While the Florida Marlins may have their hands full with finding their next manager and signing Dan Uggla to a contract extension this offseason, they face an uphill battle in fixing what was broken throughout the 2010 season, bullpen aside the catcher position gave the Marlins headaches all season long.
I'd compare it to the Marlins buying a brand new battery and having to change it every few days, which translates to every couple of weeks for the Marlins who went through an assortment of them this past season.
The primary starter John Baker who underwent Tommy John Surgery in the summer hopes to be ready by the time spring training rolls around but it won't be easy process considering he'll still need to use his throwing arm after every pitch and when base runners are on the loose.
And from the looks of it, the Marlins might not be as intrigued to bring back backup catcher Ronny Paulino after his positive test for performance-enhancing drugs in mid-August.
Down the stretch after losing Paulino, the Marlins went with an array of catchers, ranging from Brad Davis to Brett Hayes to Chris Hatcher and Mike Rivera.
In 2010, the quintet of Baker, David, Hayes, Hatcher, and Rivera went on to hit a combined .197 (56 for 284) with 5 home runs and 28 RBI in 104 games. You can make the argument that may have been a reason why the Marlins lost as many games as they did these season and could have been anywhere in the 85 to 90 win range had they had a solid healthy catcher throughout the season.
Looking at the free agent market, the only intriguing name out there is Victor Martinez yet he 32 and would demand big money—upward of $50 million, which is Dan Uggla money—if the Marlins intend to rise their offer.
While familiar names such as Ramon Castro, Miguel Olivo and Matt Treanor can all possibly be free agents, I don't expect the Marlins to go to either because of age and money combined. I can't envision the Marlins paying Treanor or Castro more than $2 million, which is what they may command and Olivo is likely to return to Colorado with his mutual option pending.
As for the trade market, the Marlins can probably pursue Ivan Rodriguez from the Nationals and perhaps get him for virtually a class-A minor leaguer yet he won't bring with him the impact bat the Marlins need.
The remaining candidate who is on the block at a reasonable contract price and is under 30 years of age? Mike Napoli.
Napoli carries with him the perfect bat to a possible Marlins lineup that use some added protection considering Jorge Cantu and Cody Ross have departed via midseason trades.
While the Marlins may have Gaby Sanchez, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, and Mike Stanton as their power hitters, adding Mike Napoli gives the Marlins a dangerous lineup which could easily rival that of the Phillies and Braves and set themselves up for a good 1 through 8 in the batting order. Imagine starting off on Opening Day with Coghlan, Morrison, Ramirez, Uggla, Sanchez, Stanton, Napoli and Maybin.
Mike Napoli can be non-tendered by the Angels if they decide to go in a different direction but more than likely, Napoli will be shopped around the league which brings a catcher weak Marlins team into the fold.
Napoli is a local South Florida product hailing from Charles Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines and he was born in Hollywood, Florida. He would welcome a return to the Sunshine State in a heartbeat especially if he was non-tendered.
2010 Batting Statistics: .238 batting average, 26 home runs and 68 RBI
2010 Contract: $3,600,000
2011 Projected Salary: $ 5-6 million (third year arbitration eligible)
Defense will certainly be an issue for any team that has Napoli who committed a league high nine errors as a catcher in 2009. I'd suspect that if Mike Napoli ever came to be a Florida Marlin, he'd more than likely split time with John Baker in a platoon role with right and left handed pitching. Napoli hit .219 last season against right handed pitcher.
The ultimate factor is money for the Marlins in acquiring a guy like Napoli. The money has to be used in signing Dan Uggla to an extension and shoring up the depleted bullpen for the Fish yet if can give the Marlins a stable catcher for the next few seasons until Kyle Skipworth is ready then they should pursue the opportunity especially if Napoli gives them the hometown discount.
Nevertheless, if the Marlins expect to draw any interest of fans to their new stadium they'll have to do it by getting competitive and spending their money. Their image has been ruined in the public by their own local government, MLB, and by Cody Ross' performance in the postseason.
If they want to repair their image they'll have begin making trades to add pieces, not dumping them and I would like to see it happen in the offseason and not the midseason trading deadline when the team is on pins and needles. Mike Napoli would be a solid first step in that direction for a franchise undergoing a major facelift soon.
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