In light of the big splashes the Marlins have made this offseason, what are the chances of them contending?
-- Tim B., Chicago
When you add All-Stars like Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Jose Reyes, you can't help but be a better club. The trio improves the lineup and defense, the front of the rotation and closer role. Carlos Zambrano has also been an All-Star with playoff experience. Obviously, Big Z comes with some baggage. He has to keep his temper in check and show that he can pitch at the level he did in his prime.
Another key signing was retaining Greg Dobbs as a lefty bat off the bench.
Are these moves enough to transform a team that lost 90 games in 2011 into a contender?
As of now, the answer is yes. The club is vastly improved. Still, things have to fall right, but that holds true for all teams. The Marlins need to stay healthy, and their young core of Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez will have to elevate their games as well.
Also keep in mind that with a stronger and deeper club, the Marlins are positioned nicely to tinker with making some additional moves once Spring Training and the regular season start. For instance, in, say, June, if the club feels it's a bat off the bench or a reliever away from reaching the playoffs, it can focus on those areas to round out the roster.
With the acquisitions of Buehrle and Zambrano, have the Marlins considered trying to sign Roy Oswalt? He is a veteran pitcher who can eat up innings in the fourth or fifth spot. He also could be insurance in case the Big Z trade backfires. With Oswalt, the Marlins could be in an ideal position to control the National League East.
-- Benjamin O., Boca Raton, Fla.
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After trading Chris Volstad to the Cubs for Zambrano, the Marlins made it clear that their rotation is set, so that pretty much puts to rest any pursuit of Oswalt. I think the club's concern with Oswalt was related to health as much as cost. The veteran has struggled with injuries, to the point that the Phillies didn't think he was worth the risk of bringing back for 2012. If the Marlins felt that Oswalt was healthy enough to be a big contributor, you would have seen a stronger push for the right-hander.
In Zambrano, the Marlins feel they have a righty who is healthy and capable of pitching again at a high level. Zambrano is also costing the team just $2.5 million, which makes him a low-risk, high-reward pickup.
With the moves the Marlins have made, even FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote that he wants to cover the team. Wouldn't it be a great idea for the Marlins to approach Showtime to do the series that they did with the Giants -- "The Franchise?" The Marlins have countless storylines and quite an array of colorful personalities -- manager Ozzie Guillen, Morrison, Hanley Ramirez, Zambrano, etc. They would keep the ratings and interest high.
-- James B., London, U.K.
If the powers that be haven't thought about that idea already, you just gave them something to consider. Guillen certainly has experience being a reality-TV star. In 2010, the White Sox were featured on MLB Network's "The Club."
For an organization that has strived to gain attention for so long, it's refreshing to see the Marlins are generating so much interest based on moves they feel are improving the team. No longer are they shedding payroll; they're adding to it. They've certainly been entertaining this offseason and promise to receive plenty of national and international attention.
I am concerned about the catching position. Do the Marlins need a second catcher? Thank you.
-- Victor M., Havana, Cuba
John Buck will get the majority of the work, and Brett Hayes demonstrated last year that he is a capable backup. Hayes, who will turn 28 in February, appeared in 64 games in 2011, his first full big league season. He's solid working with the staff and came up with some big hits, including nine doubles and five home runs in 130 at-bats.
As an organization, the Marlins feel Hayes can have a career similar to that of Matt Treanor, who has been a solid backup catcher for a number of years.
Buck, 31, was disappointed with his .227 batting average in 2011, but he did post 16 homers and 57 RBIs. So combined with Hayes, the Marlins had 21 homers and 73 RBIs from their catchers, which is pretty good production.
Remember, Buck had spent his entire career in the American League, and 2011 was an adjustment to the NL. You'd expect a stronger season for him now that he understands the NL and the pitching staff more.
I also think catcher is the position that should benefit the most from Marlins Park. More than any other positions, catchers felt the grind of playing in the stifling heat and rainy conditions of Sun Life Stadium.
With Marlins Park's retractable roof and air conditioning, the catchers should stay fresher, which should make a difference over the course of the season.
I think the closer role was taken care of with Bell, and the rotation seems set. Is the team comfortable, however, with the bullpen? Who will be the seventh- and eighth-inning guys?
-- Chris M., Lynchburg, Va.
As of now, it appears that what the Marlins have is what they will go into Spring Training with. Edward Mujica is a candidate for the eighth inning, and Ryan Webb could be lined up for the seventh. Steve Cishek will get a look in a variety of roles, and lefties Mike Dunn and Randy Choate will match up in the late innings.
I am not expecting any major pickups for the bullpen prior to Spring Training.
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.