, improving the chances of a winning season under manager Ozzie Guillen as their new ballpark opens.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades and Claims

Notable Losses

The Marlins made some noise this winter.  They've associated with Miami rather than all of Florida, marked by an interesting new logo.  They've finally got a baseball-only stadium, complete with a retractable roof and an aquarium behind home plate.  They've got baseball's most colorful manager, too.  The team's eventful offseason began with a trade to acquire manager Ozzie Guillen from the White Sox for a trio of prospects.  Jhan Marinez and Osvaldo Martinez aren't considered top prospects, but they are potential useful pieces.  The commitment to Guillen was probably as much about generating buzz as it was about finding the best possible leader.

Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest clearly had a mandate to push the team's payroll to new heights by signings the best players available.  Extra money was suddenly burning a hole in the Marlins' pocket, but they were limited to what was available in the store this particular winter.  I mentioned in October that the Marlins' biggest needs were the rotation, center field, and third base, but the best two free agents were first basemen.

The Marlins kicked off the Winter Meetings by overpaying Heath Bell.  The 34-year-old closer continued to rack up saves last year, but his strikeout rate dropped signficantly.  Beinfest, typically so good at finding cheap closers, paid a major premium for the save statistic for a reliever who may have begun his decline.  Jonathan Papelbon was the only other reliever to sign for three or more years this offseason.

In the case of Jose Reyes, the Marlins' creativity was wise.  They pursued him aggressively, pushing Hanley Ramirez's questionable shortstop defense to the hot corner.  Ramirez seems better-suited for third base at this point in his career, and a decent season from him would top any third baseman the Marlins could have acquired.  Reyes represented the rare available shortstop in his prime, and he'll be worth the money if the Marlins can just keep him moderately healthy.

The Marlins needing starting pitching badly, with Javier Vazquez showing no interest in playing in 2012.  They targeted Buehrle or C.J. Wilson, and Wilson's agent Bob Garber said the Marlins "would not let it go."  The Marlins were rightly willing to commit significantly more to Wilson than Buehrle, but Wilson took a discount to go to the Angels.  That left Buehrle as the best available free agent starter, but only for a couple of days until Yu Darvish would be posted.  The Marlins were never connected to Darvish, preferring the dependable, unspectactular Buehrle.

The Winter Meetings also included the Marlins' pursuit of Albert Pujols.  Acquiring Pujols would have meant trading Gaby Sanchez, and a useful trade chip would have been welcome given the team's remaining needs.  The Angels overshadowed the Marlins' Meetings by inking Pujols and Wilson on the final day.  The Marlins were apparently willing to offer $200MM+ to Pujols, but showed little interest in Prince Fielder.

Buehrle would effectively replace Vazquez in the team's 2012 rotation, but Beinfest (and perhaps Guillen) couldn't resist pulling Zambrano out of an ugly situation in Chicago.  Despite Zambrano's complete lack of trade value, the Marlins gave up a pitcher of value for him in Volstad.  Maybe everyone wins from a change of scenery, but Volstad is probably the better pitcher right now and is under control for 2013.  This trade was a head-scratcher from the Marlins side. 

Center field was addressed internally with Emilio Bonifacio, a reasonable gamble given the lack of alternatives on the market.  The Marlins pursued Yoenis Cespedes aggressively, but they wanted a commitment of more than four years.  Plus, Cespedes doesn't necessarily fit with a win-now mentality.  The Reyes signing certainly improved the Marlins, and losing Vazquez and Volstad for Buehrle and Zambrano is probably a wash in the rotation.  Although the Marlins overpaid for Bell, they needed some kind of bullpen addition since Juan Carlos Oviedo (the former Leo Nunez) is a question mark due to identity fraud.  With healthy seasons from Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins should be in the thick of the NL East race.

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18 Comments on "Offseason In Review: Miami Marlins"

3 years 5 months ago

Volstad a better value than Zambrano? Lol, you’ve clearly never seen Volstad pitch. Basically Zambrano’s worst season is still better than Volstad’s prime season. AND we got the Cubbies to pay for the majority of the contract. That trade clearly favored the Fish.

3 years 5 months ago

I couldn’t agree more…i laughed when I read that.  Volstad the better pitcher…ha! The head scratcher was the comment if you ask me…

3 years 5 months ago

Volstad was better in 2011.  Zambrano: not an innings guy, not a strikeout guy, not a control guy, not a groundball guy, not a velocity guy, not a clubhouse guy.  On which aspect of Z am I wrong?

3 years 5 months ago

Volstad also is none of the above, only noted mainly as “subject to the long ball”…in Sun Life that is scary.

Additionally, Zambrano had a career low season…Volstad had a career average season at best. 

That comment is like saying that Ian Desmond is a better short stop right now than Hanley Ramirez (if he were still a SS) based on last year.  Desmond had career average numbers, Hanley had career lows…

Hope that helps…i think that’s where everyone’s head is going.

3 years 5 months ago

Volstad is indeed a groundball pitcher.  He had a 3.84 SIERA, so if his skills stay the same that should be the expectation.  I understand what people think of Zambrano, and I think the perception is too heavily influenced by ERA.

3 years 5 months ago

Pitching wins and their lack of it will hurt them. Buehrle is a .500 pitcher at best.
The Big Z comment is strange. Every GM in the bigs knows he is better than Volstad. Can’t blame Theo orders from above

3 years 5 months ago

JJ is top 5 pitching talent in MLB when healthy…
Buerhle is a solid #2 on pretty much 95% of teams
Sanchez is an ace on many teams…thrown a nono and two one hitters in the past 3 years…
Big Z is one season removed from #2 pitcher stats
Nolasco is a solid inning eater with an average over 200+ innings logged and struck out nearly 8 per 9 over his career…

Where is the lack of pitching again?

Clayton Wilson
3 years 5 months ago

 “Big Z is one season removed from #2 pitcher stats”

Maybe in terms of ERA, but his WHIP was actually higher in 2011 than it was in 2010. For some reason he was able to limit runs extremely well in the 2nd-half of 2010 despite putting quite a lot of men on base. If he can give them a 150 innings and an ERA around 4.50 they’ll be fine.

I more or less agree with you about their pitching, but they do lack SP depth and Zambrano, Sanchez, and Johnson have dealt with numerous injuries in the past(Sanchez has been durable these last two years though, but he did say recently that he pitches through pain in most of his starts). One or two of their starters go down and they could be in trouble in such a stacked division.

3 years 5 months ago

Volstad and Zambrano pretty much had the same season last yea. The difference is though, last year was likely Volstad’s peak season. If you look at Zambrano’s track record you can make a strong case that his last season was an abberation. Have fun with fly ball pitcher Volstad in that tiny play pen at Wrigley.

3 years 5 months ago

 His groundball rate ranked 8th in the NL.

Jeffrey Nicola
3 years 5 months ago

It doesn’t matter! At least there is a somewhat chance Zambrano might go back to his old self whilst Volstad hasn’t even gone a full season pitching under 4.58.

3 years 5 months ago

Tim, I really believe that Zambrano is the better pitcher. I am from Vernon Hills, Il myself, and I understand how frustrated Cubs fans became with him. However, I think that paying a guy like Zambrano $2.5 million is better than wasting a roster spot on a guy like Volstad who will probably never post an ERA under 4 again. Honestly, Volstad isn’t an innings guy either, he never pitches well enough to stay in a game past the 6th. This trade is a steal for the Fish in my eyes. They unloaded a pitcher with little upside and got a guy who is entering a contract year needing to prove himself, and they let the Cubs pay his contract. That’s just my opinion though…

3 years 5 months ago

Marlins dished out quite a bit of money this off-season, whether the investments will pay out is yet to be determined… Marlins are only two injuries(Johnson and Reyes) away from finishing near the bottom of the East

3 years 5 months ago

Sippin’ the Haterade as usual huh?  Always hatin’ on the fish…

Alot of teams are in that same boat…difference is JJ and Reyes out Marlins are still head and shoulders above the Mets.

Take Strasburg and RZimm out and you too are in trouble, especially considering the minor differences between the Braves, Phils, Fish, and Nats.

Clayton Wilson
3 years 5 months ago

Yep, so many injury risks among key players for those 4 teams. If Utley misses significant time, there really isn’t much of a difference between those 4 on paper.

3 years 5 months ago

I think the Mets pretty much have the bottom of the East locked up. And as for the injury comment, I’m pretty sure every team is an injury or two away from being near the bottom of the division (see Chipper, Hayward; Utley, Howard; Strasburg).

3 years 5 months ago

I can’t think of another team whose best case scenario and worst case scenario (barring major injuries to multiple stars) varies so much. I wouldn’t be surprised if this team stays healthy and relatively drama-free and wins 100+ games, and it wouldn’t shock me either if a couple injuries and way too much drama hamstrings them into only winning 84. This team is a huge wild card this season and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. So much talent and so many headcases

John Berry
3 years 5 months ago

they are both horrible pitchers..