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Mailbag: Marlins to honor 1997 WS 10 year anniversary, closer, CF, mor


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Are the Marlins going to do something significant next year to honor the 1997 championship? Maybe retire a number? Anything?

-- Sara C., Miami


As a matter of fact, honoring and remembering the 1997 season will be a high focal point of the team's marketing plans in 2007. Nothing has been revealed publicly, but announcements on specifics will be made before Spring Training begins. The '97 club was certainly special. It won a World Series in the organization's fifth season. Only Arizona, which won it all in its fourth year, celebrated a title faster than Florida.


Nothing seems to be in the works about retiring numbers, although it is a topic that is certainly worth exploring. The name that most often comes to mind is Jeff Conine, a.k.a. "Mr. Marlin," who was on both championship teams. Conine wore different numbers -- 18 and 19 -- during his tenure. The only number retired in club history is No. 5, in honor of the late Carl Barger, hired as the team's first president and chief operating officer.


Barger passed away at the Winter Meetings in 1992, before the team even started playing. The reason No. 5 was retired was because Barger's favorite all-time player was Joe DiMaggio.


This will be the 15th season the Marlins are in existence and enough history is starting to be built up to recognize the club's past. I think the club should be considering its own type of Old Timers Day tradition.


It's looking more and more like one of the Marlins starters is going to have to be dealt to get the center field help we need. Who do you think would be the one to go and who would step into the rotation spot? Is Sergio Mitre going to get another shot, or will we be seeing what Yusmeiro Petit can do? I'd like to know what we have with that guy, considering he was regarded even higher than Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco.

-- Joey G., Tallahassee, Fla.


Barring a change of thinking, I am getting the impression the club isn't going to part with any of the starting five pitchers, and I'm not sure if a major move will be made for a center fielder. Looking around at the skyrocketing salaries for free agents thus far, coupled with the Marlins' financial limitations, I wouldn't be surprised if there isn't a big-splash push for a center fielder. The reasons are first, money, and second, other teams aren't eager to part with their young players who are affordable now as well. The Pirates, for instance, aren't eager to part with Chris Duffy.


Trading top-rated prospects, or low service-time players, for prospects rarely happens. That's because teams know what they have in their own prospects and aren't quite willing to take the risk with another team's prospects. So I wouldn't be stunned if no major deal is done for a center fielder. As for having to trade one of their projected starting five, the Marlins are very hesitant to do that. I'm not sure Petit was once regarded as a better prospect than Johnson. Various reports have their own ranking system. A year ago, many in the Marlins organization felt Johnson was the club's top pitching prospect, while a few others sided with Scott Olsen. Johnson had the stronger rookie season. As for Mitre, he may indeed be dangled as trade bait.


Could the Marlins look at the Rule 5 Draft again next year for a center fielder, hopefully they can get a surprise pick like they did with Dan Uggla.

-- Jimi F., Miami


The Marlins certainly captured lightning in a bottle a year ago by plucking Uggla out of the Rule 5 Draft. While the scouting department is combing through potential Rule 5 candidates, to expect them to once again use the Rule 5 Draft to land a starting center fielder may be wishful thinking. Keep in mind, Rule 5 picks have to make the active roster on Opening Day and remain there throughout the entire season. It's just so rare to find available position players capable of doing that. Still, the front office spent a great deal of time in the Arizona Fall League searching for those diamonds in the rough. If last year taught us anything, it's that the Rule 5 Draft shouldn't be taken lightly.


Who do the Marlins think the closer of the future is? Taylor Tankersley, Travis Bowyer, Henry Owens? There are a lot of choices.

-- Steve D., Rochester, N.Y.


Tankersley will be a candidate, but probably not the ideal candidate. How the bullpen finally settles heading into Spring Training will determine where Tankersley is slotted. The recent trades that brought in Owens, Matt Lindstrom and Kevin Gregg added three back-end of the bullpen choices. Lindstrom is a very hard thrower. He also had a strong strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Gregg has big-league experience, but he may end up being used in long and situational relief. Owens also will get a look, but he's inexperienced. Bowyer had shoulder surgery and may miss all of 2007. Bowyer missed the entire 2006 season as well. The trades add some early choices, but more relief options will be pursued.


Now that the Mets don't have Cliff Floyd, why don't the Marlins go after him and play him in center field?

-- Jose M., Kendall, Fla.


Floyd has played 28 games in center field in his career, which began in 1993, and he hasn't played there in a number of years. Floyd has had a history of injuries, including an Achilles problem that required surgery. He will undergo a several-month rehab program. He's a corner outfielder, and the club is committed to Josh Willingham in left field, making it remote Floyd would return to the Marlins, for whom he played from 1997-2002.


What offseason moves, specifically on offense, are the Marlins likely to make?

-- Chris G., Fort Lauderdale


Based on the modest payroll, and the fact the big money this year will be spent on Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera, means there won't be dramatic changes to the lineup. The search is on for a center-field upgrade, and that would be the primary area of change to the lineup. Looking at the free-agent dollars going to players like Juan Pierre ($44 million for five years with the Dodgers) is a clear sign the Marlins are not pursuing established free-agent center fielders.


There is a chance they could swing a deal for someone like Tampa Bay's Rocco Baldelli, but even that seems remote because the Marlins are not looking to deal any of their starting five pitchers. So it will depend on how creative the front office can be. They still are building toward being championship caliber over the next few seasons, and there is a reluctance to part with key pieces they'll need down the road in hopes of a quick fix. So that is the challenge in searching for a center fielder. Players along the lines of Ryan Langerhans fit the profile for outfield help because the dollars aren't there to go after more established players.


Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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Now that the Mets don't have Cliff Floyd, why don't the Marlins go after him and play him in center field?

-- Jose M., Kendall, Fla.


Quotes like that remind me why so many think so little of our fan base.


Also, I have a hard time viewing Frisario as an insider given his continued insistance that the team will not trade any of its pitching for a centerfield upgrade when Beinfest has come out and said that it is something to explore.

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