CHICAGO, IL - Starting pitcher Mark Buehrle #56 of the Chicago White Sox smiles at a teammate during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at U.S. Cellular Field. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Marlins committed huge chunks of money to Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle this offseason, and they might not be done. What does their roster look like now?
Are we taking bets on which player that's going to happen to first? I'll guess Rich Harden.
But the point is that the Marlins are building a ballpark that couldn't be more Miami if they made you lick a flamingo's beak before entering. After close to two decades in a crumbling football stadium, it will be an epochal shift for the franchise, and they're spending all sorts of money to inaugurate the new stadium with some free-agent momentum.
On the surface, though, the current roster has the potential for great things. And bad things. Possibly some mediocre things. The Marlins, as currently constructed, are the most enigmatic team in baseball. Their lineup and rotation, as projected by MLB Depth Charts:
Jose Reyes - SS
Emilio Bonifacio - CF
Hanley Ramirez - 3B
Mike Stanton - RF
Logan Morrison - LF
Gaby Sanchez - 1B
John Buck - C
Omar Infante - 2B
Josh Johnson - RHP
Mark Buehrle - LHP
Anibal Sanchez - RHP
Ricky Nolasco - RHP
Chris Volstad - RHP
The first thing you might notice about that lineup: There isn't a dreadful player in the bunch. It's not like Bonifacio, Buck, and Infante are stars, but they are pretty good bets to be average hitters for their positions. The same would go for Sanchez and Morrison. Ramirez is a great rebound candidate if he's not pouting, Reyes is fantastic, and Mike Stanton is one of the more fascinating players in the league.
The rotation is a similar group. There's a chance that Josh Johnson won't be right, or that Anibal Sanchez's newfound durability is a mirage. Maybe Nolasco's strikeout-to-walk ratio really is just a tease, and maybe Volstad's sinker won't be helped all that much with a new shortstop. But there isn't a dreadful, what's-this-guy-doing-here pitcher in the bunch.
And they can still sign or trade for another starting pitcher. If Roy Oswalt is serious about a one-year contract to rebuild his value, he probably couldn't find a better fit than a team that fancies itself a contender, will play in what should be a pitchers' park, and operates in a state without income tax. The Marlins could also go after another one-year wonder like Hiroki Kuroda or Javier Vazquez, or they could go big with a player like Edwin Jackson.
Or they could just stick with Volstad, who is still just 24 and loaded with potential. Any of those options would be reasonable.
But while it's too early to proclaim the Marlins anything other than "probably better than a 90-loss team", it isn't to early to drop at least one label on them: The most interesting team in baseball. They have the new stadium and shiny new free agents, and there are any number of story lines to follow when it comes to the players they're counting on.
The NL East used to be home to a handful of laughingstocks. Now there's just, well, wave to the camera, Mets! The Marlins might not be great -- they might not even be good -- but they shouldn't be boring.