After a letdown of a 2011 season, which ended in a last-place finish in the NL East (72-90), the Marlins have already set their sights on 2012 and that was evidenced by the hiring of Ozzie Guillen prior to the season and stadium finale of the "Florida Marlins."
Give them credit, they basically completed a task that normally takes until the World Series to accomplish for most teams and now have all of October to focus on potential additions and decisions on current players.
Here is an outlook on the status of current Marlins players:
Free Agents: Greg Dobbs (corner infielder), Jose Lopez (infielder) and Javier Vazquez (right-handed starting pitcher)
Javier Vazquez has already made it known he will retire and Jose Lopez might end up going to a team willing to give him a chance to start, something he won't get here. Dobbs was the Marlins surprise find of last offseason and the team will try to bring him back.
Arbitration Eligible: P Burke Badenhop, C John Baker, OF/IF Emilio Bonifacio, P Clay Hensley, P Edward Mujica, IF Donnie Murphy, P Juan Carlos Oveido, P Brian Sanches, P Anibal Sanchez and P Chris Volstad.
Out of these names, Edward Mujica, Anibal Sanchez and Emilio Bonifacio are locks to return to the Marlins next season. Beyond that, Badenhop, Baker, Hensley, Murphy, Oveido, Sanches and Volstad are question marks but I expect a few of them to return.
Team Control: IF Chris Coghlan, OF Scott Cousins, P Mike Dunn, C Brett Hayes, OF Logan Morrison, OF Bryan Petersen, 1B Gaby Sanchez, OF Mike Stanton and P Ryan Webb.
Marlins have these players under control, meaning they can elect to pay them the value they see fit for the 2012 season, which is at least the league minimum salary.
2012 Payroll Commitment: Hanley Ramirez ($15 million), Josh Johnson ($13.75 million), Ricky Nolasco ($9 million), John Buck ($6 million), Omar Infante ($4 million) and Randy Choate ($1.5 million) for total of $49.2 million.
Considering the team control players ($5 million—estimation), arbitration players ($11 million), and if you throw in Dobbs ($1-2 million), you have a payroll just over $65 million with roughly $20 million left to spend.
Needs: The Marlins would have to play with that much for either a center fielder or third baseman (Bonifacio can play either position), a pair of veteran starting pitchers and a closer (with uncertainty of Leo Nunez aka Juan Carlos Oveido).
Based off that, don't be surprised if the Marlins wheel and deal some of their current starters and some names could include starters Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad, first baseman Gaby Sanchez and oft-injured outfielder Chris Coghlan to lighten payroll while improving other areas of the team.
That said, here is a look at five moves which will keep the Marlins payroll at a high but respectable level while improving all aspects of the team.