|Zambrano Boosts Rotation, Attention||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 09, 2012
The Miami Marlins have signaled that they are planning on not only being competitive, but also being at least a mid-market team, or maybe even a large-market team, after acquiring nominal ace Carlos Zambrano.
Clearly free spending owner Jeffrey Loria seems to think that he's on the edge of that, despite being stuck with his current television deal until 2020. He's betting big on a new ballpark, designed to be a pitchers' park, and his Latin stars setting south Florida on fire with baseball fever, establishing a winning tradition and drawing droves of fans until that new TV deal materializes.
The Marlins' offseason deals include signing shortstop Jose Reyes, starter Mark Buehrle and new manager Ozzie Guillen. Now with the trade for Zambrano, the Marlins' rotation of Johnson, Zambrano, Buehrle, Nolasco and Sanchez match up with any team in the NL East except possibly the Phillies - provided, of course, that Josh Johnson is healthy enough to be at least a facsimile of pitcher he's been the last few years.
Adding a leadoff hitter as explosive as Reyes should lead to a lot more runs scored even if Hanley Ramirez's bat proves to be as anemic as it was, due to his shoulder injury, in 2011. If it does and Ramirez's attitude improves enough that he starts playing up to his expected level again, the boost to the offense could be huge. That's a big if considering how sulky Ramirez been the last few seasons. But with the new look Marlins, comes the dream of winning, the only question is does Ramirez still care? Even in playing for a contender?
If not, or even if it appears not, it could mean that Ramirez won't be a member of the Miami Marlins by the time pitchers and catchers report in mid February. While the Marlins would hate to lose the bat of a healthy Ramirez, they might well prefer that to him acting as a cancer in the clubhouse. Of course the fact they'd probably get a fair haul for the shortstop (who is about to be displaced to third base as soon as Spring Training opens) would probably soften the blow.
Even if Ramirez stays the Marlins may not be done yet. There are several players who might be available via trade, as well as free agents who'd bring value and upside to the team. That includes free agent slugger Prince Fielder who'd be a long term investment and shorter term rentals like Hiroki Kuroda, Johnny Damon or maybe Derrek Lee.
But even if they stand pat, the Marlins and their owner seem to be ready to develop a whole new attitude. Loria's done this before and been financially unable to stay the course. This time he has a shot. So at least for 2012, the NL East had better be on notice.