BY ZACK BECKER
2013 Record: 62-100 (5th Place NL East, 34 GB)
The Miami Marlins finished a dismal 2013 campaign with a silver lining if ever there was one. A season that saw them lose 100 games ended with Henderson Alvarez’ wild-pitch-walk-off no-hitter against the offensive juggernaut that is the Detroit Tigers.
The future of the team with the National League’s lowest payroll got a bit brighter with the emergence of phenom José Fernández, who took home National League Rookie of the Year honors in November.
The storyline of the season will be how far a lacking offense led by All-Star RF Giancarlo Stanton can take this team with a promising young rotation.
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (3 yr/$21 mil)
2B/SS Rafael Furcal (1 yr/$3.5 mil)
1B/RF Garrett Jones (2 yr/ $7.75 mil)
3B Casey McGehee (1 yr/$1.1 mil)
The Marlins picked up the second-best free agent catcher in Saltalamacchia for a relative bargain considering the Yankees signed Brian McCann, the market’s top backstop, for $85 million.
Furcal is a low-risk/high-reward signing — the 36-year-old missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery and hasn’t played a full season since 2009. He played 121 games in 2012, putting up a a serviceable .264/.325/.346 line. If he can come off a year’s rest and improve on those numbers, then the Marlins will have their best second baseman since Dan Uggla.
McGehee returns to Major League Baseball after a very productive season in Japan, where he smashed 28 homers and compiled a .292/.376/.515 slashline. If he can translate those power numbers into big league success, he’ll have a stranglehold on the starting third base spot all season long.
Logan Morrison: LoMo was a fan-favorite in Miami over the last few seasons, but his large social media following couldn’t outweigh his declining power numbers.
Juan Pierre: It’s silly that in 2014 Pierre is described as a “key loss,” but the 35-year-old led the team in steals (23) last year. Too bad he posted a .589 OPS.
Thousands of Marlins fans: After last offseason’s fire sale, they can’t really expect much from this team despite a pitching staff with a lot of upside. Expect a lot of empty seats, as usual, in Marlins Park.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Obviously, everyone will be looking to Fernández to anchor a youthful rotation whose average age is 23.4 years old. But look to the number-two staffer, 22-year-old Jacob Turner, to put up a big year. In 27 starts with the Marlins across the last two seasons, Turner has posted a respectable 3.64 ERA in 160.2 innings pitched. He stepped up after the team dealt Ricky Nolasco and pitched much better than his 3-8 record dictates.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
The rest of the rotation is filled out by Turner, Nate Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, and 27-year-old Tom Koehler, the staff’s oldest pitcher.
This team is certainly better than it was last year, but it’ll be another year in the cellar for the Marlins as they duke it out for fourth place with the New York Mets.