Monday, December 5, 2011

Marlins Add Jose Reyes

Christmas is coming early down in Florida this year.

It took a month of negotations, but Jose Reyes will be a Miami Marlin in 2012 after reportedly inking a six year, $106 million contract with the club that just signed closer Heath Bell.  The former New York Met joins Chris Bosh and LeBron James as recent superstar athletes who took their talents down to South Beach.

Although the reigning NL batting champ fell short of the Carl Crawford (and, while we're at it, Jayson Werth) money he was hoping for, his annual salary will now be equivalent to what he made in 2010 and 2011, combined. Based on the four time All-Star's skill set and age alone he's worth more, but hamstring injuries have plagued him over the last three seasons and wiped out his reputation as a leadoff man who could be counted on to suit up 160 times a year. 

In Florida he teams up with fellow 28 year-old shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who will move to the hot corner as Alex Rodriguez did out of respect for Derek Jeter back in 2004.  The switcharoo makes sense because Ramirez has always been a poor fielder (-2.8 career dWAR) prone to making careless errors.  Reyes, on the other hand, is no Ozzie Smith but is quicker and more agile (1.6 career dWAR).  Ramirez (who's played nowhere else during his professional career) definitely has the arm strength and reflexes for third, and the Marlins hope the move will help cover up his defensive deficiencies and take less of a toll on his body. 

HanRam, a former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up, has regressed significantly over the past two seasons.  He was absolutely brutal last year (just ask anyone who picked him first or second overall in fantasy drafts across the nation) and lugged a Mendoza line batting average into late June, but the hiring of old man Jack McKeon as the interim manager for the floundering Fish (who promptly benched the struggling star) seemed to rejuvenate him, as he batted a more typical .304/.385/.500 the rest of the way until a shoulder injury in early August ended his season prematurely.  Miami needs him to return strong after offseason surgery and return to his 2007-2009 levels, when he annually threatened 30/30 and was arguably the best player in baseball along with Albert Pujols ( who the Marlins are also pursuing).  If he can do that and Reyes stays healthy, the the Marlins will have the best left side of an infield for years to come.

But will that translate into their first postseason appearance since Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Ivan Rodriguez led them to a World Series title in 2003? They stumbled to a 72-90 record last year after Ramirez and ace Josh Johnson went down, so getting full seasons from them and Reyes should push them over .500.  They have a decent nucleus of solid players in their prime years with guys like Gaby Sanchez, Emilio Bonifacio (will he be boni-fide or boni-facio in 2012 after enjoying a solid breakout last year?) Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco along with young guns Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton, who could belt 40 homers next year.  The Phillies have the NL East in the bag next year, so the Marlins will have to duke it out for the Wild Card.  I don't think they're equipped to win it right now unless everything falls together perfectly next year, but they should be able to contend in their new home ballpark.

And after their disaster of a seson last year, that should be enough.

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