Atop the NL East: Florida Marlins Doing It Again

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Atop the NL East: Florida Marlins Doing It Again
The Marlins are the youngest team in baseball and they're the cheapest team in baseball. Five of the six pitchers who've started a game have yet to celebrate their 26th birthday. Four of the those starters are making about the league minimum. 12 of their 14 position players make less than a million dollars. In Saturday's win over the Washington Nationals, none of their starters were older than 29 years old or made more than $500,000.

And they lead the NL East.

Let's go back to October of 2003. Remember when the Marlins shocked everybody and won that World Series over the Yankees? Despite having the sixth smallest payroll in the league, that team was stacked. Do the names Miguel Cabrera, Derrek Lee, Pudge Rodriguez, AJ Burnett, Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis, Mike Lowell, Ugueth Urbina, and Juan Pierre ring a bell?

After they carried Beckett off the field in 2003, they held a fire sale on the shores of South Beach. The Marlins management let many sign for more money elsewhere or they parlayed them into young, cheap prospects.

Several key players this year were pieces of those trades. Most will remember that phenom Hanley Ramirez was shipped over in the trade with the Red Sox that involved Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.

However, few will remember that Renyel Pinto, who has a 0.69 ERA and five holds in 13 innings of relief this year, was part of the bundle in the Juan Pierre trade. He's just 25 years old, has a 3.11 ERA in 101.3 innings in his time with the Marlins, and averages just about a strikeout per inning. And his last name is Pinto.

In a very controversial move, the Marlins swapped Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera for six prospects including lefty starter Andrew Miller and top prospect Cameron Maybin among others. Even though he sports a 9.68 ERA, the 23-year old Miller has struck out 18 batters in 17.2 innings this year and remains a big-time prospect. Maybin is OPSing .900 in Double-A Carolina and will be ripe for a call up later in the season. He's just 21 by the way. Also in the deal, Burke Badenhop has started two games this year and Mike Rabelo is a fairly regular catcher for the big league club.

In Detroit, Dontrelle Willis is on the DL after just two starts while Miguel Cabrera has gotten off to a lukewarm start. Juan Pierre is fighting for playing time in Los Angeles and batting .282/.300/.333. In Boston, Mike Lowell is on the DL. Josh Beckett started the year off on the DL. So they trade Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett, and Juan Pierre and they receive several quality starting pitchers, a star shortstop, a big-league catcher, a top setup man, a top prospect, and other quality prospects to boot.

Yeah, I'd say the Marlins pretty frugal-- and good.
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