Fish Bait: Five Targets to Fetch Florida Marlins Fans and Repair Image
The Florida Marlins front office is living a PR nightmare, even though they don't want to admit it.
Many fans have questioned their moves since they've won their last World Series in 2003 and continue to. The leaked documents by Deadspin.com sunk them to near the depths of the Mariana Trench with a flashlight as their incoming stadium bound to light up.
There seems to be no light at the bottom for the Marlins unless they act fast with that new shiny stadium on the horizon. A stadium may sell tickets, but if there is no winning product and loyalty, there will be no fans.
Here is an interesting fact: Since the 1998 season, when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers joined the National League, the Florida Marlins have ranked no higher than 13th in attendance out of 16 teams and have been last since 2006.
Certainly they haven't been selling season tickets like LeBron James did with the Miami Heat by getting their season ticket sales team fired. Yet it is a example of how you can get fans to the new ballpark and give the added benefit of seeing players that played on other star teams.
Here are the players the Marlins should target based on their needs and realistic budget.
Kerry Wood hitting the free agent market is dependent on whether the New York Yankees decide not to exercise an $11 million option for 2011. More than likely the Yankees will not, even though they can afford it, because they need to fill their needs elsewhere.
Wood won't attract a sellout crowd, but he wouldn't mind closing, and I'm sure many fans would welcome the Marlins signing Kerry Wood to close games over a shaky closer in Leo Nunez, who is likely to be a middle reliever or setup man in 2011 either way.
The Marlins may have to open their wallet a bit on this guy but if the Marlins want to win games, they have to at least take a chance. If the Marlins shored up their bullpen last offseason, they would be in the heat of the playoff hunt, but they are not.
The Marlins can't rely on closer projects like they have since 2005. It's becoming old. You can only strike gold every so often, and the Marlins have done so mostly with older, more experienced relievers (Todd Jones, Armando Benitez, Joe Borowski).
Predicted Deal (if he signs with FLA): Two years, $15 million (incentives move it to $18 million) with a mutual option for a third year moving total salary to $25 million.
Signing Victor Martinez would give the Marlins their best catcher since Ivan Rodriguez back in 2003 and would certainly give the Marlins a stable fixture at backstop until Kyle Skipworth comes up.
Now the Marlins do have John Baker, but Baker could catch 25 percent of the season's games while Martinez could even play a bit of first base, giving Gaby Sanchez a few off days. It fits well for the Marlins to consider Martinez with Ronny Paulino unlikely to come back next season.
Signing Victor Martinez would be the first major free agent signing since Carlos Delgado back in 2005 and would give the Marlins front office revived hopes that the team can win the World Series and say it loud and proud without being ridiculed by the media and analysts.
Martinez won't come cheap for the Marlins, but again if they want to redraw fans to their days of inception, they have to start somewhere. Martinez for his career has hit 124 career home runs with 613 RBI and a batting average just south of .300 at .298. The Marlins could benefit from him in their lineup, perhaps in the six-hole or even the two-hole.
Predicted Deal (if he signs with FLA): Four years, $45 million
Yes, I know, Dontrelle Willis isn't the same Willis that pitched for the Florida Marlins from 2003-2007, but bringing back the fan favorite would help bring some people back to the stadium.
Willis would fit the Marlins' profile of a lefty specialist that they would lack if they don't sign Will Ohman and could bring enthusiasm to the clubhouse.
Willis may not have liked it before, but being converted into a reliever may help Willis, and the Marlins would be grateful if he excels. However, he'll need to regain his control first, and then maybe he can become a fixture in the bullpen.
Predicted Deal (if he signs with FLA): Minor league deal
With Wes Helms returning next season and Chris Coghlan playing third, you wonder where this would fit in.
Well, Mike Lowell alone will draw back some more fans to the stadium. He too is a fan favorite, and what happens if Coghlan doesn't really work out there defensively?
Helms is having a down year by standards, and Coghlan's bat isn't powerful enough for a corner infield position. Lowell as a late-inning replacement while playing a bit of first base wouldn't hurt.
Yet one has to wonder whether Lowell would like that role. He'll likely be a starter next season at 37, but a return to South Florida would suit Lowell, and the Marlins should always think of an insurance policy in case of injury.
If Coghlan gets hurt again, then slide Lowell in, and if an outfielder gets hurt, slide Coghlan to the outfield for Lowell at third and so on.
Predicted Deal (if he signs with FLA): One year, $5 million plus incentives (with a player option for second season)
Carl Pavano also hits the free agent market, but an impressive comeback puts him perhaps out of the Marlins' price range. Enter Brad Penny, another former Marlin.
The Marlins made the mistake of not aggressively going after Pavano shortly after his tenure with the Yankees came to an end as he signed elsewhere.
Lesson learned, now the Marlins have a chance to redeem to themselves with Penny in their rotation.
The Marlins currently have Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, and Alex Sanabia going for them into 2011, but Penny would add insurance, and why not have the competition? Sanabia would be excellent in the bullpen, and Volstad has been inconsistent, so his position as a starter is up in the air unless he becomes consistent.
Bottom line, bringing Brad Penny in would at least give the Marlins an upper hand on the Phillies and Braves' starting rotations and give them a chance to be competitive.
Predicted Deal (if he signs with FLA): Two years, $16 million