Marlins president says a Big Six boosts chances

Marlins president says a Big Six boosts chances

MIAMI -- Signing three All-Star free agents certainly raised the Marlins' credibility, as well as the interest level in the ballclub.

But is the trio of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell enough to turn the team into immediate contenders in the National League East? The organization thinks so, but it understands there are no guarantees in Major League Baseball.

"The issue with baseball, more than other sports, is health," Marlins president David Samson said. "It's so difficult to pitch a baseball. It's hard to keep pitchers healthy for a whole year. That's why it's noteworthy when a team has the same five starters healthy all year. So depth becomes important.

"In my opinion, the challenge in building a baseball team is, you can do everything right and it still doesn't work."

With their offseason moves, the Marlins have assembled their version of the Big Three. Bolstered by revenues that will be generated from their new ballpark, the organization doled out $191 million for Reyes, Buehrle and Bell.

In the NBA, the Miami Heat have assembled their Big Three with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The trio transformed the franchise into a championship contender, along with making the Heat one of the NBA's biggest draws.

Can the Marlins, with their big signings, reach the postseason for the first time since 2003, when they beat the Yankees in six games to win the franchise's second World Series title? The way Samson sees it, in MLB, teams need more than a Big Three. It will take more of a Big Six to be a playoff-caliber club.

"In baseball, you need depth and you need consistency," Samson said. "There are so many more pieces on a baseball team than on a basketball team. A basketball team is half the size of a baseball team.

"I guess in baseball, the equivalent then would be the Big Six. You can't just have a Big Three, because baseball is 25 guys and basketball is 12 guys. So you'd need a Big Six."

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest, along with the rest of the front office, have feverishly worked the market to bring in top-flight talent. As of now, do they have the Big Six parts to springboard the Marlins toward playoff baseball in October?

"I guess that's up to everybody's interpretation," Samson said. "We certainly think we've got the Big Six. How that ends up, they have to go play now. There is only so much Jeffrey and Larry can do."

Couple Reyes, Buehrle and Bell with Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, and the Marlins have five established All-Stars. Ramirez and Johnson are proven players, and they're both looking to bounce back from injury-plagued 2011 seasons.

The club also has a rising superstar in Mike Stanton, a 22-year-old slugging sensation. So that's a Big Six, if everything falls right.

The Marlins also have supporting players with impressive backgrounds. Gaby Sanchez, John Buck and Omar Infante each have been All-Stars in their respective careers, and Logan Morrison also has All-Star potential.

"We never set out to have a Big Three," Samson said. "I think, we just saw what we needed. We saw the availability, and we negotiated hard. People want to play in Miami now, which is nice, because of the ballpark and the type of team that we have.

"You build around players. You want to build around several position players and several pitchers."

In plotting their offseason strategy, the Marlins certainly were mindful of how the Heat captured the attention of the market with their star-studded roster. Samson noted that the smaller NBA rosters increases the impacts of players like James, Wade and Bosh.

"It would be hard to imagine the Heat signing LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh -- three of 12 players -- and in the end, not making the playoffs," Samson said. "When you sign those guys, it's not a question of making the playoffs, it's a question of how far into June you are going to play.

"In baseball, you can sign three All-Star free agents, which we did, and not have a better idea of if you are going to be in the playoffs. We think we are going to be in the playoffs. We think we're a better team. But in baseball, you just don't know."

Even with their major impact moves, the Marlins are not done searching for another frontline starting pitcher. They are exploring trade options, and they are willing to part with top prospects if it means improving the big league club.

For all the talk the Marlins have generated this offseason, the team understands that in the end, it will come down to performance.

"You spend so much time [building the roster], and the payroll obviously has gone to places it's never gone before," Samson said. "We think we've been smart, but we won't know until September."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.