New ballpark, new colors, new name, new manager, new attitude. The Miami Marlins went into the 2012 offseason with a mission: to improve their team dramatically and becomes a World Series contender in 2012. Sure enough, they brought in marquee free agents and increased the hype level around their team so much that many people are calling for the new-look Marlins to be a contender in the NL East this season.
Depth Chart (as of 3/12)
C: John Buck
1B: Gaby Sanchez
2B: Omar Infante
SS: Jose Reyes
3B: Hanley Ramirez
LF: Logan Morrison
CF: Emilio Bonifacio
RF: Giancarlo Stanton
SP: Josh Johnson
SP: Mark Buerhle
SP: Ricky Nolasco
SP: Anibal Sanchez
SP: Carlos Zambrano
CL: Heath Bell
Oh god, where to begin. The Marlins made several splashes in free agency this offseason, the biggest of which was by signing shortstop Jose Reyes to a mammoth contract. The pitching staff wasn't safe either, as durable workhorse Mark Buerhle and efficient closer Heath Bell both got free agent deals, and the volatile Carlos Zambrano was acquired in a trade from the Cubs, which Chicago picking up nearly all of his contract. Ozzie Guillen was hired as the team's manager at the season's conclusion, and is already stirring the virtual pot.
Chris Volstad was the warm body sent to the Cubs in the Zambrano deal. Second-half phenom starter Javier Vazquez retired. Backup catcher John Baker was dealt to the Padres, and solid reliever Burke Badenhop was dealt cross-state to the Rays. A pair of other relievers left the team on minor league deals as well: Clay Hensley and Brian Sanches.
This is a veteran-laden Marlins team after all of their free agent spending this offseason. Scott Cousins will see time as the fourth outfielder, probably as a late-game defensive replacement for Twitter folk hero Morrison. Another top prospect, Matt Dominguez, is an all-glove no-bat type of guy who could crack the team's bench in case Greg Dobbs gets hurt or struggles this spring. Reliever Jose Ceda may also be able to crack the major league bullpen.
Emilio Bonifacio could get a battle in center field from former NL Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, who's battled injuries and position switches since winning the award back in 2009. Aside from that, everything looks ready to roll for the Fish.
The Marlins are injury-free heading into 2012. Coghlan has been banged up each of the last two years though, and Miami should be wary of giving him a job in the majors if he's not 100%.
The Marlins clearly have the talent to win the NL East this year. But will the team's chemistry hold up and enable them to reach the lofty goals they've set for themselves this offseason?
All of the Marlins' superstars perform like superstars, and the roll over the experienced Phillies, the injury-prone Braves, and the young Nationals to win their first ever NL East title.
There is a fistfight in the clubhouse every night that turns into on-field malaise and apathy, and the fourth-place Marlins are playing in front of a half-empty stadium in September.
The Marlins are too talented to not be in the mix with the Braves and Phillies in the NL East. I think the Marlins are in contention all season, and that at the very least, they're beating teams down while looking for a wild card berth.
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