Are the Marlins going to try to sign a center fielder, or will Justin Ruggiano be the Opening Day starter?
-- Joe L., Palm Beach, Fla.
For most of the offseason, the front office explored center-field possibilities. The Marlins haven't found a fit, and they have internal candidates in Ruggiano, Bryan Petersen and Gorkys Hernandez. The way things are shaping up, Ruggiano has the inside edge to win the starting job. Chris Coghlan also will get a look in center field when Spring Training gets under way.
The signing of Juan Pierre basically changed the club's thinking. While Pierre played center for the Marlins 10 years ago, he is best suited to play left field. So rather than have Ruggiano in a corner outfield spot, he will play more center field.
Ruggiano appears to be the first choice now, unless the Marlins find another option that has yet to come available. The club is going to need Ruggiano's power, especially with Pierre being in a corner spot.
Do you think Christian Yelich may have a chance to start? With the Marlins going with so many rookies, would playing Yelich really hurt?
-- Josh B., Lancaster, Pa.
Yelich, ranked No. 1 by MLB.com on the Marlins' Top 20 Prospects list, projects to open the season at Double-A Jacksonville. I think one reason the team hasn't aggressively tested the market for a center fielder is they believe Yelich could be ready to take over, either midway through the 2013 season or the start of '14.
How quickly he arrives at the big leagues will be up to his performance. The Marlins have not hesitated moving players up from Double-A to the big leagues, but only after they've shown success at that level.
But I don't expect Yelich to win the starting big league job for 2013, even if he has a terrific Spring Training.
As a lifelong Marlins fan, I'm concerned about the product on the field going into 2013, as well as the future. I see the club finishing in last place this year, losing over 100 games, as well as attendance dropping. How are the Marlins going to rebuild if their prospects don't exceed expectations? Revenue goes down with attendance, free agents unwilling to sign? And Giancarlo Stanton may leave at the first opportunity he gets.
-- Max A., Baltimore, Md.
You raise points that have been on the minds of Marlins fans since the big trade was made with the Blue Jays. That said, the team finished last the past two seasons with primarily the same players. Obviously, plenty of fans are upset, and management isn't real happy about all that has transpired, either.
You predict more than 100 losses. We'll see. There are some very talented players who are either ready now or will be ready to step in later in 2013 and certainly in '14. Jacob Turner is a very talented starter, as is Nathan Eovaldi. Jose Fernandez, who should open in Double-A, has the chance to be an elite top-of-the-rotation pitcher. Yelich and Jake Marisnick also are outfielders who project to be very good players. Both are getting close to being big league ready.
As for attendance, obviously the market wants to see results. The quicker the team can win, the faster the fans will come back. As for Stanton, he isn't a free agent until after the 2016 season. So the Marlins can sign him on a year-to-year basis for four more seasons, unless they are offered a trade they can't refuse.
To many, the immediate future seems bleak. I think in a year or as the season goes on, you will see the product getting better as the young players gain more seasoning.
Why don't the Marlins trade Stanton, Ricky Nolasco and Logan Morrison to the Yankees for Tyler Austin, Eduardo Nunez and a solid pitching prospect? The Yankees like to trade prospects for veterans, and they need a big bat.
-- Joey M., New York
There is a good reason why they wouldn't make such a trade. Stanton alone would command the top two or three prospects, plus another big league-ready player or two from any team out there. The only way the Marlins would even consider trading Stanton is if they clean out another team's farm system, meaning really high-end players, and at least three or four of them. Otherwise, Miami can play the waiting game.
Nolasco is a proven starter, and he would also have value on the market. And Morrison is coming off surgery to his right knee. He has yet to show what he is capable of, and right now he is affordable and has something to prove.
With Nolasco wanting to be traded, who is going to fill the void in the rotation if he is traded?
-- Chris B., Port St. Lucie, Fla.
The Marlins are expecting to keep Nolasco, at least for much of the first half of the season. He is the franchise's all-time wins leader, and he has plenty to pitch for, being he is eligible for free agency after the season. If something makes sense before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the team would consider it.
Who would replace Nolasco in the rotation if he were traded? There are a number of young pitchers getting close to be big league ready. Jose Fernandez could be one option. Others are Alex Sanabia and Brad Hand. But the organization has a group of pitching prospects moving up quickly through the system.
Placido Polanco was good in the past, but he is getting older and he missed so much time with injuries. Is Polanco really the answer at third base?
-- Corey M., Miami
Health is very much a concern with this signing. Now 37, Polanco missed substantial time with the Phillies last year with lower-back issues. That's worrisome. Polanco did pass his physical, which made the team confident he will be ready for the start of Spring Training.
Even with the signing of Polanco, I believe the Marlins remain in the market for a third baseman of the future. They do have some prospects, like Zack Cox, who will get a look in Spring Training.