MLB Winter Meetings: The Florida Marlins' Top Priorities and Justin Upton Update
The Florida Marlins have sure been busy this offseason. If it was ever a competition, they would have won the nomination for the most active team in the Hot Stove.
After trading fan favorite Dan Uggla and disappointments Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, they've managed to haul in a total trade package of All-Star Omar Infante, lefty relievers Dustin Richardson and Mike Dunn, right handed relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica.
On the free agent market, Florida has also made two big splashes in landing catcher John Buck in a three year deal worth $18 million and pitcher Javier Vazquez on a one year pact worth $7 million.
You'd think that they were finished for this offseason, but the Marlins have another trick or two left up their sleeve as the Winter Meetings, taking place in their backyard of Lake Buena Vista, Fla (near Orlando), will begin December 6th and run through December 9th.
Talks centered around Justin Upton and the Marlins showing a strong interest around the GM Meetings have cooled off considerably and it's likely that the team won't make a trade that'll end up hurting their starting rotation or bullpen.
Speaking of which, the bullpen remains a top priority for the Florida Marlins and they will be looking at additional left-handed relievers in addition to a lefty bat off the bench in the way of an outfielder.
There are a fair share of bats who fit the Marlins' remaining budget (just south of $1 million). More than likely the Marlins will be looking for a veteran and perhaps one in a Luis Gonzalez mold when he played with the team in 2008. Let's take a look at a few names who fit perfectly with the Marlins' new mold of less pop, more glove and a few names who could be on the Marlins' radar for the bullpen.
Hitters: Jim Edmonds
Jim Edmonds would seem to fit the perfect Luis Gonzalez type player the Marlins bought in 2008. Edmonds is on his last legs and quite possibly might be calling 2011 his swan song. While the glove is not there anymore, he provides a veteran/mentor presence to go along with Wes Helms and is versatile, since he can end up playing all three fields and perhaps a little first base.
On a side note, Edmonds is seven home runs away from 400 (career), 51 hits away from 2000 (career), two walks shy of 1000 (career), and is an RBI shy of 1200 for his career. He'll definitely want a chance to get to those statistics if he wants to boost his credentials for Cooperstown.
Hitters: DeWayne Wise
DeWayne Wise is better known for his Perfect Game saving catch as a Chicago White Sox a couple of seasons ago, when he leaped over the wall to catch a sure home run from Gabe Kapler of the Tampa Bay Rays. However, it provides proof that Wise can be a defensive weapon, especially in late inning situations as a pinch hitter and later as a defensive replacement.
As a Blue Jay in 2010, Wise logged 239 and 2/3 innings (44 games) as an outfielder and committed no errors, not a single one and had a total of three outfield assists. In his career, Wise has only committed four errors (.991 fielding percentage) in 1626 career innings logged as an outfielder, dating back to 2000.
I would consider him a poor man's Juan Pierre (without the on-base and base stealing capability). Wise hit .50 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 52 games (112 at-bats).
Former teammate John Buck can certainly give in a good word if the front office is targeting him.
Hitters: Laynce Nix
Nix quietly had a breakout season with the Cincinnati Reds in limited time last season. The 29 year old outfielder, who turned 30 during the World Series, hit .291 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 97 total games (165 at-bats).
After being tossed around from 2006-2008 with the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers, Nix has shown himself to be a solid fourth outfielder. What's best of all, Nix did not commit a single error last season in over 300 innings of work and he should come cheap since he earned less than $1 million last season with the NL Central champ Cincinnati Reds.
Pitchers: J.P. Howell
Howell was highly effective for the Tampa Bay Rays in their resurgence when the team made it to the postseason and later, the World Series in 2008. Howell last pitched in 2009 and was non-tendered by the Rays this offseason.
This past season, Howell did not throw a single pitch in the Majors after suffering from left shoulder problems during spring training. He would go on to have surgery on the shoulder, causing him to miss the entire 2010 season.
He is at least worth a shot for the Marlins as a possible candidate to close games. Howell saved 17 games for the Rays in 2009 and had a 2.84 ERA with a 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings ratio in 66 2/3 innings that season.
While Howell did earn $1.8 million in 2009, he is expected to work for a similar salary and perhaps get a salary just south of $1 million to start, plus performance incentives to get it to the neighborhood he once earned.
Pitchers: Joe Beimel
The journeyman reliever has been with six different teams in parts of ten seasons in the Major Leagues and he'll probably be looking at lucky number seven next season. Beimel had a 3.40 ERA in 71 games (45 innings), essentially fulfilling the lefty specialist role last season with the Colorado Rockies. He earned $800,000 last season, so he should fit the Marlins' remaining budget.
Pitchers: George Sherill
George Sherill had a horrible season in 2010, posting a 6.65 ERA in 65 games last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers and it came with a hefty $4.5 million salary. He'll certainly be looking at a much lower income and a change of scenery away from the spotlight of Los Angeles. He might come at around the $1 million clip, but the Marlins might get him if they throw an incentive-laden contract his way to work for a higher salary.
The Bottom Line
The Marlins can ill afford to stay quiet at the Winter Meetings if they have the playoffs in mind for 2011. They've gone too far this offseason to have wrapped up all their big moves for a team considered third-best in the NL East...still. And that's where many still thought they stood before the avalanche of moves after the World Series.
Sirius XM Radio's MLB Network Radio host Jim Duquette said this about the Marlins' chances in 2011: “I think they're further along toward being a championship club., When you look at them compared to the other teams in the division, I still think the Phillies are still the class there and the Braves are second, but I think the Marlins have made up some ground there for (being) the third-best team in that division…
“Everything seemed to go just right for the Braves last year. Now, not only are they missing Bobby Cox, but they’re missing Billy Wagner and they haven’t really replaced him and who knows with Chipper, so there are enough question marks with Atlanta that you can sit there and say Florida has gained some ground with the Braves.”
Yet that's what the critics have always said of the Marlins, dating back to a few seasons ago. But since then, the Phillies have become the National League's version of the New York Yankees and the Braves have risen from dead after missing the playoffs every season from 2006-2009.
The Marlins have never had the critics on their side and they shouldn't think it's going to change. Many will still consider them third-best or fourth-best unless they go out and sign the biggest fish on the free agent market like Cliff Lee or Carl Crawford.
If anything, look how wrong the critics were this past season. Many considered the Cardinals and Dodgers to make it but surprise teams like the Padres, Giants, and Reds were in it at the very end. The bottom line here is that the team is trying to change its makeup and hoping it wins the World Series based on the formula the Giants had this past season (pitching and defense) which is virtually the same one they had in 2003 when they won it all.