Miami Marlins: 9 Bold Moves That Will Make the Team a Legit Contender

James Bondman@@james_bondmanCorrespondent INovember 25, 2011

Miami Marlins: 9 Bold Moves That Will Make the Team a Legit Contender

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    The Miami Marlins—and just about every team—have been really quiet during the Hot Stove season. There has been loads of sizzle, but not enough to bring out and chew on just yet. The Marlins are the lone team expected to deliver on being the winner of the Hot Stove season. 

    They've wined and dined a handful of free agents, which include Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle (although he skipped that and just toured the new ballpark) and most recently, CJ Wilson, who is expected to visit the Marlins brass during Thanksgiving weekend. 

    The market for the areas of need (starting pitching, third base and center field) is scarce, and thus, I expect the Marlins to pull off some trades to fill the voids. Already, the team has engaged in trade talks with the Oakland A's regarding ace southpaw Gio Gonzalez and has expressed interest in the Rays' James Shields. 

    With the peak of the Hot Stove (winter meetings) a couple of weeks away and the lack of moves made on the Marlins' end of things (Wade LeBlanc trade is very minimal), I've decided to play the role of general manager for the remainder of the offseason. I will investigate what moves are realistic under the parameters of the payroll, whatever that may be, that would put the Miami Marlins on the map. 

    Now mind you, this payroll will be quite inflated from the estimated ballpark of $80 million that most predicted a mere two months ago. However, if the Marlins end up with the roster I'm about to reveal, I bet they proudly proclaim they will reach the World Series rather than making it the goal of the future. 

    Here we go. These are the nine moves that will truly complete the remodeling of the Marlins from the frugal Florida team to an aggressive, money-spending Miami franchise. 

Gio Gonzalez

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    The Trade

    The Marlins deal Emilio Bonifacio, Matt Dominguez, Chad James, Kyle Jensen and Rob Rasmussen to the Athletics for Gio Gonzalez. 

    The Verdict

    The Marlins' farm system is genuinely weak in talent, so in order to obtain a top-of-the-rotation guy like Gio Gonzalez, the team will have to be prepared to give up a large amount to offset the talent gap. 

    We already know Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton are off-limits, and Gaby Sanchez doesn't fit in with the Athletics because they already have options at first base. So, the speedy Emilio Bonifacio will have to do. 

    You'll soon see why Bonifacio has to be moved. For one, his value is at its highest, and if the A's want a boost to their lineup, the super utility man and farm system—with the likes of Dominguez, James, Jensen and Rasmussen—make for a beneficial deal.

Jose Reyes

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    The Contract

    Six years, $97.5 million (front-loaded contract with a limited no-trade clause: $18.5 million in 2012, $17.5 million in 2013, $16.5 million in 2014, $16 million in 2015, $15.5 million in 2016 and $15 million in 2017)

    The Verdict

    Jose Reyes instantly makes the Marlins' lineup better, and signing him makes Emilio Bonifacio somewhat expendable. Reyes would slide into shortstop, while the bulky but athletic Hanley Ramirez slides over to third base. 

    Signing a run-scoring machine like Reyes creates ample RBI opportunities for Ramirez, Stanton and Morrison, among others. Having scored a National League East-leading 718 runs last season, the Mets' offense was actually one of the better ones in the National League, and that was mostly due to Reyes. 

    This contract is not favorable in terms of salary for Reyes or in terms of length for the Marlins, but it's one that both sides will have to suck up. Reyes, deep down, wants a Carl Crawford deal but won't get it because of a lack of big market presence, injury woes and Crawford's lack of production to start his tenure with the Red Sox

    The Marlins will have to make a special case for Reyes and put in a no-trade clause of some sort. If they do, I'd expect them to front-load the contract so that team can easily move him down the road if such a case arises. 

Wade Davis

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    The Trade

    The Marlins deal Gaby Sanchez and Scott Cousins to the Rays for Wade Davis.

    The Verdict

    The Rays have plentiful starting pitching and are just the candidate for the Marlins to make a trade with. Davis is not quite the top-of-the-rotation guy for the Marlins, but it will have to do.

    The Rays could use Gaby Sanchez at first base and Scott Cousins for some outfield depth if they should deal B.J. Upton this offseason. 

    The Marlins would get Wade Davis (11-10, 4.25 ERA, 1.36 WHIP) for the long haul if they so chose to. The Rays have locked in Davis through the 2014 season ($9.1 million) with a three-year team option through 2017 worth $25 million. 

    Davis would slide into the bottom half of the Marlins' rotation and be either the fourth or fifth guy. 

Mark Buehrle

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    The Contract

    Four years, $58 million ($13, $14, $15 and $16 million each year in succession) 

    The Verdict

    Mark Buehrle seems intrigued about pitching in the National League, and it's a place where he would most certainly thrive without the DH being in play. Buehrle is a career 24-6 pitcher with a 3.32 ERA versus National League teams in his career. 

    There are a fair share of teams vying for Buehrle's services, so it won't be an easy thing to tempt Buehrle to join the Marlins as teams such as the Red Sox, Yankees and Nationals want in on the workhorse lefty. But, the Marlins do have Ozzie Guillen as manager, which sure helps their cause—perhaps over any of those teams.

    If Buehrle does sign with the Marlins, he would be placed no lower than the three-slot in the starting rotation come April—hopefully with Josh Johnson and Gio Gonzalez above him. 

Yonder Alonso

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    The Trade

    The Marlins deal Ricky Nolasco and Tom Koehler to the Reds for Yonder Alonso. 

    The Verdict

    With a void at first base in the wake of the Gaby Sanchez deal, the Marlins could slide over Logan Morrison to first base. But, with no one left to takeover left field, the Marlins could find themselves with another University of Miami product in Yonder Alonso. 

    The Reds need starting pitching and are looking for a No. 2 pitcher. While Nolasco has lost his luster a bit and really made himself into a No. 3 pitcher at best, perhaps a new pitching coach, with Bryan Price at the helm, could straighten him out. 

    Yonder Alonso, 24, had excellent numbers in limited time last season. Alonso hit .330/.398/.545 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in 98 plate appearances. He would instantly become the Marlins' first baseman of the future, with Morrison likely having to get used to left field or becoming expendable for a future trade should Yelich or Ozuna prove ready. 

Yoenis Cespedes

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    The Contract

    Six years, $45 million ($5, $6, $7, $8, $9 and $10 million each year in succession from 2012-2017)

    The Verdict

    We've heard how valuable Cespedes could potentially be, but I doubt any big-market team will offer an unproven guy more than $50 million, especially considering he is supposedly 26. 

    The Marlins and Yoenis Cespedes are the perfect fit. The Cuban defector would get to play in front of fans who have watched or heard of him, with the new ballpark located in Little Havana (just outside of Downtown Miami).

    Cespedes wouldn't be thrown into the spotlight like he would if he signed with the Yankees, Red Sox or Nationals—teams I believe will explore other alternatives to fill their voids.

    The Marlins would offer Cespedes center field, and he would instantly be plugged into the sixth or seventh hole in the lineup. Many project Cespedes to be a 30-30 guy, and that would certainly make this lineup stacked if some of the aforementioned moves happen. 

Huston Street

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    The Trade

    The Marlins deal Chris Volstad and Sean West to the Rockies for Huston Street.

    The Verdict

    The Marlins, having already made big additions to their rotation and lineup, will focus their efforts in trading for an affordable closer. And who else but Huston Street?

    Street wouldn't command a lucrative multi-year deal, nor would it necessarily take a one-and-done deal. Street is already signed through 2013 (although that comes with a team option for $9 million). 

    Street will get paid $7.5 million in 2012, and with Juan Carlos Oviedo's (formerly known as Leo Nunez) status up in the air, this is the next best thing. Street had a subpar year as the Rockies closer, with a 3.86 ERA in 2011, but he struggled partly due to the home park he pitches in, Coors Field. 

    Street had a 5.59 ERA at home versus a 2.15 ERA on the road in 2011.

    Even in 2009—his best season with the Rockies (3.06 ERA and 35 saves)—the 28-year-old closer had a 4.08 ERA at home versus a much lower 1.71 ERA on the road. 

    A change of scenery in what looks to be a pitcher's ballpark in Miami (based on expectations and dimensions) could help Street and the Marlins find a closer that they can stick with. 

Ivan Rodriguez and Mark DeRosa

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    The Contracts

    The Marlins sign Ivan Rodriguez and Mark DeRosa to deals just shy of $1 million apiece. 

    The Verdict

    The Marlins do have John Buck and Brett Hayes in the fold, but it doesn't hurt to have a third option in "Pudge." Rodriguez will be a clubhouse influence and provide the team with the leadership behind the plate while serving as a mentor to some of the players on the Marlins. 

    "Pudge" would also help in throwing out would-be base-runners—something that both Buck and Hayes are not exactly the best at doing.

    "Pudge" threw out 52 percent of would-be base-stealers in 2011 and has a career mark of 46 percent. Buck (25 percent career average) and Hayes (28 percent career average) don't even come close. Additionally, having "Pudge" would help in case of an injury to either catcher. 

    DeRosa, meanwhile, would just be the Marlins' version of the utility man with Bonifacio no longer around. The Marlins showed interest in DeRosa last season before an injury sidelined him for the majority of the season.

    DeRosa, 36, hit .279 in 2011 with no home runs and 12 RBIs in 97 plate appearances. He can play virtually any position, with the exception of catcher and perhaps center field, but would be an okay addition to a loaded ballclub. 

The End Result

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    The Lineup

    SS Jose Reyes

    CF Yoenis Cespedes

    3B Hanley Ramirez

    RF Mike Stanton 

    LF Logan Morrison 

    1B Yonder Alonso

    C John Buck

    2B Omar Infante 

    The Bench

    Mark DeRosa, Brett Hayes, Bryan Petersen, Ivan Rodriguez and Chris Coghlan 

    The Rotation

    Josh Johnson, Gio Gonzalez, Mark Buehrle, Anibal Sanchez and Wade Davis 

    The Bullpen

    Randy Choate, Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, Wade LeBlanc, Edward Mujica, Huston Street and Ryan Webb 

    Projected Payroll

    $103 million 

    Having done some of the math myself, the payroll would be just over the century mark, which is indeed nowhere near the projected $80-90 million mark. However, if Loria, Samson and company saw this roster, surely they wouldn't hesitate and would take it with open arms.

    Now, whether some of these deals happen remains to be seen. I was being rather light with some, but fair at the same time.

    I believe the Marlins are capable of making multiple moves. With the winter meetings just around the corner, it will be exciting to see if they will be the most active team, as they have shown they can be without signing a single player, yet.