The Florida Marlins have been out of the headlines for most of the winter, and it doesn’t help when the local beat writer buries the lede.
Palm Beach Post staff writer Joe Capozzi waited until the bottom third of his story to pass along that the Marlins were trying to trade for Toronto outfielder Alex Rios, but word is Marlins’ General Manager Larry Beinfest is unwilling to relinquish LHP Scott Olsen.
I watched Olsen probably three times last season. He struck me as another in a long list of brash, young Florida hurlers who pitch pissed and throw as hard as they possibly can (A.J. Burnett, Josh Beckett, Brad Penny come to mind). I’ve never seen a group of pitchers throw as hard as the Marlins did in the 2003 World Series.
Once again, the pesky Marlins are sitting on a stockpile of live arms, many of whom were successfully pushed into action last season. The Marlins set the record for most at-bats by rookies in 2006, and had four rookie pitchers win 10 or more games. After a mid-season surge, they charged into the Wild Card hunt, but ultimately fell back to 78-84 on the season.
By now, most of you have read the reports that no-hit winner Anibal Sanchez and 12-game winner Josh Johnson are having arm problems. This may be one reason why Beinfest, ’06 Executive of the Year runner-up, is clinging to Olsen, otherwise there’s a lot to like about Rios. The 26-year-old right fielder could be around a long time. On Friday, he avoided arbitration and signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal after a season that saw 302/.349/.516 with 17 home runs, 82 RBIs, 15 SB and his first career All-Star nod.
By inserting Rios and subtracting one of the unheralded center field hopefuls, Florida would become even more dangerous, with breakout 28-year-old Josh Willingham in left, a healthy Jeremy Hermida in right and Toni Colette-lookalike Joe Borchard off the bench. At the moment, this is a weaker collection than the Phillies outfield, but adding someone like Rios or Rocco Baldelli would definitely change that. Baldelli was mentioned in earlier hot stove rumors, but speculation has cooled.
For now, Beinfest’s main focus is on center field and closer, with internal candidates looking like the short-term answer. "We think we have a closer in camp," Beinfest told an MLB.com writer yesterday. "I'm not sure he's been a closer, or he knows who he is, but I think in the next six weeks, someone will step up." The Fish have recently been linked to rumors involving Armando Benitez of the Giants, and also made a play for Antonio Alfonseca before the Phillies pulled the old six-finger discount. But unless they get a proven pitcher, they will again turn to young, hard-throwing prospects, a strategy that worked well in ’06. Right-handed starter Ricky Nolasco and left-hander Taylor Tankersley may be the front-runners. Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens, two hard-throwing prospects they acquired from the Mets in November, are also in the mix.
One always questions the motives of owner Jeffrey Loria, and whether they have deep enough pockets to keep their own stars past a certain point. They’ll take two players to arbitration hearings next week: right-hander Kevin Gregg and All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera, considered among the five best players in the National League (third in Win Shares and ahead of Ryan Howard), asked for $7.4 million. The team came in considerably under that at $6.7 million.
Stadium-wise, the most recent talks have centered around the City of Miami, when the city offered nine acres of public land for an urban ballpark.