-- Nico S., Mendoza, Argentina
Yelich and Fernandez are expected to open the season at Double-A Jacksonville, and Nicolino, acquired from the Blue Jays, is a talented lefty projected to start off at Class A Jupiter.
On the 40-man roster, there are a number of players close or ready to contribute. A.J. Ramos, a September callup last season, has a chance to immediately help in the back end of the bullpen. And there is hard-throwing right-hander Arquimedes Caminero, who also is a reliever.
Outfielder Alfredo Silverio was taken in the Rule 5 Draft. A five-tool-caliber player, Silverio once was a highly touted prospect before he suffered injuries in a serious auto accident. He will be closely watched in Spring Training.
Another promising talent not yet on the 40-man roster is outfielder Jake Marisnick, who was also part of November's big trade with Toronto. Marisnick will open at Jacksonville, but he could be a year or so away.
I was just wondering who will be the Marlins' utility infielder? I don't see one on the roster.
-- Juan V., Enfield, Conn.
Excellent question, and I'm not sure there is a definitive answer right now. On the 40-man roster, there is a shortage of middle infielders. Donovan Solano would fit the mold, because he can play second, shortstop and third. But right now, Solano is the leading candidate to start at second base. Adeiny Hechavarria also can play second, short and third, but he's expected to be the starting shortstop.
Depending on how the roster shapes up, the Marlins may not have a conventional all-purpose utility player like they did in the past with Alfredo Amezaga or Emilio Bonifacio. Maybe they will mix and match. Chris Coghlan, for instance, can play second and third, as well as center field and left. If he makes the team, that may be his role, with Solano being the backup shortstop.
I'm tired of the prospects. I have a possible trade. How about moving Giancarlo Stanton to the Giants for Pablo Sandoval and a prospect or a pitcher? Sandoval would be a great fit for the team. He has great character, attitude. He's an All-Star. And he would be great for our community. The Giants would seem willing, seeing how they need a power bat.
-- Drew J., Miami
You raise an interesting point, wanting to bring in an All-Star for an All-Star. Sandoval is 26, and he is signed for two more years for a reasonable amount of money. Kung Fu Panda will make $5.7 million in 2013 and $8.25 million in '14. So in your scenario, he would be affordable.
I'm not sure a team like the Giants, winners of two of the past three World Series, would get rid of such a key player like Sandoval.
And I'm not sure the Marlins want to move Stanton at this point. The team is on record as saying it would listen to offers for Stanton, and that sparked plenty of attention. It basically is team policy not to rule out any possible trade. It doesn't mean Miami is going to move him now. He's not a free agent until after the 2016 season, so there is no urgency to do anything.
I understand what you are saying about prospects, because you never know if they will pan out. If Stanton is traded in a year or so, I do think the Marlins would look for top prospects, because they can control their tenures longer before they reach free agency. Sandoval would be a two-year alternative, and say the Marlins are ready to seriously contend three years from now, chances are Sandoval would exit via free agency.
What happened to having a middle-of-the-pack payroll? Payroll now will be about $40 million. The Marlins will never be a $100-million spender, but shouldn't MLB take a hard stance here to make sure luxury tax money goes back into payroll?
-- Al, Jupiter, Fla.
The reason payroll is dropping so dramatically appears to be because the Marlins didn't meet their revenue projections in 2012. The organization hasn't gotten too specific about why it is making the cut. But in '12, the club was banking on larger crowds and numerous sellouts. Those never came, especially after the team started losing in June.
Then there is the bottom line -- the team wasn't very good. Despite a roughly $100 million payroll, the Marlins weren't winning. In July, the first of numerous trades occurred, as Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Randy Choate, Edward Mujica and Gaby Sanchez were all moved.
Obviously, trading Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle after one season of their respective multiyear contracts doesn't help attract future marquee free agents. But we'll see if things change on the free agency front in future years. Right now, the Marlins aren't courting the highest-priced players on the market, but that could change in a year or two. So at least for now, having a $100 million payroll isn't in the plans.
But that doesn't mean that payroll won't rise substantially in upcoming years. The team is planning on spending more in the international market -- even if it doesn't make one specific high-cost signing. And more dollars are being pumped into development.
More than just spending money to say it is spending money, the organization is striving to build a deeper and stronger foundation in hopes of turning things around.
Are the Marlins seriously considering Solano at second base? Why isn't Coghlan being seriously considered to start at second and be the leadoff hitter? It's a natural position for him, and he is one of the only players in the lineup who has plate discipline.
-- Joe S., Lakeland, Fla.
The Marlins are giving Coghlan, the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner, every chance to win a job. Now 27, Coghlan is on the 40-man roster, and he might wind up winning some form of utility role because he can play left field and center field. Although he was an infielder in college and for most of his Minor League career, he has played outfield since reaching the big leagues in 2009.
Solano stepped up when given a chance last year, and right now he enters as the front-runner to play second base. Coghlan may wind up seeing some action at second and third base in Spring Training.
Unfortunately for Coghlan, he's dealt with plenty of injuries and inconsistencies since his rookie season. He batted .140 in 39 games with Miami in 2012, and he was sent down. After hitting .284 at Triple-A New Orleans, Coghlan didn't get a callup in September. He played some winter ball in the Dominican Republic, where he batted .213 in 24 games.
Most likely, Spring Training will be Coghlan's final chance to secure a spot with the Marlins. As for leading off, Juan Pierre is expected to handle the role.