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Marlins will be better, but not good enough in East


Marlins will be better, but not good enough in East
How much talent do the Marlins have at their disposal? They were able to subtract five key pieces in the offseason — their closer, No. 3 starter, setup man, first baseman and left fielder — and somehow feel at least as well-positioned to make another playoff run.

Those moves were made with a nod toward their preferred emphasis on pitching, speed and defense, but the payroll will again be the lowest in the majors by far. A well-oiled farm system has kept the "zero to three" talent flowing toward South Florida and enabled the Marlins to continue running what they like to call "a reasonable payroll" while hanging in the playoff hunt far longer than most expect.

Rotation

There might not be a more valuable role player in the game than Alfredo Amezaga, whose glovework never drops off no matter where you put him. Veteran Wes Helms, picked up from the Phillies for one dollar last season, was re-signed to a two-year, $1.9 million deal and provides valuable insurance on the corners. Bonifacio, often compared to ex-Marlin Luis Castillo, is a future Gold Glover at second but spent the bulk of his time in the Dominican Winter League in right field. He figures to get a look at third. It looks like switch-hitting Mike Rabelo will get another shot as the backup catcher after an injury marred '08.

Management

Doubt these folks at your own peril. Time after time since coming to South Florida in 2002, the Marlins front office has set the baseball establishment on its ear. If only president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest weren't saddled with the game's lowest payroll for the third time in four years. Then again, with a farm system that annually produces vital pieces for the major league roster, maybe finances don't matter as much here as they do in other places. A long-awaited new stadium in Miami's Little Havana section appears on the way for 2012, at which time perhaps Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria will open up his wallet again.

Difference maker

In a span of 12 days at the end of last season, center fielder Cameron Maybin showed Marlins fans what the fuss was about. The organization's top prospect hit .500 in 32 at-bats during that September audition, flashing his dazzling speed in the field and on the bases. In the process, Maybin staked his claim to the starting job and hinted at a real chance to justify the decision to deal Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for Maybin, Andrew Miller and four others after the 2007 season.

Final analysis

This isn't exactly the easiest division to steal. All the National League East boasts is the defending World Series champs in the Phillies, a $140-million outfit heading into a new ballpark in the Mets, a proud Braves franchise determined to reclaim its former stranglehold and a Nationals team that has started spending. Then again, there's always the wild card, a path that led the Marlins to both their World Series titles and a distinction they missed out on by only five games a year ago. Look for the Marlins to exceed expectations again under the upbeat leadership of third-year manager Fredi Gonzalez.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 29, 2009

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