Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After a $100 million payroll failed to net results for the Miami Marlins, owner Jeffrey Loria went back to trying things the old way.
Not that it didn't leave a bitter taste in South Florida.
Ahead of a new retractable-roof stadium and a name switch, Loria opened up his checkbook last offseason and spent big dollars on Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle. Those additions, and rumored attempts at other big-name free agents, were enough to raise expectations for the Marlins, but things didn't go according to plan thanks to some injuries and struggles on the field. The club found itself six games under .500 at the end of April and was just 33-38 by June 23.
Miami ended up winning three fewer games than the previous year and the changes came quickly at season's end.
Manager Ozzie Guillen was fired following a controversial one year at the helm and Bell was traded before the end of October after losing his closer's role.
Marlins fans had seen radical moves at the end of a season before, but those usually came after a World Series title. That left the fanbase even more stunned when Miami pulled off a shocking 12-player trade on Nov. 19 that sent Reyes, Buehrle, starter Josh Johnson, outfielder Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck to the Toronto Blue Jays for a collection of mostly young prospects and a removal of around $160 million in salary off the books.
It also came after the Marlins had previously dealt Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante, Anibal Sanchez and Gaby Sanchez during the 2012 regular season.
Loria, who had already gotten taxpayers to finance a large part of the new stadium, became public enemy No. 1, but his defense cry has been that a high payroll didn't work so it was time for another youth movement.
The moves made this winter certainly didn't bring much excitement unless the likes of Juan Pierre, Placido Polanco and Jon Rauch get your blood flowing.
After going into 2012 as expected contenders in the NL East, hopes of avoiding a 100-loss season this year may be more realistic in Mike Redmond's first go- around as a big-league manager.
Below we take a capsule look at the 2013 edition of the Marlins, with a personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:
2012 FINISH (69-83) - Fifth Place (NL East)
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Adeiny Hechavarria (SS), Henderson Alvarez (RHP), Juan Pierre (OF), Placido Polanco (3B), Jon Rauch (RHP), Jeff Mathis (C), Casey Kotchman (1B), Kevin Slowey (RHP)
KEY OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Jose Reyes (SS), Josh Johnson (RHP), Mark Buehrle (LHP), Heath Bell (RHP), Emilio Bonifacio (INF/OF), John Buck (C), Brett Hayes (C), Scott Cousins (OF), Carlos Lee (1B/OF), Chad Gaudin (RHP), Juan Carlos Ovideo (RHP), Carlos Zambrano (RHP)
PROJECTED LINEUP: Juan Pierre (LF), Placido Polanco (3B), Giancarlo Stanton (RF), Logan Morrison (1B), Justin Ruggiano (CF), Rob Brantly (C), Donovan Solano (2B), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS)
PROJECTED ROTATION: Ricky Nolasco (RHP), Nathan Eovaldi (RHP), Henderson Alvarez (RHP), Wade LeBlanc (LHP), Jacob Turner (RHP)/Kevin Slowey (RHP)
PROJECTED CLOSER: Steven Cishek (RHP)
MANAGER: Mike Redmond
SO JUST WHO IS LEFT FOR THE MARLINS?
A payroll that doesn't figure to top $40 million this season also doesn't return a lot of encouraging parts. One exception to that is slugging outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who now has the franchise on his shoulders.
Like most of Miami, Stanton was angry and confused by the trade with the Blue Jays, but has simmered down over the passing months and is just ready to get back to doing what he does best: crush baseballs. The 23-year-old posted career bests of 37 homers and a .290 batting average last year despite a knee injury limiting him to just 123 games, while his 86 runs batted in were just one off his personal best.
Stanton also fits Loria's financial mold as he is set to earn just $537,000 this season, is not yet arbitration eligible and can't become a free agent until 2016. That means he probably isn't going anywhere.
There are also some familiar faces around Stanton in the lineup, with first baseman Logan Morrison likely to hit behind him in the clean-up spot and center fielder Justin Ruggiano set to bat fifth. Stanton turned some heads with a 23-homer campaign in 2011, but managed just 11 in 93 games last season while hitting only .230.
With the loss of Johnson, Ricky Nolasco becomes the head of Miami's staff in his eighth season. The righty is usually good for 12-14 wins, but has a career earned run average of 4.49, which doesn't exactly scream ace.
Young starters Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi are two players that the Marlins acquired in pre-trade deadline deals in 2012 and figure to be a big part of the future.
ARE THERE ANY PLAYERS FROM THE BLUE JAYS DEAL WHO CAN HELP NOW?
Two players acquired from the Blue Jays will be on the Opening Day roster in starter Henderson Alvarez and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.
The 22-year-old Alvarez wrapped up his first full season in the majors last year, going 9-14 with a 4.85 ERA in 31 starts after posting a 3.53 ERA through 10 starts in 2011. The righty certainly adds depth to the rotation and walked just 54 batters in 187 1/3 innings last season.
Hechavarria, meanwhile, is actually the lowest-ranked prospect that the Marlins got in the deal according to MLB.com, but will be the first to crack the majors. The Cuban defector will turn 24 on April 15 and is already an excellent defender, but the question is how he will hit.
The righty logged just a .248 average in two seasons at Double-A, but did raise his numbers in the more hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. In 127 games at the Triple-A level, Hechavarria hit .327 and drove in 74 runs.
Miami will keep the pressure off of him in the lineup by hitting him eighth.
Of course, Hechavarria shows just how deep the Marlins' system now is as he was still ranked as the 82nd best prospect in baseball by MLB.com. Miami has two player in the top 15 and both are likely to be playing in South Florida by season's end.
Right-hander Jose Fernandez is considered the seventh best prospect in baseball and the 20-year-old Cuban has three solid pitches and a minor league record of 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 25 starts over two levels of low-A ball in 2012.
Christian Yelich should provide a boost to the lineup at some point and lock down an outfield spot. The 21-year-old was a first-round pick in 2010 and has hit .322 in the minors with 27 homers and 130 RBI over 241 games.
DO THE MARLINS HAVE A STRENGTH?
Off all the moves that the Marlins made, no one can blame them for dealing away Bell to the Arizona Diamondbacks after his disastrous season in Miami.
After logging three straight 40-plus save seasons for the San Diego Padres, Bell blew eight save chances with the Marlins and went 4-5 with a 5.09 ERA and 19 saves in 73 games.
It also helped that 26-year-old righty Steve Cishek was solid in replacing Bell, converting 15-of-19 save chances with a 2.69 ERA and 5-2 record in 68 games. The sidearm hurler will open the season as the closer and will try to keep a hold on his emotions and the job.
With righty Ryan Webb and southpaw Mike Dunn both posting ERAs above 4.00 in a combined 133 appearances, Miami added a veteran in the righty Rauch to serve as the bridge to Cishek.
The 6-foot-11 hurler has a lifetime ERA of 3.80 and has recorded 62 saves in his career. He also offers insurance in the closer's role, but the Marlins are hoping he can form a solid 1-2 punch with Cishek in the late innings.
X-FACTOR: MIKE REDMOND, MANAGER
To be honest, it really matters little what the rebuilding Marlins do on the field, so the biggest microscope will be how Redmond handles his first season with such an inexperienced squad.
Redmond signed a three-year deal to replace Guillen and spent his first seven major league seasons as a player with the Marlins. He was a part of the 2003 championship team, but now becomes the club's sixth manager in four years.
Stability at the spot will be guy for the future and Redmond should have plenty of energy and excitement at the rip managing age of 41 years old. He also spent the previous two seasons managing in Class-A with the Blue Jays, so he may also have some familiarity with the newest Marlins prospects.
A sunny future got dim and faint in a hurry last season and the clouds don't appear to be parting any time soon. Still, playing with zero expectations can only help the youth of the Marlins, though it could drive away a veteran like Nolasco or a player in his prime like Stanton in a hurry. Other additions like Polanco, Pierre and Rauch are simply stop-gaps until more young talent is ready for the majors and it figures to be some time before Miami is ready to contend in the NL East.