Marlins face costly offseason with 18 players eligible for arbitration
By Mike Berardino | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
August 26, 2008
When it comes to stretching a dollar, the Marlins Get your Marlins Tickets now! are pretty much the kings of Major League Baseball.
Yet their vaunted front office will have trouble making all (or even most) of the pieces fit this winter.
Eighteen. That's the potentially record number of arbitration cases they could face once this surprisingly successful season ends, and they embark on perhaps their most painful offseason in three years.
Total cost of retaining all 18 players for 2009 could approach $33 million, a figure the Marlins haven't reached for their 25-man roster since 2005. Bringing back the most vital contributors from this year's team could cost $44 million.
BREAKDOWN: Marlins' projected payroll, player-by-player Topping the arbitration list are All-Star second baseman Dan Uggla (27 home runs), right-hander Ricky Nolasco (13 wins) and two-year closer Kevin Gregg (29 saves). That trio could see its 2009 haul hit a combined $12 million, with Uggla leading the way at a projected $5 million.
Gregg figures to land in the $4.5 million range, which makes him a likely trade candidate as the Marlins make room for understudy Matt Lindstrom, who won't be eligible for arbitration for at least another year.
Nolasco, with a projected salary of $2.5 million, is one of three starting pitchers eligible for arbitration for the first time.
Lefty Scott Olsen ($2.6 million projected) could wind up making a bit more than Nolasco based on his durability during the two-year period that will be evaluated.
Josh Johnson, making a successful return from Tommy John surgery, should experience a more modest pay increase, but he still should reach seven figures for the first time.
In all, the Marlins figure to have a dozen players enter the arbitration system for the first time. Others include first baseman Mike Jacobs (25 homers); relievers Doug Waechter, Logan Kensing and Joe Nelson; and their entire starting outfield of Jeremy Hermida, Josh Willingham and Cody Ross.
Jacobs, whose salary could approach $2.5 million off an overall disappointing year, is a trade candidate as the Marlins seek to improve their defense while balancing their books.
Corner infielder Jorge Cantu, a second-time arbitration qualifier, is a candidate to replace Jacobs at first, but only if his salary doesn't rise too quickly off this comeback season.
Others with four-plus years of service time this winter will be catcher Matt Treanor, super sub Alfredo Amezaga, reliever Justin Miller and injured starter Sergio Mitre. The latter two are among possible non-tenders, meaning the Marlins could choose not to offer them contracts by the December deadline.
If Cantu moves off third, that could open the door for Triple-A third baseman Dallas McPherson, who leads the minors with 40 homers.
Current Marlins under team control for next season include franchise shortstop Hanley Ramirez ($5.5 million); starters Andrew Miller ($1.575 million), Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad; and relievers Renyel Pinto, Lindstrom and Taylor Tankersley.
Sanchez and Volstad should make close to $400,000, next year's major league minimum, but Andrew Miller could be a lower-cost option to replace one of the three arbitration-eligible starters. Olsen would be a logical trade candidate in that scenario.
Sanchez could regain an additional year of service time if he prevails in an ongoing dispute with the Marlins, but even then he wouldn't be arbitration eligibility.
Five Marlins can become free agents: reserve outfielder Luis Gonzalez, infielder Wes Helms, backup catcher Paul Lo Duca and lefties Arthur Rhodes and Mark Hendrickson.