There have been rumors this offseason that the Miami Marlins are looking to add a big name free agent this winter. They've been linked to a couple of names that seem a little strange - shortstop Jose Reyes and first baseman Albert Pujols. The only problem with the Marlins signing either of these players is that they've already got players at those positions - Hanley Ramirez and Gaby Sanchez. But signing either of the two would make sense, as it would improve the team offensively. If either player was signed however, the Marlins would need to do a little position switching with their incumbent players.
We'll start off at shortstop, where Reyes is the top name on the market. Signing the oft-injured Reyes would allow Ramirez, who before this season was the pinnacle of health, to shift to center field, a much more demanding position physically. Ramirez is not a good defender at short, and shifting him to center would allow the Marlins to take advantage of his athleticism more. In 2011, center field for the Marlins was manned by Mike Cameron, Brian Petersen, DeWayne Wise, and Chris Coghlan. The quartet combined for 2.9 fWAR. A healthy Ramirez in center and a healthy Reyes at short would be a huge offensive boost for the team.
Now at first base, the Marlins are linked to Pujols rather strongly, in addition to being linked to Prince Fielder and Carlos Pena a little less strongly. Signing any of those top free agents would leave Gaby Sanchez without a job. But then again, Sanchez had just a .779 OPS at first this season. That's not good for first base. It would however, be good at third base, where Sanchez has been rumored to be shifting positions to. Last season was a horror show for the Marlins at third base, with Greg Dobbs, Jose Lopez, Donnie Murphy, Matt Dominguez and Wes Helms getting time at the hot corner and actually hurting the team, cumulatively subtracting -0.2 fWAR from the team. Sanchez looks like a bonafide All-Star in comparison.
One name that appears to be left out in the cold, especially if the Marlins sign both a first baseman and Reyes, is former NL Rookie of the Year Coghlan. Well simply put, if the Marlins only sign one of the free agents, Coghlan can play the position that would be open on the team. He's an outfielder by trade, and played 568 innings in center last season. He came up in the minor leagues as a second baseman, and has had some experience playing third as well. But then again, is Coghlan even in the team's future plans? After winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2009 with an .850 OPS, he slumped to .718 in 2010, and .664 in 2011. His games played have also fallen in each season, from 128 to 91 to 65. Maybe the Marlins just aren't even figuring him into their full-time plans at this point in time.
One thing is definitely for certain: regardless of any free agent signings, payroll will be on the rise in Miami in 2012. The team already has $49.75 million in payroll allocated, after having a total of $57.695 million in 2011. That 2012 payroll doesn't take into account the ten players the team has eligible for arbitration, all of whom will be receiving raises, some of which are sizable. I wouldn't be surprised to see this team with a payroll north of $70 million before free agent signings. Could the Marlins really end up with a higher payroll than division rival Atlanta? It's certainly a possibility. And honestly, I'd love to see it, because with a new stadium, new logo, and new uniforms coming in 2012, the culture in Miami needs to change. The Marlins can no longer be the spendthrift organization they've been in the past if they want to thrive in their new digs.
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