Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Marlins Buy Buehrle

Since when are the Miami Marlins the New York Yankees?

After a decade of penny-pinching, years of waving good-bye to franchise players like Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera, and Dan Uggla, the Miami just added a trio of free agents for the price of the entire Yankee payroll.  The Marlins, the same Marlins who paid their entire team as much as the Steinbrenners paid Alex Rodriguez last year, are no longer little fish in a big pond.   The former kings of one year rentals like Carlos Delgado and Ivan Rodriguez are suddenly gobbling up free agents left and right, transforming themselves into aggressive buyers willing to open up their checkbooks at the drop of a hat.  They remind me of a poker player that's been quiet all night, saving his chips and biding his time until he pounces and goes all in.

Funny how a shiny new ballpark can change everything.

The first to arrive was Heath Bell, who's quietly been one of the most dependable closer in the game over the past three years for the Padres.  Even though he's already 34, closers with consistent track records of success tend to age well (see Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman).  He came at half the price of Jonathan Papelbon after posting ERAs roughly half of what incumbent fireman Leo Nunez, who always seemed miscast as a closer in the first place and might be better suited to eighth inning duties, put up from '09-'11.  Make no mistake, adding Bell significantly improves Miami's bullpen for the next three seasons.

Then they went out and locked up reigning NL batting champ Jose Reyes for six years (without spending Carl Crawford/Jayson Werth money), even though they already had an elite shortstop in Hanley Ramirez.  The switch-hitting speedster gives the offense a dynamic catalyst at the top of the order and allows HanRam to hit out of the 3 or 4 hole, where he can take advantage of his power and run produing skills.  Unfortunately, Ramirez has been acting like a five year old who doesn't want to share by resisting a move to third base, meaning the Marlins might have to trade him and forfeit what could potentially be the best left side of the infield in all of baseball.  Worst of all, they'd be trading him while his value is at an all time low and probably wouldn't receive equal value in return.

And now, just two days after adding Reyes the Marlins bolstered their starting rotation by signing southpaw Mark Buehrle for four years and $58 million.  In Buehrle they get one of the most consistent hurlers in the game, a four time All-Star who's topped 10 wins, 30 starts and 200 innings in each of the past eleven years.  As a nice bonus, he also fields his position well as evidenced by three straight Gold Gloves and one heck of a webgem on last year's Opening Day, but more importantly he adds a lefty arm to a staff dominated by righthanders Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, and Javier Vazquez if he chooses to return.

So after committing nearly $200 million to these three free agents over the past few weeks the Marlins are officially out of the running for Albert Pujols, but then again I never thought they were serious about employing his services for the remainder of the decade anyways.  The rumor was more of a publicity stunt designed to sustain the high from inking Reyes, but with the way Miami has been making it rain this offseason it seemed possible that they might be crazy enough to pull it off. For now, they seem likely to make a serious postseason run in 2012 and have a good chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

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