Miami Marlins Roster Battles: 3 Most Intriguing Spring Position Battles
There are many different faces in the new Miami Marlins clubhouse for the 2012 season. The team went through a complete overhaul with the additions of Ozzie Guillen, Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Carlos Zambrano.
After outspending much of the league including both the Yankees and Red Sox this offseason, the Marlins find themselves with added pressure and expectations they normally wouldn't face. With a new look and new attitude, the two-time World Series champions plan on making a splash in their state-of-the-art ballpark on Opening Day.
Here are the three most intriguing spring position battles with these new-look Marlins.
Carlos Zambrano's Role in the Rotation
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After a rocky finish with the Chicago Cubs, Carlos Zambrano is looking for a fresh start with the Marlins. Ozzie Guillen is rolling the dice and taking a gamble on a player he thinks he can help contain.
When in check, Big Z has everything you want in a starting pitcher with a career average ERA of 3.60. Over the course of his 11-year career, Zambrano has won 10 or more games seven times. He's also capable of creating a mess on the field and in the locker room.
Zambrano averaged a career-high 4.82 ERA last season and was shipped to Miami for Chris Volstad in one of the first moves made by new Cubs GM Theo Epstein.
It will be interesting to see what type of player shows up in Miami. Either Guillen's risk will prove to be a reward or Theo Epstein will look more like a genius by unloading Zambrano at the right time.
Heath Bell and Juan Oviedo
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The first major signing in the free-agency period for the Marlins was the signing of closer Heath Bell. After three straight 40 save seasons, Miami rewarded Bell with a three-year deal worth $27 million.
The move was supposed to solidify the bullpen that was left vacant after former closer Leo Nunez was placed on the restricted list towards the end of last season due to fake identification documents. Following the Bell signing, reports showed the Marlins signed Juan Oviedo (formerly Nunez) to a one-year deal.
Many tend to forget how productive Oviedo was as a closer prior to his legal issues. In the past three seasons, Oviedo lead the team with 92 saves and was the anchor in the Marlins bullpen.
Many questioned the Marlins signing of Bell with his declining age, strikeout rate and velocity on his pitches. If Bell struggles during the season and Oviedo finally finds a way back to the MLB, look for there to be competition in the Marlins bullpen.
The Development of Matt Dominguez
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The biggest signing and most talked about move the Marlins made this offseason was acquiring SS Jose Reyes from the division rival New York Mets. The arrival of Reyes moved All-Star Hanley Ramirez to 3B in an effort to make room for both players to exist in the same lineup.
Reports have been that Ramirez has been exceeding expectations thus far with his new position. The Marlins seem to have no room for one of their top prospects and former first-round pick, Matt Dominguez. After being drafted 12th overall in the 2007 amateur draft, many expected Dominguez to be the 3B of the future for the club.
Dominguez finished with 12 HR and 55 RBI in just 87 games last season in the minors and has shown glimpses of potential Gold Glove-caliber defense.
A lot can change with the Marlins and their new-look infield. Reyes has battled injuries in recent years and Ramirez will provide insurance at the SS position.
If given the chance to play, Dominguez could prove to be an upgrade defensively and add even more clutter at 3B. It seems as though the Marlins are set at SS and 3B for the time being, but keep a close watch on Dominguez and his development this season in the team's farm system.