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The Florida Marlins going into the 2011 season have the most turnover in their opening day lineup since Hanley Ramirez’s rookie season.  Only 1st base (Gaby Sanchez), shortstop (Hanley Ramirez), and possibly catcher will have the same player staring in 2011 that started in 2010.  While much of the changes have come from promotion within the Marlins organization, the Fish have also had a done quite a bit in the way of free agency and trades, with the main focus being on improving the bullpen.

At the trade and waiver deadlines last year the Marlins traded away two fan favorites in Cody Ross and Jorge Cantu (both of whom played in the World Series on opposing teams).  Then this offseason the Marlins got rid of another fan favorite by trading away Dan Uggla to their division rivals, the Atlanta Braves.  In exchange for Dan Uggla the Marlins received left-handed relief pitcher Michael Dunn and infielder Omar Infante.  Dunn will be entering his second major league season and will be coming off a pretty good 2010 where he pitched 19 innings had an ERA of 1.89, and struck out 27 batters.  However he did also give up almost a walk and hit per inning (15 hits, 17 walks in 19 innings).

Omar Infante will most likely play either 2nd base or 3rd for the Marlins in 2011.  Infante while an upgrade on the defensive side of the ball, but he is a real drop off at the plate.  While Uggla was a power hitter, hitting 30 home runs 100 RBIs several times, Infante is a singles hitter who has only hit 45 total home runs in his career (16 of them came in 2004).  Infante could bat either first or second in the lineup if he can keep up his average that he has hit in the past three seasons, batting .293, .305, .321 respectively.

The Marlins also gave up on both the players they received from Detroit in the Miguel Cabrera trade.  The Marlins sent Andrew Miller to Boston and Cameron Maybin to San Diego getting back several relief pitchers.  From Boston the Marlins received Dustin Richardson who in 13 innings last year had a 4.15 ERA, 12 strikeouts, 15 walks, and had an opponents batting average of .290 against him.  The Marlins were able to get more for Maybin by receiving RHP Ryan Webb and RHP Edward Mujica.  Mujica while having a career 4.47 ERA, but he is coming off a very good 2010 ’where he had a 3.62 ERA and in 69.2 innings pitched he had 72 strikeouts and only gave up 6 walks.  Webb also seems like a good addition with a .290 ERA, 44 strikeouts, and only gave up 1 home run.

The Marlins bullpen was bad outside of Clay Hensley and Leo Nunez, blowing a MLB leading 25 leads, but hopefully the addition of Mujica, Webb, and Dunn can solidify things.  These additions should if nothing else put the Marlins bullpen in the middle of the NL this year.  With the pitching staff the Marlins have put together, if the bullpen can hold on to leads than the Marlins should be in the hunt for a wild card spot.  Unfortunately for the Marlins, relief pitching tends to be almost a craps shoot on any given year.  A few years ago the Baltimore Orioles spent a bunch of money to sign most of the top relief pitchers in free agency and it did not translate into a solid bullpen the following season.

The Marlins made two important signings in the offseason by signing John Buck for 3-years $18 million and Javier Vazquez for one year $7 million.  John Buck is a respectable catcher who for his career is a .243 batter, averaging 13 home runs and 43 RBIs, but he is coming off a season which he hit .281 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs.  More than likely Buck’s numbers will fall back down to be more in line with his career numbers as it seemed something odd happened last year in Toronto as Buck and just about all of his Blue Jays teammates had career years from the plate.

x350Lastly and maybe most importantly the Marlins was the acquisition of Javier Vazquez to be the Marlins third man in the rotation behind Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco (who just received a contract extension) and ahead of Anibal Sanchez.  The Marlins hope that a return to the NL will result in Vazquez putting up numbers that are similar to his 2009 campaign with the Braves (15-10 with a 2.87 ERA, 238 strikeouts in 219.1 innings), and not duplicate his 10-10 5.32 ERA season he had with the Yankees last year.  If he can put up good numbers, Vazquez will give Florida the 2nd best starting staff in the NL East, behind Philadelphia of course, and one of the best in the NL overall.

Other Marlins Additions:

Catcher Clint Sammons

3rd Base Greg Dobbs

2nd Base Joe Thurston

2nd Base Tim Torres

Right Fielder Josh Kroeger

LHP Victor Garate

LHP Darin Downs

RHP Frank Mata

RHP Shawn Hill