-- Dee, Miami
The priority right now are the names you've basically already heard about -- Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Albert Pujols and others. From what I am hearing, Willis is attracting interest from a number of teams. The Marlins, at this point, are not one of them. Pierre, of course, played for Ozzie Guillen with the White Sox, and he remains popular within the organization. Right now, he is not a priority.
The Marlins are looking for more of a true center fielder, while JP is best suited to play in left field. Gonzalez at shortstop is a terrific defender. But the Marlins maintain strong interest in Reyes at shortstop. Lee returning is not something in consideration with Gaby Sanchez at first. Do keep an eye on Hernandez being a possible free-agent pickup. He could be a fit, adding depth to the rotation. But signing Hernandez, the 1997 World Series MVP, would likely take place at the end of December or sometime in January.
Can the Marlins get any of these three big names -- Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson and Aramis Ramirez?
-- Edward, Miami
The fact that the team's initial contacts and visits were from Reyes, Buehrle and Pujols seems to rule out Fielder. Now, I still wouldn't be surprised if the Marlins get in on Fielder at some point, if they haven't already made preliminary contact already.
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But if Reyes and Buehrle sign, then I don't expect to see the team making a run at Fielder.
The Marlins already have an All-Star at first base in Sanchez. And Logan Morrison also could play there if they wanted to move in another direction. The reason we are hearing so much about Pujols and Fielder is not because the team is eager to make a change a first base. The way the market is this year, Pujols and Fielder happen to be available, and the Marlins are considering those two major impact bats.
With regard to Wilson, don't completely rule him out, either. Marlins officials met with the left-hander's agent at the recent General Managers Meetings in Milwaukee. Buehrle seems to be the first choice, but Wilson could also be a possibility.
Ramirez appears to be a secondary plan, if the team doesn't add someone like Reyes or Pujols.
Will the Marlins go for James Shields?
-- Ricardo R., Hialeah, Fla.
From what I'm hearing, the team wants to add two established starting pitchers. They feel the way to get by the Phillies and the Braves is to run out five starters who can match up with anyone in the division.
Chances are they will sign a free agent to land one, and seek a trade to acquire the other.
We've already heard a great deal about their interest in Buehrle as a free agent. Shields clearly would be a possibility. So would Gio Gonzalez of the A's.
The question is compensation and a willingness to trade. The Rays have stated previously they would like to keep Shields. The Marlins also aren't convinced the A's truly want to trade Gonzalez.
To obtain Shields or Gonzalez, it will take moving some established players as well as top prospects. The team is willing to do that. Now it's a matter of finding a match.
I am looking forward to the Marlins being a prominent club to deal with. In addition to their new stadium, they now have a sense of self. This is coming from a loyal Red Sox fan. But I am also a Marlins fan. I am anticipating the new direction of the club. Let's build a championship atmosphere.
-- Jon L., Orlando, Fla.
The team certainly is trying to make immediate improvements and changes as it gets ready for its first season in its new ballpark. Being the Miami Marlins has given them an identity. The fact they they are now in position to court top free agents like Pujols and Reyes is something everyone is getting used to. There will be skeptics who want to see them sign a big name before buying into the vision.
In free agency, you need two sides to come together. The players they are talking to also are testing the market. You should start seeing signings coming at a rapid pace around the Winter Meetings the first week of December. Before the first of the year, I anticipate the Marlins will land a couple of difference-making players.
If the Marlins do sign Jose Reyes, will there be a problem with Hanley Ramirez switching to another position?
-- Anita N., Hollywood, Fla.
At a team charity event recently, the Marlins' beat reporters had a chance to talk with Ramirez. He repeatedly stated that he is a shortstop. He's played the position his whole life. He didn't say he wouldn't move, and he has a lot of pride, and rightfully so. He's a three-time All-Star shortstop, and until 2011, he was arguably the best in the game at his position over a five-year stretch. Ramirez has had conversations with the team about a possible move if Reyes signs. Will it be a problem if Reyes does join the Marlins? If there is any friction, this is where Guillen makes a difference. Guillen is believed to be the one manager who could make Reyes and Ramirez co-exist on the left side of the infield. From the Marlins' standpoint, having Reyes and Ramirez would make the team more dynamic. After an adjustment period, having Ramirez at third base probably wouldn't be an issue. Guillen would make sure of that.
What about Chris Coghlan? What are his chances of joining the big league club in center field in 2012?
-- Lucas G., Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
The team is on record saying this is a big Spring Training for Coghlan. He is overcoming some injuries and inconsistencies. The organization considers him a center fielder, not an infielder. He will have a chance to re-establish himself. But he has an uphill climb because Emilio Bonifacio remains a more likely option in center field. There is a chance Coghlan could make the team as the fourth outfielder, if he doesn't win a starting job. First and foremost, Coghlan needs to stay healthy and perform. When players are performing, things tend to work out for them as far as getting playing time.