The Marlins received a pair of encouraging news this week: Prince Fielder is heading to the Tigers and not the rival Nationals, and the word is official that Cuban prospect Yoenis Cespedes is a free agent.
It's no secret the Marlins have an interest in the 26-year-old who defected from Cuba last year and sought residency in the Dominican Republic, only to finally get it in recent days followed by his free agency status. Team president David Samson has vowed to pursue the young outfielder "right to the point of stupidity" and those words say a lot about how far the Marlins are willing to go to make a signing happen.
Why are they trying so desperately to lure Cespedes who recently struggled in a Dominican Winter League stint, going 5-for-35 (.143 BA) with 10 strikeouts (no walks) and just a single home run to show for?
It's really simple—the Marlins want to be able to bring in a marketable player, and being Cuban doesn't hurt as the ballpark is located in the Cuban community of Little Havana, just outside of Downtown Miami. And yes, the Marlins have brought in Jose Reyes but after failing to lure in the big marketing fish in Albert Pujols, this is their backup plan to try to build some buzz.
The Marlins already have an abundance of potential storylines boiling up surrounding each player on the team. Cespedes would garner loads of them and would give fans another player to be in awe about it. Scouts around the game have compared him to a Bo Jackson type based on his athletic ability and plate discipline/potential which any lineup including Marlins could use.
In baseball terms, Cespedes gives the Marlins more flexibility on the roster where lack of depth in an injury-riddled 2011 campaign crippled the team and saw them undergo a horrific collapse. Many see Cespedes being better suited for a corner outfield spot even though he is capable of manning center field, where the Marlins have the wider open spot. The team ultimately and for the time being will see it fit that he plays in center field.
Nevertheless, the Marlins can re-insert Emilio Bonifacio into the super-utility role and place him anywhere on the field (except catcher) which should prove valuable in countless ways. You could give Jose Reyes' legs a breather, something the Marlins will be monitoring to avoid wear-and-tear (literally) and to rest up Hanley Ramirez's shoulder as to not put more strain on it.
Cespedes also provides a bridge towards the outfield prospects the Marlins have including Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, neither of whom is expected on the big league roster until at least late 2013 or early 2014.
In terms of trade options, Cespedes entering the fold makes it easier for the Marlins to let go of outfielder Chris Coghlan and first baseman Gaby Sanchez via trade for improvements which is possible say at the trade deadline but more likely next offseason. The Marlins are going to have to move Logan Morrison back to first base as to avoid him getting banged up playing a position he isn't naturally suited for.
If and when Cespedes proves he is ready and if he is indeed with the Marlins, this is what a lineup could look like.
SS Jose Reyes
CF Yoenis Cespedes
3B Hanley Ramirez
RF Mike Stanton
LF Logan Morrison
1B Gaby Sanchez
C John Buck
2B Omar Infante
The bench wouldn't be all that bad either. Bonifacio, the NBA equivalent of a sixth man, would be expected to play in every game even when Cespedes is ready to get into the starting lineup. Brett Hayes, Bryan Petersen, Greg Dobbs, and Aaron Rowand are other bench options who could give the Marlins one of the better benches in all of baseball because of a possible Cespedes signing.
And lastly, who wouldn't want to see Cespedes' Star Wars-like movies prior to games for a quick laugh? I'm sure it will look out-of-this-world in the new ballpark's jumbotron.