With what essentially was a three-game sweep at the hands of the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies, the Florida Marlins can officially kiss their last playoff hopes goodbye.
The ship began sailing when Ricky Nolasco went down and now recently with Josh Johnson and his back. JJ might be shut down to avoid any further injury when the team is no longer in the race.
Entering the final offseason of the Sun Life (aka Pro Player, Dolphin, or Joe Robbie) Stadium era, the Marlins face an uphill battle to turn this team back to their winning ways in lieu of a new stadium in 2012.
It will be quite the extreme makeover of sorts from this season and Opening Day 2012 and a whole lot needs to happen in order to have fans even consider buying a Marlins ticket with Heat and Dolphins tickets the hot items in South Florida.
Here is what the Marlins need to and what I believe they should do to address it.
By far the biggest area of need is patching up a depleted bullpen which needs a solid and effective closer at the back end.
The Marlins were hit with the woes of the sixth and seventh innings when the bullpen gave up leads left and right, and now Leo Nunez has been the one giving up leads in the ninth.
The Marlins threw Nunez into the fire once they pulled the trigger on a head-scratcher of a deal which sent Matt Lindstrom to the Astros for a Rule V draft pick who was sent back before the season began.
Recommendation: The Marlins should retain Clay Hensley, Brian Sanches, and Leo Nunez to have as their three-headed middle relievers for next season.
Burke Badenhop would be their designated long reliever when a starter can't make it far into his outing.
Next, the Marlins need to address to their left-specialist role. Resigning Will Ohman would be a way to start as the guy brings a great clubhouse atmosphere.
The Marlins should also have a second option because if there is a tie game and you use Will Ohman or some other lefty, who else would you have?
Forget "The Tank" (Taylor Tankersley): that's an empty can now and I don't believe the Marlins will bring him back next season.
If you need any evidence, T&T had a 7.20 ERA in 12 innings of work this season. Do I hear a "bring back Arthur Rhodes" chant?
Finally the closer's role: the all-important role to fill in the back end of the bullpen. My recommendation for this would be for the Marlins to target a washed-up starter who would be a reliever on most teams. (i.e. Jose Contreras, Jeff Suppan, and Jeremy Bonderman).
Still if they are cautious about paying starters they aren't likely to go after a K-Rod, if he gets released of his deal with the Mets, or a Brian Fuentes.
The Marlins' best hope is to have another reclamation project pop up as they usually do each season and insert him as a closer.
To the typical diehard Marlin fan, you may think that the starting rotation is all taken care of.
The projected starting rotation in 2011 features Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad, and Alex Sanabia.
The back end of the rotation is a question mark because Sanabia could struggle and Volstad might be inconsistent, therefore calling for the need to skip a start at times.
Nolasco, Sanchez, and Johnson have all had injury-riddled pasts so it would be safe, at least on the surface, to have an insurance policy.
Recommendation: The Marlins acquired Nate Robertson from the Detroit Tigers right before Opening Day in the hopes of having a left handed veteran to even out the right-handed dominated starting rotation.
The experiment didn't work out but the Marlins can do better. Heck they missed out on signing Jon Garland for a cheap buck but he went to San Diego where he has been pitching pretty well.
So you're asking yourself what are the other options on the free agent market for the Marlins to pursue as an insurance policy?
If the Marlins wanted left handers, which they would more than likely covet, Jorge De La Rosa and Ted Lilly are two names who are free agents this winter.
I'll even throw in Jamie Moyer for good measure who has pitched flawlessly at Sun Life Stadium.
In 65 2/3 innings (10 starts), Moyer has a 8-2 record with a1.64 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and .204 opponent batting average.
Other cheap options can include Brandon Webb and Justin Duchscherer who can come in at around $4-5 million plus incentives if they perform well.
Webb hasn't pitched fully since 2008 making only a single start in 2009 before being shut down with a shoulder injury. Webb might be a hybrid, making stints between the rotation and the bullpen easing Webb back to a starter.
Justin Duchscherer missed the entire 2009 season with shoulder and back problems coupled with depression. He pitched five starts this season before falling to the injury bug again. Duchscherer had a 2-1 record with a 2.89 ERA with the Athletics this season.
If you wondering what more expensive options remain, former Marlins Carl Pavano and Brad Penny figure to get paid as a starter and not a reliever, perhaps $8 million and above.
No way the Marlins target Cliff Lee even though having him would give them a better rotation than Philadelphia. The Marlins can get back on the map and shock the baseball world if they were to sign him, considering his poor play with the Rangers, he may come down a bit in asking price.
The offensive lineup and defensive alignment seems to be set as of now for 2011, but questions remain for the catcher position.
The Marlins can't afford to wait for John Baker to be safe and sound on Opening Day in the wake of recent Tommy John surgery.
Ronny Paulino isn't going to come back with the Marlins if David Samson's reaction is any indication.
Brad Davis and Brett Hayes are better known as backups but a pair of decent backups for the Marlins.
Considering the Marlins will rely on Dan Uggla, Mike Stanton, and Hanley Ramirez for the main production of the power, the Marlins would greatly benefit from a fourth power bat in the way of a catcher.
The free agent market for catchers includes Victor Martinez, Miguel Olivo, and A.J. Pierzynski. This trio are the best offensive catchers the Marlins could target but are unlikely to.
All three are into their 30s and would command at least a base salary of $6 million-$7 million, a bit out of reach for the Marlins taste.
Recommendation: The Marlins could trade for a catcher as well. One name who was bought recently was Angels catcher and first baseman Mike Napoli.
Napoli has hit 22 HRs and driven in 62 RBI in 120 games this season. He can best be seen a younger version of a Miguel Olivo, but the Marlins would have to give up someone to get him.
You can bet it is a pitcher, perhaps a Chris Volstad or an Alex Sanabia but this is where the talks would end.
The bottom line for the Marlins would be to target Jose Molina, who currently is playing for the Blue Jays but would be a free agent this offseason.
While not gifted offensively, Molina is talented with his ability to nab would-be base stealers and excellent defensive that is overshadowed by Joe Mauer who deservedly wins the Gold Glove awards.
Molina would be a stopgap until John Baker returns and provide the much-needed defense the Marlins need.
C- To be Determined
1B- Gaby Sanchez
2B: Dan Uggla
3B: Chris Coghlan
SS: Hanley Ramirez
LF: Logan Morrison
CF: Cameron Maybin
RF: Mike Stanton
UTL: Emilio Bonifacio
Who will it be? We don't know as of now but names to keep on eye on are Jim Fregosi, Larry Bowa, and Bobby Valentine.
Reports say Valentine is still a candidate for the Marlins and ultimately I believe he will get hired.
My opinion on what's happened with Valentine is that Loria has wanted him all along but step-son David Samson has rejected his choice.
Samson may have talked Loria out of it last October especially after having the franchise's third best finish to a season.
When the team struggled this season it added incentive to get rid of him but Samson may have told Loria that they should hold off to save money and to expand their search.
The Marlins are bargain hunters and this is a understandable reason.
The Marlins may have not talked figures with Bobby V but the Marlins felt they were pulling the trigger to early without exploring their options.
Ultimately, if the owner Loria wants him, he'll get him unless the Marlins decide to go for Jim Fregosi, the former manager and current Braves scout or Larry Bowa, the former Phillies manager.
One things for sure, they will get a fiery manager and one who has that Lou Pinella/ Bobby Cox flavor as the flavor fades away with their retirements this season.
Recommendation: Hire Bobby Valentine and get it done. He is the man for the job and has made it to the World Series and the Japanese version of it too and won.