Marlins' 2012 begins and ends with change
Opening with new stars in new park, team has roster overhaul, replaces manager
MIAMI -- Everything started off new for the Marlins in 2012. But for the second straight season, the organization found itself in last place.
Year One at magnificent Marlins Park was not supposed to turn out this way. After all, management felt it did everything to guarantee a strong inaugural campaign in the new building.
The Marlins hired a high-profile manager in Ozzie Guillen. They loaded up on major free agents, signing Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle for a combined $191 million. They unveiled flashy new uniforms and a new logo, which became among the hottest selling merchandise in the big leagues.
Yet, for all the fuss and fanfare, the season turned into a flop.
Despite the richest payroll in franchise history, Miami couldn't put together enough wins to stay in contention. Once mid-July rolled around -- and the team didn't make up ground -- the front office pulled off three trades that signaled the beginning of the end of a core of players that had stayed together for a few years.
Hanley Ramirez, Gaby Sanchez, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Randy Choate and Edward Mujica were all dealt.
When the dust settled after the season, Guillen was dismissed, and he was replaced on Nov. 1 by Mike Redmond.
More trades followed. Bell, who had a forgetful year, was shipped to the D-backs. And the biggest shockwaves the organization sent out came on Nov. 19, when the team finalized a 12-player deal with the Blue Jays.
It was the largest number of players ever involved in one deal with the Marlins. Buehrle, Reyes, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck all were sent to Toronto for seven players. In all, 12 players from the Opening Day roster were traded between July and late November.
Bottoming out so completely caught the club off guard, because it was expecting to challenge for a postseason spot, not undergo another makeover.
For all the disappointment in a 69-93 season, the year wasn't a total loss. In May, the team won a franchise-record 21 games in the month.
There also were some impressive individual performances. Giancarlo Stanton belted 37 home runs, the second most in franchise history. Justin Ruggiano, obtained in May in a Minor League trade with Houston, literally came out of nowhere to be a solid contributor.
Steve Cishek, with his tricky sidearm delivery, emerged as a reliable closer. Donovan Solano, a castoff by the Cardinals, showed he is ready to play either every day or as a super utility player.
In the second half, Rob Brantly showed promise, taking over as the regular catcher. Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi stepped up to show they have terrific upside as starting pitchers.
But the bottom line in 2012 was the losing didn't justify keeping the core of the club together. So the team moved in a youthful direction, with the hope that Redmond and his passion and enthusiasm will ignite a turnaround.
Before moving forward to 2013, we'll take a look back and recap the top five storylines for the Marlins in '12.
5. Ozzie flap over Fidel
After a strong Spring Training, where the club was inspired and focused, there was a change in tone a few days into the regular season. Guillen was featured in a Time magazine article making controversial comments about dictator Fidel Castro, which outraged Miami's Cuban community.
Guillen accepted full responsibility for his comments and apologized sincerely at a news conference in Miami. The Marlins slapped their manager with a five-game suspension. A more humbled Guillen returned to the dugout after the suspension was lifted. On the field, the team struggled to find its stride and had a rough April.
4. Record-setting month of May
So much went wrong over the course of the year, but for one month, it appeared everything would turn out all right. The Marlins went 21-8 in May, establishing a franchise record for most wins in any month.
Stanton caught fire, belting 12 home runs, on his way to being named the National League Player of the Month. After beating the Nationals on May 30, the Marlins were just a half-game out of first place in the NL East.
For Miami, that was as good as it would get in the season.
3. July deadline trade off
Hitting with runners in scoring position was a year-long problem. In hopes of adding an offensive boost, Carlos Lee was obtained from the Astros on July 4 for prospects Matt Dominguez and Rob Rasmussen.
The trade was the last sign of hope for energizing the roster. A few days later, Stanton underwent right knee surgery, and he was lost for a month.
Sensing the season was headed nowhere, the Marlins started the wheeling and dealing July 23. Anibal Sanchez and Infante were sent to the Tigers for prospects, including Brantly and Turner. Two days later, Ramirez and Choate were dealt to the Dodgers for Eovaldi. Capping the month, the Marlins moved Mujica to the Cardinals and Gaby Sanchez to the Pirates on July 31.
2. Guillen's tenure done after one
When the Marlins hired Guillen on Sept. 28, 2011, team owner Jeffrey Loria talked about the timing being right. Miami sent prospects Ozzie Martinez and Jhan Marinez to the White Sox as compensation, and Guillen signed a four-year, $10 million deal.
Guillen's tenure lasted until Oct. 23, 2012.
Heading into '12, Guillen was considered the right fit for a high-profile roster. But his legacy in many ways was directly tied to Ramirez's underperforming. A major reason Guillen was paid top dollar was to get Ramirez to produce like he had in the past. When it didn't happen, both were ultimately moved.
Opting to get younger and retool, Redmond was hired on Nov. 1 to offer his leadership. The task won't be easy because Miami will lack experience.
1. Largest trade in franchise history
The Marlins are certainly no strangers to making blockbuster trades. But in their history, in terms of pure volume, nothing matched what was finalized on Nov. 19.
In all, 12 players were involved in the deal with the Blue Jays, bringing seven to Miami. Johnson, Reyes, Buehrle, Bonifacio and Buck were moved for Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Anthony DeSclafani.
The stunning trade came a year after signing Reyes and Buehrle, who both were led to believe they would be part of the Marlins' future. But per team policy, neither had a no-trade clause.
The trade also moved nearly $160 million off Miami's books and marked a change of course. After one year of being big spenders, the Marlins are once again scaling back, trying to reinvent themselves with a roster in 2013 that projects to have a $40 million payroll.