Florida Marlins: Five Cheaper Alternatives for the Fifth Spot in Rotation

James Bondman@@james_bondmanCorrespondent INovember 20, 2010

Florida Marlins: Five Cheaper Alternatives for the Fifth Spot in Rotation

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    NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 21:  Javier Vazquez #31 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 21, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Rays 8 -3.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Image
    Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    While it appears as though the Florida Marlins would love to sign Javier Vazquez and for Vazquez to end up reuniting with fellow countryman Edwin Rodriguez in Miami which would be closer to his hometown Puerto Rico, it looks as though it may be out of their price range, as he is reportedly seeking three years, $33 million. 

    After trading Dan Uggla and getting back Omar Infante's $2.5 million salary for 2011 and signing John Buck long-term ($4.5 million in 2011), the Florida Marlins have $3 to $4 million left to spend on the free agent market. 

    Owner Jeffrey Loria and Larry Beinfest are hoping to use the intended Uggla money on a fifth starter to complement Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad. 

    As it stands now, the ball club could go into spring training with Alex Sanabia (5-2, 3.66 ERA in 12 starts), Sean West (8-8, 5.03 ERA in 22 career starts) and minor leaguers Tom Koehler (16-2, 2.61 ERA in 28 starts in AA Jacksonville) and Elih Villanueva (14-4, 2.26 ERA in 28 starts in AA Jacksonville) as possible candidates for the fifth spot but rather than using it on another area such as the bullpen or in the infield, the team is intent on finding a veteran fifth starter.

    Last season, the team gambled on Nate Robertson, and that experiment failed as he went 6-8 with a 5.47 ERA in 19 games. 

    If the Marlins' intention is to indeed pursue and acquire a veteran fifth starter, here are five cheaper alternatives to a more expensive Javier Vazquez or Carl Pavano.

Brad Penny

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    CINCINNATI - MAY 16:  Brad Penny #33 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws a pitch during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 16, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    2010: 3-4, 3.23 ERA, 1.29 WHIP (9 starts) 

    Recent Salary: $7.5 million 

    Brad Penny was once a Florida Marlin, and he would be considered a bargain if you take into account his injury-riddled campaign with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010. Penny struggled mightily in 2008 and 2009 with the Dodgers and Red Sox. And while he showed flashes of brilliance with the Giants in the second half of '09, he hasn't been at the elite level since 2007. This helps the Marlins cause and perhaps could get Penny with $5 million if they extend their wallet a bit further. 

Brandon Webb

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    NEW YORK - JUNE 11: Brandon Webb #17 of the Arizona Diamonbacks pitches against the New York Mets on June 11, 2008 at Shea Stadium in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    2010: DNP 

    Recent Salary: $8.5 million

    The three-time all-star and former Cy Young Award winner (two-time runner up) hasn't pitched since Opening Day in 2009 due to shoulder problems. 

    Webb is a bargain worth looking at for the Marlins mainly because he would fit right with the remaining budget the Marlins have to offer. Considering his injury, Webb might command a salary of less than $5 million, and if there happens to be a setback, there always is an Alex Sanabia or Sean West to replace him. 

    If Webb happens to get back to his glory days, the Marlins will end up being geniuses, and the ball club will certainly have a rotation to be reckoned with in the NL East—that is if every other starter (Josh Johnson - Tommy John surgery, Anibal Sanchez - Shoulder and Ricky Nolasco - Knee) can avoid injury problems.

Rich Harden

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    OAKLAND, CA - MAY 3:  Rich Harden #40 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the Oakland Athletics during an MLB game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 3, 2010 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    2010: 5-5, 5.58 ERA, 1.66 WHIP (18 starts) 

    Recent Salary: $6.5 million

    Because of his injury history, Harden will not command an eight-figure salary, although when he is on his game, he will be one of the better pitchers out there. After being traded from the Oakland Athletics to Chicago Cubs in 2008, Harden went 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA in 12 starts, posting his highest K/9 ratio in his career with 11.3 strikeouts every nine innings. 

    Harden struggled with the Texas Rangers last season, but he would be an option worth considering for the Florida Marlins who again have other internal options if an injury were to sideline Harden. 

Kevin Millwood

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    BALTIMORE - JUNE 13:  Kevin Millwood #34 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the New York Mets at Camden Yards on June 13, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    2010: 4-16, 5.10 ERA, 1.51 WHIP (31 starts) 

    Recent Salary: $12 million

    Those numbers might look horrible, but most of them were due in part because of a poor start by Millwood. After winning two games through July, Millwood won two games in August and September, going 2-6 with a 3.68 ERA in 11 starts which could be attributed to the hiring of Buck Showalter. 

    The Marlins might be able to sign him for $2 to $3 million leaving room for other areas of improvement such as the bullpen and perhaps getting a insurance policy if Matt Dominguez proves not to be ready offensively come Opening Day. 

Justin Duchscherer

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    SEATTLE - APRIL 12:  Starting pitcher Justin Duchscherer #58 of the the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the Mariners' home opener at Safeco Field on April 12, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    2010: 2-1, 2.89 ERA, 1.35 WHIP (5 starts) 

    Recent Salary: $1.75 million 

    Justin Duchscherer might be one of the easier bargains for the Marlins to acquire for two reasons. One, Duchscherer has be riddled with injuried after a stellar 2008 campaign where he was an All-Star going 10-8 with a 2.54 ERA in 22 starts. He missed all of 2009 with shoulder problems and clinical depression, and he also missed the majority of 2010 due to a hip injury which required surgery. 

    He is an injury risk, but the Marlins would be wise to take chance and hopefully get a solid season out of him.