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Power Ranking the Contracts of Every Miami Marlins Player

Cheng SioContributor IJanuary 14, 2017

Power Ranking the Contracts of Every Miami Marlins Player

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    Who has the most friendly Miami Marlins contract? It could be Giancarlo Stanton, left, or Jose Fernandez, or it could be a different Marlin...
    Who has the most friendly Miami Marlins contract? It could be Giancarlo Stanton, left, or Jose Fernandez, or it could be a different Marlin...Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    Outside of a few last-minute signings here and there, the Miami Marlins' Christmas shopping for the 2014 season is nearly complete.

    The Marlins have potentially upgraded their offense with the signing of the 14th-best free agent on this year's market, according to ESPN.com, and they supplemented that by adding a three-time All-Star who won the 2000 National League Rookie of the Year, a left-handed hitter who has smacked at least 15 home runs in each of the last five seasons, and a third baseman who hit .292 with 28 homers last season—albeit in Japan.

    The organization also made a few other moves such as non-tendering relief pitcher Ryan Webb and outfielder Chris Coghlan, and executing trades that sent outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Chicago Cubs and first baseman Logan Morrison to the Seattle Mariners

    Now that the dust has almost settled, the Marlins' financial situation slowly becomes clearer by the day. Outside of three arbitration-eligible players—hearings are scheduled between Feb. 1-21—the Marlins have contracts for 37 of the team's 40-man roster complete.

    With that said, it's time to assess every Marlins player's contracts in power ranking form.

    However, there is one twist. Whereas most power rankings are completed in ascending form, this will be done is descending form. After all, we want to save the Marlins best contract for last...

The Only Poison Pill

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    Realistically, Greg Dobbs is probably the only bad contract owned by the Miami Marlins.
    Realistically, Greg Dobbs is probably the only bad contract owned by the Miami Marlins.Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    No. 40: Greg Dobbs' contract, $1.7 million for one year

    When you have a team whose payroll isn't expected to exceed $45 million, it's hard to find a bad contract. 

    In fact, Dobbs' contract might be the only bad one the Marlins have this season.

    Dobbs is known throughout his career as a quality left-handed pinch hitter who provides a strong veteran clubhouse presence, which is why Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal said the Marlins declined to trade him to the Atlanta Braves during the trade deadline in July 2012.

    Dobbs can play first and third base, although not particularly well enough to hold down an everyday job. That was evident last season when Dobbs was forced into starting duty, where he had a slash line of .231/.304/.312 in 51 starts.

    The last time Dobbs was even remotely major league average was in 2008 when he had a slash line of .301/.333/.491 with nine home runs and 40 RBI in 128 games with the Philadelphia Phillies. Since then, he hasn't had an OPS+ of over 100, which is league average, nor a positive WAR (wins above replacement level).

    Now, paying someone $1.7 million to be a pinch hitter might not be much...if you're the New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers. But for the cash-strapped Marlins, paying someone $1.7 million to sit on the bench the majority of the time is misguided at best and ludicrous at worst.

    Oh, and did we mention a source told the Sun-Sentinel's Juan C. Rodriguez Dobbs' contract was negotiated by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria unbeknownst to his top baseball officials?

They Have Major League Experience, but What Else?

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    Oh how the mighty have fallen. Rob Brantly was once considered the Marlins catcher of the future, but now he might start the 2014 season in the minors.
    Oh how the mighty have fallen. Rob Brantly was once considered the Marlins catcher of the future, but now he might start the 2014 season in the minors.Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    No. 39: Brian Bogusevic

    No. 38: Jimmy Paredes

    No. 37: Rob Brantly

    No. 36: Chris Hatcher

    These four players have accumulated at least one year of service time, but where they begin the year is anyone's guess, which is why even though they will make the major league minimum, they have four of the worst contracts on a team that barely has one.

    Think about it, what good is making the major league minimum when you can't reach the majors? Moreover, even if one of these players reach the majors again, they would not have the six years of service time still available to the Marlins.

    Bogusevic, who arrived from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Ruggiano, will be 30 years old when spring training begins and, as of right now, he is expected to be the team's fourth outfielder—he can play all three outfield positionsif the Marlins send Jake Marisnick or Marcell Ozuna back to the minors to begin the season. If not, then there may not be a place for Bogusevic, who has a .236/.313/.370 slash line in parts of four years of major league experience. Unlike Paredes, Brantly and Hatcher, Bogusevic will be arbitration eligible after the 2014 season.

    Paredes is a 25-year-old utility player who was claimed off waivers from the Houston Astros. During his career, he's played second base, third base, left field and right field while producing a .234/.274/.311 slash line in parts of three years of major league experience. With other guys such as Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas ahead of Paredes in terms of utility players, Paredes will be hard-pressed to see the majors.

    When the Marlins acquired Rob Brantly at the trade deadline in 2012, he was considered to be the their catcher of the future, especially since he produced a .290/.372/.460 slash line in 113 plate appearances after he was promoted to the majors. But in 2013, Brantly fell from grace as his slash line was .211/.263/.265 in 243 plate appearances, which included his demotion to the minors. When the Marlins signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia, it signified Brantly will probably start the season in Triple-A New Orleans.

    In each of the last three seasons, Hatcher began the season in the minors before being called up when the Marlins needed help. With the departure of Webb and Chad Qualls, there might be an opening for Hatcher to claim a spot in the bullpen. But even if he makes it, it's doubtful the Marlins will entrust Hatcher with high-leverage innings right off the bat given Hatcher's 7.22 career ERA in 33 2/3 innings.

These Guys Have Had Their Cup of Coffee in the Big Leagues...

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    No. 35: Sam Dyson

    No. 34: Edgar Olmos

    No. 33: Arquimedes Caminero

    No. 32: Brian Flynn

    No. 31: Brad Hand

    The difference between the next five players on this list and the previous group of players is service time. These five guys have already seen the major leagues but have yet to accumulate more than a year of service time.

    For a club like the Marlins, where every penny counts and every year of team control matters, these five players' contracts have slightly more value.

    Dyson was acquired off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays last January, and in his call-up to the majors this past season, Dyson gave up 11 earned runs in 11 innings pitched in five appearances (one start). Dyson is expected to contend for a spot in the starting rotation this spring.

    Olmos is homegrown as he was drafted in the third round of the 2008 draft. The left-handed reliever finally made his major league debut last June against the Philadelphia Phillies when he got Ryan Howard to ground out with the bases loaded and two outs.

    Unfortunately, Olmos gave up a walk-off grand slam to John Mayberry Jr. the next night, which prompted his younger brother to cry for 10 consecutive minutes. Olmos could be in competition to be the team's second left-handed option out of the bullpen in the spring.

    While Olmos (0-1, 7.20 ERA in five appearances) struggled somewhat in his brief time with the Marlins, Caminero excelled to the point where Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun-Sentinel believes Caminero could settle into that innings-eater bullpen slot or even vie for a late-inning setup job this season. Caminero is a power pitcher who had a 2.77 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched last year.

    Flynn came to the Marlins in the same trade that brought back Brantly and Jacob Turner, and he had a fantastic season in the minors last year (7-12, 2.63 ERA in 161 innings), which earned him a promotion to the majors as a September call-up. However, Flynn struggled with the big league club as he went 0-2 with a 8.50 ERA in four starts. According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins believe the left-hander became fatigued in September, which is not uncommon for players who had never previously reached the big leagues.

    As for Hand, it seemed like the third time is the charm. Hand, also a left-hander who was a September call-up last year, went 1-1 with a 3.05 ERA in seven appearances (two starts). The 23-year-old also pitched for the Marlins in 2011 and 2012, going 1-9 with a 4.95 ERA in 13 starts.

    Frisaro says Flynn and Hand are two of the many left-handed candidates in the mix for rotation spots.

Minor Leaguers Waiting for Their Shot at the Big Leagues

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    No. 30: Michael Brady

    No. 29: Grant Dayton

    No. 28: Kyle Jensen

    No. 27: Brent Keys

    No. 26: Angel Sanchez

    No. 25: J.T. Realmuto

    No. 24: Jose Urena

    The Marlins purchased the contracts of Brady, Dayton, Keys, Sanchez, Realmuto and Urena in November so they would ensure not to lose these players to the Rule 5 Draft. As a result, these players are on the 40-man roster.

    Jensen was added to the 40-man roster under similar auspices in November 2012. 

    Brady is old for the minor leagues as he will be 27 years old when the season begins. However, Rodriguez believes Brady is a name to watch as someone who could be a part of the Marlins bullpen in 2014. In the last three years, Brady has accumulated 63 saves with a 2.28 ERA. He also struck out 200 batters in 169 2/3 innings.

    Like Brady, Dayton is old for the minors as he's currently 26 years old. A left-hander, Dayton has been a reliever since the Marlins drafted him out of Auburn in the 11th round of the 2010 draft. According to this video, Dayton relies on a fastball-slider combination and his fastball sits in the low 90s.

    Jensen is also old for the minors as he will turn 26 during the season, but he has a quality the Marlins lack: Power. Jensen has hit 97 home runs in the past four seasons, but he's profiles more of a three true outcomes hitter. Jensen is a career .263 minor league hitter with a .346 on-base percentage, but he's also struck out 608 times in 2,310 plate appearances.

    Furthermore, Jensen plays the outfield, and the Marlins are already stacked with Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Ozuna and Marisnick. Frisaro said he expects to see Jensen at first base. It could happen if Garrett Jones struggles against left-handed pitching as Jensen bats right-handed. 

    Brady, Dayton and Jensen are no longer considered prospects, which is why they were rated lower. Keys, though, is the Marlins' No. 17 prospect, according to MLB.com. Keys is an outfielder, which doesn't bode well given the guys ahead of him, but he's a 23-year-old speedster who won the organization's Minor League Player of the Year.

    Keys won the Florida State League batting title with a .346 average in 95 games with Single-A Jupiter a year after winning the South Atlantic League batting crown (.335) with Single-A Greensboro. His .346 mark was the highest in Jupiter team history, besting Logan Morrison's .332 average in 2008. He also led the FSL with a .418 on-base percentage and ranked second in hits.

    Sanchez, 24, is the team's No. 10 prospect after he was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Ricky Nolasco deal at the trade deadline. Sanchez went 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA, plus 42 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings in 10 starts for High-A Jupiter. MLB.com states Sanchez's fastballs can touch 95 mph with good movement, but his secondary stuff is more inconsistent, though he's shown glimpses of a strong, tilting slider and an effective changeup.

    Realmuto struggled in 2013 as his slash line was .239/.310/.353 with five home runs and 39 RBI in 416 plate appearances, but he's the club's No. 7 prospect. Realmuto, who will turn 23 when the season begins, is considered a strong defender, but it remains to be seen if he might be the team's catcher of the future.

    Urena is the best of the bunch, and there's good reason for that. Urena, who finished 10-7 with a 3.73 ERA for Jupiter in 27 games (26 starts) in 2013, is only 22 years old and relies on his explosive fastball that he throws consistently for strikes. MLB.com states Urena's slider should be at least average with some cut and deception to it, and he's working on a changeup that he'll need in order to remain a starter. At worst, Urena could be an effective reliever with the fastball-slider combination.

The Guy with the Injury Bug

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    Can Rafael Furcal stay healthy? The Marlins are betting $3.5 million Furcal will stay on the field.
    Can Rafael Furcal stay healthy? The Marlins are betting $3.5 million Furcal will stay on the field.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    No. 23: Rafael Furcal's contract, $3.5 million for one year plus incentives

    On the surface, this is a great deal.

    Furcal brings a wealth of experience, has reached the playoffs 12 times in 14 seasons and has agreed to move from shortstop to second base. For $3.5 million, that's a bargain. And pairing Furcal with shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria could make for great theater.

    Heck, even rival organizations like the addition. Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Sun-Sentinel's Juan C. Rodriguez:

    Having him next to Hechavarria, you’re going to have to hit bullets through that infield. If Fuki is Fuki, and I believe at second base he’s going to be just fine, you’re going to have to hit line drives through that infield.

    However, there are serious red flags.

    Furcal is 36 years old, hasn't had a complete season since 2006 (.300/.369/.445, 15 home runs, 63 RBI in 159 games) and missed all of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and has played more than 120 games just once in the last four years. Although Furcal told the Marlins he should be ready to go come spring training, Furcal has not played second base in almost a decade. He last played second base in 2004 with the Braves and has made just 36 appearances at that position.

    The problem with Furcal isn't the potential upside he brings—it's the enormous downside. If Furcal gets injured again and is out an extended amount of time, then the investment becomes a sunk cost. The New York Yankees or the Los Angeles Dodgers might be able to swallow the $3.5 million they would lose if Furcal is seriously hurt, but for a cash-strapped team such as the Marlins, it's money they cannot afford to waste.

    Now, if Furcal stays healthy, manager Mike Redmond has already told MLB.com Furcal will be the club's leadoff hitter.

These Pitchers Could Play Major Roles, But...

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    No. 22: Dan Jennings

    No. 21: Carter Capps

    No. 20: Tom Koehler

    Each of these three guys are two years away from being arbitration eligible and should have roles on the team if the season started today, but they are no sure things.

    Among the three, Jennings has the least upside. After compiling a 1.89 ERA in 22 appearances in 2012, that nearly doubled in 2013 as he had a 3.76 ERA in 47 appearances. Jennings will probably be the team's second left-handed option out of the bullpen again, although don't be surprised if he starts the season in the minors, which has been the case each of the last two years.

    Capps, on the other hand, might have the most upside. Capps, who was acquired last month in the Morrison trade, is just 23 years old but has had extensive experience in the big leagues with mixed results. After producing a 3.96 ERA in 18 appearances in 2012, Capps' ERA rose to 5.49 in 2013. That said, Capps has struck out 94 batters in 84 career innings.

    What Capps lacks in results, he can make up with pure heat as he boasts a fastball that has reached triple digits to go along with a deceptive delivery. Capps complements the fastball with a hard slider and a developing changeup. If Capps fulfills his potential, he could be the guy that gets the ball to closer Steve Cishek.

    But first, the Marlins must fix Capps' issue. President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill told Rodriguez:

    Our scouts identified something in his delivery that we will address immediately that I think will allow him to return to the dominant form we saw in 2012. We saw glimpses of it last year also, but we're not worried at all that he won't be an effective back-end reliever for us.

    Koehler doesn't have Capps' upside and he's not left-handed such as Jennings, but he might provide the most value as a starting pitcher. Frisaro said Koehler is a front-runner to be one of the team's starting pitchers, but he will have to earn his place. Last season, Koehler was 5-10 with a 4.51 ERA in his 23 starts.

The Mentor

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    No. 19: Jeff Mathis' contract, $1.5 million for one year with $1.5 million team option for 2015

    On any other team, Mathis might be a sunk cost.

    But on the Marlins, a team whose top four pitchers were younger than 24 years old, Mathis was a godsend.

    Although Mathis' lack of offense has prevented him from being an everyday option, evidenced by the .181/.251/.284 slash line he produced in 2013, he is a solid defensive catcher who guided the young Marlins pitching staff to a 35-35 record in games Mathis started behind the plate.

    Now that the Marlins have signed Saltalamacchia, Mathis will go back to being the backup, which should suit him well.

    Moreover, Mathis can be a late-inning defensive replacement, and he should get the brunt of the starts against left-handers as Saltalamacchia struggles against southpaws, producing a .206/.267/.332 slash line with 16 home runs in 645 plate appearances as a right-handed hitter. Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter.

Welcome Back to America

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    No. 18: Casey McGehee's contract, $1.1 million for one year with performance bonuses ($50,000 each for 300, 350, 400, 450, 500, 525, 550, 575, 600 plate appearances)

    McGehee is a low-risk, high-reward signing, but the Marlins still shelled out at least $1.1 million for McGehee. For many teams, $1.1 million is chump change. For the Marlins, $1.1 million is a tidy sum.

    Nonetheless, McGehee, who is expected to start at third base, could very well be worth it.

    McGehee spent 2013 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan’s Pacific League and hit .292 with 28 home runs and 93 RBI in 144 games. Before going to Japan, McGehee hit .221 with 22 home runs and 108 RBI in 269 games between 2011-12 seasons. 

    McGehee told the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer and Barry Jackson of his experience in Japan:

    I committed to being really stubborn in my approach at the plate. I started to realize the home runs and the power numbers showed up a lot better when I wasn’t going up there with that as the sole purpose of my at-bats.

    If McGehee has learned his lessons, then he might give the Marlins numbers similar to what he produced in his first two seasons in the majors. From 2009-10, McGehee hit .291 with 39 home runs and 170 RBI in 273 games.

The Utility Guys

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    Donovan Solano, left, and Ed Lucas could play pivotal roles as utility players with the Miami Marlins in 2014.
    Donovan Solano, left, and Ed Lucas could play pivotal roles as utility players with the Miami Marlins in 2014.Marc Serota/Getty Images

    No. 17: Ed Lucas

    No. 16: Donovan Solano

    No. 15: Derek Dietrich

    If everything goes as planned, then Furcal and McGehee would shoot up these rankings. But even the best-laid plan can go wrong.

    Because of such a possibility, the contracts of Lucas, Solano and Dietrich are extremely valuable. If Furcal and/or McGehee pans out, then the Marlins have affordable, versatile bench options in Lucas and Solano while Dietrich continues to progress in the minors. If one of the veterans don't pan out, the Marlins have options available on team-friendly contracts.

    It took Lucas 10 years to reach the big leagues, but when he got the call, he did whatever was asked of him. Lucas played first base, second base, shortstop and left field, but the position he played the most was third base (61 appearances). His defense was solid as he accumulated a 1.1 WAR defensively. Lucas wasn't great with the bat, but he was good enough as he produced a .256/.311/.336 slash line with four home runs and 28 RBI in 94 games. 

    Solano played second base and third base in 2013, but he can play shortstop and left field in a pinch. Although he didn't hit as well in 2013 (.249/.305/.316) as he did in 2012 (.294/.342/.375), Solano is another option for the Marlins. The negative for Solano is he could be eligible for arbitration after the 2014 season as a Super 2 player whereas Lucas wouldn't be eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, but Solano is nearly six years younger than Lucas.

    The wild card in all of this is Dietrich. The left-handed hitting second baseman has power, which the Marlins need. Dietrich played just 57 games for the Marlins last season, but he hit nine home runs, which was good for third on the team. However, he struggled to hit for average as his slash line was .214/.275/.405.

    Frisaro said he felt Dietrich was rushed to the big leagues last May when Solano went on the disabled list. After some early success, Dietrich struggled and was optioned to Double-A after going into a slump. That said, Frisaro said Dietrich will be in spring training competing for a position on the 25-man roster but will likely open the season at Triple-A New Orleans so he can play every day rather than come off the bench in the big leagues.

Who Is the Center Fielder?

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    Marcell Ozuna will enter Spring Training as the favorite to start the season as the Marlins center fielder.
    Marcell Ozuna will enter Spring Training as the favorite to start the season as the Marlins center fielder.Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    No. 14: Jake Marisnick

    No. 13: Marcell Ozuna

    Two players. One spot.

    When Marisnick arrived from the Toronto Blue Jays in the 12-player fire sale trade in November 2012, Marisnick was considered the best of a host of young players the Marlins acquired. While Marisnick showed what he was capable of in the minors with a slash line of .289/.350/.489 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI in 313 plate appearances, Marisnick struggled in the majors as his slash line was .183/.231/.248 in 118 plate appearances. 

    Furthermore, Marisnick underwent left knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and remove a piece of loose cartilage the day after the regular season ended. 

    The 22-year-old Marisnick is still considered a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder thanks to great speed and a strong armbut his hitting needs to catch up to his defense. Because of this, Frisaro predicts Marisnick likely will open at Triple-A New Orleans rather than come off the bench in Miami.

    This also means Ozuna is the front-runner to be the team's starting center fielder, barring a huge spring from Marisnick.

    Ozuna began his career hitting more like a five-time batting champion instead of a rookie, producing a slash line of .330/.371/.459 through the end of May. However, like all youngsters, Ozuna hit a wall and struggled, producing a slash line of .223/.259/.343 the rest of the way before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a ligament tear and avulsion fracture in his left thumb in late July.

    But now, Ozuna seems healthy. Frisaro reports Ozuna has been playing center field in winter ball in the Dominican Republic, and his thumb seems to be fine. Moreover, it seems Redmond is keen to the idea of hitting Ozuna fifth in the batting order, in between Saltalamacchia and Jones.

A Luxurious Closer

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    As good as Steve Cishek has been, he's becoming an "expensive luxury" for the Miami Marlins.
    As good as Steve Cishek has been, he's becoming an "expensive luxury" for the Miami Marlins.Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    No. 12: Steve Cishek's contract, $3.2 million for one year projected by mlbtraderumors.com

    After a slow start, Cishek ended the 2013 season looking like a possible lockdown closer.

    Cishek ended the season with a 4-6 record and a 2.33 ERA to go with his 34 saves. In the process, Cishek set a Marlins record by converting 29 consecutive save opportunities to end the season and set an NL-high 62 games finished, according to USA Today.

    Whatever Cishek's salary will actually be in 2014, he will probably be paid accordingly. But on a "cash-strapped" team that is years away from contending, paying a closer a projected $3.2 million is akin to buying a Porsche on a $26,000 annual salary.

    The Chicago White Sox, who are also rebuilding like the Marlins, took a different approach and traded their closer, Addison Reed, to the Arizona Diamondbacks for third base prospect Matt Davidson last month. Reed was a year away from arbitration and the White Sox flipped him for someone whom they would control for six years. That's smart roster and financial management.

    Now, if the Marlins make a run at .500—let alone a wild-card spot—then keeping Cishek might be well worth it. But if the Marlins lose at least 90 games, Cishek would then be just a luxury the Marlins didn't need. 

Not Paid Like a LOOGY

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    Good, hard-throwing left-handed relievers are hard to find. Although he'll make decent money, Mike Dunn might be worth every penny for the Marlins.
    Good, hard-throwing left-handed relievers are hard to find. Although he'll make decent money, Mike Dunn might be worth every penny for the Marlins.Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    No. 11: Mike Dunn's contract, $1.4 million for one year projected by mlbtraderumors.com

    In this case, Dunn is a smaller scale version of Cishek—at least financially.

    When you're the Marlins, paying any reliever more than the major league minimum is not sound fiscal responsibility. But a couple of items work in Dunn's favor.

    For starters, Dunn is a quality left-hander, which is hard to find regardless if they are starting pitchers or relievers. Also, Dunn was a workhorse last season as he had a team-best 18 holds while establishing a career high with 75 appearances and posting a 2.66 ERA, according to USA Today. Thus, Dunn is not a LOOGY (Lefty One-Out Guy).

    And with Webb and Qualls gone from the bullpen, Dunn will be that much more important bridging the gap from the starting pitchers to Cishek.

    So while paying a projected $1.4 million is a lot of money—by Marlins standards—Dunn will also be worth it as long as he continues to be an effective workhorse.

The Champ Comes Home

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    No. 10: Jarrod Saltalamacchia's contract, $21 million for three years ($6 million in 2014, $7 million in 2015, $8 million in 2016)

    After winning the 2013 World Series with the Boston Red Sox, Saltalamacchia decided to come home by signing with the Marlins last month. In fact, at the introductory press conference, Saltalamacchia called the union between himself and the Marlins a "perfect fit."

    We wouldn't go as far, but it does seem like a great fit. 

    Saltalamacchia is familiar with his surroundings as he's a Palm Beach County native who grew up watching the Marlins and whose home is a short 20-minute drive away from the Marlins' spring training complex at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. And with the Marlins looking for an upgrade at a premium position, the Marlins had little hesitation giving Saltalamacchia a three-year deal compared to others who were interested in the 28-year-old catcher.

    Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill told MLB.com's Joe Frisaro

    He's 28 years old, so a third year for him is not the same as a mid-30s catcher"I think going into it, you have in your mind what you're willing to do for a player. Just knowing how important he is, we talk about upgrading our offense and upgrading our catching.

    Frisaro expects Saltalamacchia to hit cleanup or fifth in the Marlins batting order. More importantly, the signing shows the Marlins can attract free agents even after the 12-player fire sale trade a little more than a year ago. 

    And while Saltalamacchia knows he's going from a World Series winner to a club that lost 100 games, he seems to have a sense of humor, which could be important during trying times in the Marlins rebuilding efforts. In his message to Red Sox fans, via boston.com, shortly after he signed with the Marlins, Saltalamacchia's first line was hilarious before thanking Red Sox Nation for his time with the city.

    I was going to say that I’ve made the decision to take my talents to South Beach but I heard that someone took that line already.

    There are two tiny issues with Saltalamacchia.

    One, while his contract is of great value in general, he will probably earn far more money than any Marlin not named Giancarlo Stanton on a team with a $45 million payroll. If payroll stands as is during Saltalamacchia's tenure, then his salary will represent between 13-18 percent of the team's payroll. That's a lot of space taken up for someone who has never been as All-Star and whose OPS-plus has never surpassed 100 (league average) until last season.

    The other potential issue is catchers get a lot of wear and tear on their bodies. In fact, as WEEI's Rob Bradford mentioned, Saltalamacchia experienced back woes during the 2013 season, even undergoing an epidural shot. The health concerns made some wonder why a 28-year-old with Saltalamacchia's resume hadn't signed when older (Brian McCann, Carlos Ruiz and A.J. Pierzynski) or less accomplished (Dioner Navarro) catchers had already signed new contracts.

    Saltalamacchia isn't a perfect fit, as he claimed, but he might be the closest thing to perfect the Marlins were going to find in this year's free-agent market.

Some Much-Needed Left-Handed Thunder

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    With a modest two-year deal, Garrett Jones could be a good investment by the Marlins.
    With a modest two-year deal, Garrett Jones could be a good investment by the Marlins.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    No. 9: Garrett Jones' contract, $7.75 million for two year ($2.75 million in 2014, $5 million in 2015)

    At one less year and $13.25 million less in guaranteed money, Jones' contract is a better value than Saltalamacchia's. In fact, Jones' signing allowed the Marlins to put Morrison on the trade block, which resulted in the Marlins acquiring Capps.

    As Frisaro states, Jones gets some security and the Marlins add a cost-effective left-handed power bat. Thus, it was a wise investment for a player who has hit more than 20 homers three times in his career, especially on a team starved for left-handed power, and has played in at least 144 games in each of the past four seasons.

    President of baseball operations Michael Hill told Frisaro:

    At the beginning of our offseason, our goal was to upgrade our offense. In Jones, we feel like we've added a consistent, productive bat to our ballclub.

    Jones, meanwhile, seems anxious to get the season started even though he went from a playoff team (Pittsburgh Pirates) to a cellar dweller. 

    “It’s a team that can shock the baseball world this year,” Jones told the Miami Herald.

    The biggest chink in Jones' armor is his ability to hit left-handed pitching. The first baseman has a career slash line of .193/.234/.344 with 16 home runs in 526 plate appearances against southpaws, compared to a slash line of .271/.337/.489 with 86 home runs against right-handers.

    That said, the Marlins have acknowledged Jones' splits and are committed to giving him increased playing time. But even if Jones needs a platoon partner, the Marlins got a very good deal.

Finding Jacob

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    No. 8: Jacob Turner's contract, $1 million for one year with $1 million team option for 2015

    When Jacob Turner signed his major league deal four years ago as the ninth overall pick of the 2009 draft, it had a clause where if Turner was eligible for arbitration in 2014 or 2015, he can use that to override the $1 million team options.

    For 2014, Turner couldn't trigger the clause as he's had a little over a year of service time in the majors. Thus, Turner's contract is very team-friendly.

    In 2013, Turner finished with a 3-8 record but a very respectable 3.74 ERA in 20 starts. That said, it was a very up-and-down year.

    Turner began last season in the minors as the Marlins felt he struggled with consistency and command during spring training, so instead of risking more inconsistency at the big league level, the Marlins sent the 21-year-old to Triple-A New Orleans, according to MLB.com. But when Turner was promoted in late May, Turner came back with a vengeance.

    In six starts between May and June, Turner went 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA. However, that started the downward trend.

    In July, Turner went 1-3 with a 3.86 ERA. In August, the ERA ticked up to 4.18. And then in three September starts, Turner's ERA ballooned to 8.16.

    Despite the poor performance as the season wore on, Frisaro said Turner is a front-runner to one of the five spots in the starting rotation, but he will have to earn it. At $1 million, Turner is a bargain as long as he's in the starting rotation.

Big Man with Big Stick Finally Getting Big Money

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    No. 7: Giancarlo Stanton's contract, $4.8 million for one year projected by mlbtraderumors.com

    Depending on how arbitration goes, if it even goes that far, Stanton could be the team's highest-paid player in 2014. Frisaro and Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan both said Stanton's salary could increase from $537,000 to the $7 million range.

    Despite the worst season since his rookie year in 2010, Stanton still managed to smash 24 home runs to go with 62 RBI and a slash line of .249/.365/.480 in 116 games in 2013. Keep in mind that outside of Christian Yelich, Stanton had no one consistently getting on base hitting in front of him or protecting him hitting behind him. 

    The Marlins have tried to rectify that this offseason with the additions of Furcal, McGehee, Saltalamacchia and Jones. 

    Redmond told MLB.com.

    We just want him to relax. Last year, I think he probably felt like he needed to do it all offensively. As a former player, whenever you feel like you have to do that, it usually doesn't end up good. I think for him to be successful, we just want him to go out there and just have fun and play his game. He's so talented. He means so much to our lineup and to our organization. We just want him to go out there and just do his part with no pressure.

    If Stanton returns to form, he could match his 2012 numbers when he blasted 37 home runs with 86 RBI while producing a slash line of .290/.361/.608 in 123 games. By the way, Stanton is 37 home runs away from tying the team record of 154 home runs set by Dan Uggla.

    The better question regarding Stanton is the one many have asked for more than a year: Will Stanton stay or go?

    Frisaro says the Marlins have yet to reach out to Stanton's representatives about a multiyear deal. While Frisaro wouldn't rule out a long-term contract being extended, it appears the most likely scenario is he Stanton will be signed only for 2014.

    Even if Stanton signs a long-term deal, he will continue to have suitors (such as this Christmas-theme article by the Boston Globe's Christopher L. Gasper, saying the only big-ticket item the Red Sox want is Stanton) and we will continue to be tortured with ridiculous trade rumors (such as Peter Gammons supporting MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian's idea of the Los Angeles Dodgers offering Yasiel Puig and anyone but Clayton Kershaw for Giancarlo Stanton) because these are the Marlins and their unofficial slogan is no player is off limits.

A Wizard with the Leather

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    No. 6: Adeiny Hechavarria's contract, arbitration eligible after 2015 season

    After signing a major league contract worth $10 million over four years with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010, Hechavarria's deal expired and he's now under team control for two years before being eligible for arbitration.

    If the Marlins pay him anywhere close to the major league minimum, then he's slotted in the right place. If the Marlins somehow pay him close to what he earned in 2013, which was $1.75 million, then he's about five to 10 spots higher than he should be. 

    In his first full season in the big leagues, Hechavarria was dismal offensively, producing a slash line of .227/.267/.298 in 578 plate appearances. Thankfully for him, the Marlins believe he is a special defensive player.

    According to Frisaro, the Marlins think Hechavarria is a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop who demonstrated athleticism and flare while earning the praise of his teammates and coaching staff. 

    Hechavarria will be a liability offensively until his hitting improves. Frisaro reports Hechavarria has been working on an up-the-middle approach this offseason, and the team hopes it carries over into next season. But until he shows positive results, Frisaro predicts Hechavarria will continue to hit in the bottom of the team's batting order.

Next Man Up

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    A.J. Ramos might have more responsibilities in 2014, which makes him all the more valuable given his contract status.
    A.J. Ramos might have more responsibilities in 2014, which makes him all the more valuable given his contract status.Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    No. 5: A.J. Ramos' contract, arbitration eligible after the 2015 season

    Normally, relievers are easily replaceable. But given Ramos has just completed his rookie season, he holds one of the most valuable contracts in the Marlins organization, especially given his probable role in 2014.

    Ramos finished 2013 with a 3-4 record and a 3.15 ERA in 80 innings pitched, making him one of 23 rookies to reach that threshold exclusively out of the bullpen since 2000. Moreover, Ramos struck out 86 batters, which Frisaro said were the third most of all rookie relievers. 

    If the season began today, Rodriguez said Ramos likely would open as the Marlins’ primary eighth-inning guy now that Webb and Qualls are no longer here. 

    If Ramos fails to hold down the role, Capps could pick up the slack. Even if that were to happen, Ramos would still have one of the more valuable contracts the Marlins possess.

A Future Batting Champion?

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    No. 4: Christian Yelich's contract, arbitration eligible after the 2016 season

    In terms of position players, Yelich's contract gives the Marlins, by far, the best value as the Marlins still have all six years of control. More importantly, Yelich proved during his short time in the majors that he belongs. 

    The Marlins promoted Yelich last July and he flashed his potential by producing a .288/.370/.396 with four home runs and 16 RBI in 273 plate appearances. After the flurry of free-agent signings, Redmond announced Yelich would hit second behind Furcal. Yelich never hit below third after he joined the Marlins.

    After such a good start to his professional career, Yelich is getting a head start for the upcoming season.

    Frisaro reported the 22-year-old left fielder has been doing basic baseball drills near his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and has been working out with minor league outfield coordinator Tarrik Brock. Now he hopes the sting of losing 100 games will help the team in 2014. 

    "It wasn't really a lost year," Yelich said. "We got some experience ... some valuable experience. We have a lot of young players who kind of found out what it was like being in the big leagues, myself being one of them. I can't speak for the whole year, because I was only there from the end of July. But you could see on certain nights that it was there. We've got great pitching. We've got great, young talent. Spring Training is going to be awesome. It's going to be exciting."

Mr. No-No

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    No. 3: Henderson Alvarez's contract, arbitration eligible after the 2014 season

    The guy with the no-no on the last day of the season has the third-most-valuable Marlins contract for a reason.

    Alvarez arrived in the 12-player fire sale trade and adjusted nicely to the National League. He finished 2013 with a 5-6 record with a 3.59 ERA in 17 starts after starting the season on the disabled list. Of course, the final game of the season was the highlight of Alvarez's career thus far.

    Alvarez pitched nine no-hit innings, but the no-hitter didn't become official until Stanton came rumbling home for the winning run on a Luke Putkonen wild pitch. Oh, and did we mention Alvarez was standing in the on-deck circle before Putkonen skipped a pitch past catcher Brayan Pena?

    “I thought to myself, ‘God, give me this inning, a hit or whatever, to win and get the no-hitter,” Alvarez told the Miami Herald.

    The Herald added Alvarez became the fifth Marlins pitcher to fire a no-hitter and first major league pitcher to deliver a no-no on closing day since the Angels’ Mike Witt pulled off the feat in 1984. His performance was also the first complete-game no-hit gem decided in walk-off style since Washington’s Virgil Trucks did it in 1952.

    Despite the great performance and the solid season, Alvarez still has one big issue. After striking out just 79 batters in 187 1/3 innings in 2012 with the Blue Jays, Alvarez fanned only 57 batters in 102 2/3 innings last season. He needs to miss more bats.

    Nonetheless, Alvarez is the probable No. 3 pitcher in the Marlins starting rotation, according to Frisaro.

     

Not All Men Are Created Equal

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    Nathan Eovaldi could be a huge part of the Marlins future as he still has four years of team control and the Marlins refused to trade him during the offseason even though they were desperate to add weapons to their anemic offense.
    Nathan Eovaldi could be a huge part of the Marlins future as he still has four years of team control and the Marlins refused to trade him during the offseason even though they were desperate to add weapons to their anemic offense.Marc Serota/Getty Images

    No. 2: Nathan Eovaldi's contract, arbitration eligible after the 2014 season

    On the surface, not much separates Eovaldi from Alvarez.

    But a closer look shows Eovaldi is slightly more valuable to the Marlins than Alvarez even though they both have the same contract situation and are separated by a mere two months in age.

    In 2013, Eovaldi posted similar numbers to Alvarez as he went 4-6 with a 3.39 ERA in 18 starts. Like Alvarez, Eovaldi began last season on the disabled list. However, his peripheral numbers are better as he struck out 78 batters in 106 1/3 innings, which shows a better ability than Alvarez to miss bats. 

    More importantly, though, the Marlins told other teams Eovaldi was not available as a trade option at the general managers meetings two months ago, according to MLB.com. This is significant because it came at a time when the Marlins were willing to part with some of their surplus pitching in hopes of landing impact hitters, but they kept Eovaldi off limits. The same could not be said of Alvarez. 

    Because he could miss more bats and coupled with the Marlins desire to keep him more than Alvarez, Eovaldi has slightly more value since almost everything else is considered equal.

The Phenom

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    No. 1: Jose Fernandez's contract, arbitration eligible after the 2015 season

    Where do we begin?

    The 2013 National League Rookie of the Year. Third-place finish in the NL Cy Young Award race. A sparkling 12-6 record and a 2.19 ERA with 187 strikeouts in 172 2/3 innings.

    From ESPN.com's Jayson Stark:

    His season ranks No. 1 in the live-ball era in adjusted ERA (177), opponent average (.182), opponent slugging (.265) and opponent OPS (.533). You can look that up. But there's more. He went 9-0, with a 1.19 ERA, in the psychedelic Fish Tank in Miami this year -- a home record matched only by Orel Hershiser (9-0, 1.08) among NL starters in the live-ball era.

    Fernandez's team went 18-10 when he pitched -- and a gruesome 41-90 when anyone else started. He was the first rookie starter with a WHIP under 1.00 (0.98) since baseball lowered the mound in 1969. And then there's this: The guy actually had a higher average when he batted (.220) than when the other teams' hitters batted against him (.182).

    Did we mention Fernandez, who became the fourth Marlin to win the rookie of the year award, couldn't legally drink alcohol until he turned 21 years old last July?

    “I’m happy,” Fernandez told the Miami Herald's Jose Fernandez of his initial success in the majors. “But I think I can get a lot better than I did.”

    And Fernandez might have found the motivation tool to improve in 2014, thanks to an assist from owner Jeffrey Loria. 

    According to the New York Daily News' Jamie Uribarri, Fernandez had a tearful, surprise reunion with his grandmother the day before the rookie of the year award was announced. What happened was MLB Network's cameras were rolling as Fernandez answered questions from a reporter about his beloved relative, who was secretly waiting in another room with Fernandez's mother in the lead-up to the emotional family reunion. Unaware, the phenom right-hander tells the reporter about his unfulfilled dream of having his grandmother watch him pitch in the big leagues.

    "Everything I do is for her ... and hopefully one day she's going to get to see me here," Fernandez said as the cameras continued to roll.

    Moments later, Fernandez's grandmother, Olga Fernandez Romero, walked into the room and into her stunned grandson's arms for a perfect made-for-TV moment. 

    According to the Jose Fernandez, of the Miami HeraldFernandez Romero received a five-year visitation visa to exit Cuba and visit her grandson in the United States, thanks to Loria's help.

    The better Fernandez gets, the more expensive he'll be. As Frisaro notes, Fernandez's salary demands will escalate in a hurry once he is eligible for arbitration.

    The good news: The Marlins won't have to deal with that for another two years.

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