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2006 and beyond...


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With the Nationals' pickup of Alex Escobar, there have been rumors that D.C. might be willing to trade Terrmel Sledge for some bullpen help. The Marlins are pretty set in the 'pen with all the offseason pickups. Why don't the Marlins offer Nate Bump and Ben Howard in exchange for Sledge, a young, cheap left-handed bat off the bench? He has some pop and can take over in right field next year when Juan Encarnacion's and Jeff Conine's contracts are up. The Marlins will still have more then enough arms in the 'pen and could add a young affordable lefty to the mix. Are they looking into any possible trade for Sledge? -- Maria G.


This is an interesting question that raises some good points. Sledge has some power and is young, and he certainly has one of the great names in the game. I'm not sure the Nationals will make a deal with the Marlins, since they are division rivals.


Sledge was in trade rumors most of the offseason, and at one time, he was linked to a rumored trade for Sammy Sosa. Now, it looks as though he will be the Nationals' fourth outfielder, if he doesn't earn a starting job. I'm not sure Washington would take Bump or Howard for Sledge. Typically, good, young talent that is relatively cheap isn't traded unless the team like the Nationals feels they can deal him for a proven player should they be in serious playoff contention.


You raise an interesting point about right field next year. It's true that Conine and Encarnacion are not under contract after this season. As for the right fielder of the future, look for Florida's top prospect, Jeremy Hermida, to be in the mix to start in right field in 2006.


The Marlins' first-round pick in 2002, Hermida is a left-handed hitter with a tremendous upside. He is in Marlins camp this spring, and will open the season at Double-A Carolina. If prospects excel at Double-A, the Marlins don't hesitate to bring them up. They did so with Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis in 2003.


Next offseason, Alfonso Soriano becomes a free agent. Why don't the Marlins just dump Luis Castillo and get a power-hitting second basemen who isn't that expensive? -- Steven C., Miami Beach, Fla.


I don't know your definition of expensive, but Castillo is making about $4.7 million a year for two more seasons, and Soriano, who becomes a free agent in 2006, is making $7.5 million. Granted, Soriano has tremendous power and is a terrific talent, but he is a contrasting player to Castillo. I remember when the Marlins faced the Yankees in the World Series, and all the New York newspapers gave the edge at second base to Soriano in a head-to-head scorecard before the series was played.


If you base your judgment solely on power numbers, it is no contest. But defensively, it is no contest the other way. Castillo is a two-time Gold Glove winner at second base. Marlins infield coach Perry Hill, one of the best in the business, rates Castillo as one of baseball's best defenders at any position. Castillo is also a perennial .300 hitter who gets on base. In the Marlins' offense, what makes them difficult to figure out is the combination of speed with Juan Pierre and Castillo at the top of the order. How parts in the batting order fit together is very important. The Marlins this year have more balance with speed and power, especially with the addition of Carlos Delgado.


My husband and I are really excited about this year's team. We have been season-ticket holders since the first ball was thrown at the stadium. Has anyone ever worn the No. 5 for the Marlins? -- Diana G., Cooper City, Fla.


Wonderful question for trivia buffs. The answer is that No. 5 is retired in honor of the late Carl Barger, the team's first president. Barger passed away on Dec. 9, 1992, at the baseball Winter Meetings. The Marlins retired the No. 5 on April 5, 1993, in their inaugural season. Why No. 5? Barger's favorite player was Joe DiMaggio.


Who is projected to be the replacement for Mike Mordecai as a utility infielder? --- Rolando C., Miami


The popular Mordecai has retired as a player and is now managing the Marlins' Class A Jamestown club in the New York-Penn League. Many believe Mordecai will move up rapidly in the coaching ranks and eventually manage at the Major League level. Like last year, Damion Easley will log the most playing time as a reserve infielder. Easley can play all four infield positions, but is best suited for second base and shortstop.


The competition for the second reserve middle infield spot will be between Wilson Delgado, who spent time with the Mets last year, and minor leaguers Derek Wathan and Josh Wilson. A player in camp to keep an eye on is Robert Andino. A Miami native, Andino is a rising star in the minor leagues and could be in line to win a starting job in 2006.


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Unfortunetly Todd Jones, Jim Mecir and Antonio Alfonseca can't be traded until mid-season.







I'm sayin (?!)


He's saying he would want Sledge, and the Nats would only want a veteran

reliever(s) in exchange for Sledge, All the Marlins vets can be traded until mid season... I guess he failed to notice the Marlins wouldnt want Sledge with the coming of Hermida on the horizon...

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