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Actually if your the Florida Marlins, you don't need a dime. Or any money for that matter. Because the Marlins, and their $21 million dollar payroll are actually in 2nd place in the NL East, only .5 games out of first. The Mets have a $140 million dollar payroll and sit 1.5 games back of Florida and the Braves have a $102 million dollar payroll and are in fourth place. And to top it all off, they play in a football stadium and have less fans than Milli Vanilli. Seriously, if they get 15,000 a night, its alot. So how in the world did they do this? The answer is actually not so simple.
Draft -Most small market teams have to build a competitive product through the draft so it is no surprise that the Marlins have had success drafting players. Jeremy Hermida, Chris Volstad, Scott Olsen, Josh Willingham, and Josh Johnson were all drafted by the Fish. That's obviously quite impressive, but when you consider that Hermida is only hitting .260, Willingham missed 2 months with a back issue, and Johnson is just coming back from Tommy John; it is obvious that while the draft aided the Marlins progress it is not the principle reason for their success.
Free Agency -Now, I bet most of you are thinking, "the Marlins only have a $15 million dollar payroll, how could free agency aid in their success? Well, in this era of ballplayers earning much more than they are worth, the Marlins have excelled at giving low level free agents with talent chances to succeed. Two obvious examples are closer Kevin Gregg and third baseman Jorge Cantu.
Gregg was merely a middle reliever for the Angels in 2006 when the Marlins signed him to be their closer. Ever since then, Gregg has not looked back. He has a 2.84 ERA this season 24 saves and has only given up 1 HR while providing a steadiness to the Marlins pen. Cantu has been successful before in the big leagues. Back in 2005,
Cantu was seen as one of the rising stars of baseball when he hit 28 HR and 117 RBI for the Devil Rays. In the two seasons since his breakout campaign, Cantu has fallen off the map. But the Marlins took a flier on him this off season and he promptly beat out Dallas McPherson for the starting job and is now hitting third in the lineup. He has never been much of an OBP guy, but has a respectable .340 OBP this season to go along with his 19 HR. The Fish have even been able to get value out of guys like Joe Nelson, Luis Gonzalez, Alfredo Amezega, Cody Ross (brought from the Reds), Mark Hendrickson (eh...), and Wes Helms. Now that's impressive.
Trades Ah, now this is where the Marlins have really excelled. It all began with the trade of Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to the Red Sox for Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez (one of those rare deals where both sides got great value). Ramirez has been amazing for the Marlins (25 HR, 26 SB's this season) and is a real threat to go 40/40. Probably the best shortstop in baseball right now.
The Marlins also traded away Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in a deal for 6 minor leaguers (including Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller) that was criticized heavily at the time. Willis and Cabrera were two of the Marlins best players and most marketable players and trading them in the same deal seemed crazy at the time. The deal looks amazing right now. Cabrera has put up some big numbers, but is a liability in the field and will probably have weight issues for the rest of his career, while Willis is stuck at Class A Lakeland trying to regain his control.
The Fish have also acquired stud starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco and valuable relief pitcher Reynel Pinto from the Cubs for the slappy, speedy, singles hitter (yay alliteration!) Juan Pierre. First baseman Mike Jacobs was acquired for the aging Carlos Delgado. And even fireballer Matt Linndstrom was acquired (with Henry Owens) from my beloved Mets for the artist formally known as Jason Vargas and whatever's left of Adam Bostick. Needless to say, the Marlins got the better of that one.
Luck Dan Uggla. Rule 5 Draft. He has established himself as one of the premier hitting second basemen in the league. His defense stinks, but boy can he hit (25+ HR in first three seasons). How did no one else take a flier on this guy?
Oh and by the way, Alfredo Amezega likes to celebrate. Alot. Wow.
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