Marlins retool roster with young arms

Marlins retool roster with young arms

MIAMI -- A few days ago, when his name was linked to several trade possibilities, Josh Beckett reminisced about a poster the Marlins produced in 2000.

At the time, Beckett was one year removed from being the second overall pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft. The hard-throwing Texan was the club's latest in a stable of young, promising pitchers.

The poster, which had the heading "Young Guns," included Beckett, Brad Penny, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster and Jason Grilli.

"Now we all could be gone," Beckett said by phone days before he was officially traded to the Red Sox on Thursday night. "Of that group, all of us made it, except for Grilli. That's pretty good."

Grilli's career never flourished largely because of injury. The rest have become pretty established.

As the Marlins bid farewell to Beckett, their World Series MVP in 2003, they again find themselves stockpiling a group of "young guns." Several were acquired in a whirlwind of Thanksgiving Day activity.

The Marlins completed two major trades between 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET -- before many in South Florida were digesting their turkey dinners.

First, slugger Carlos Delgado was sent to the Mets for first baseman Mike Jacobs, pitcher Yusmeiro Petit and infielder Grant Psomas.

Moments after Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest signed off of that blockbuster, he worked in earnest to finalize a deal that sends Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota to the Red Sox for Minor Leaguers Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado and Harvey Garcia.

In those deals, Jacobs has the inside edge at replacing Delgado at first base. Ramirez becomes a front-runner to step in at shortstop for free agent Alex Gonzalez, who is expected to sign elsewhere.

The common thread in both deals: the Marlins received promising Minor League pitching.

"I think that if you look at the deals, we have our two guidelines: Best player available and skewed toward pitching," Beinfest said. "Hanley Ramirez has the chance to be an impact everyday shortstop."

The additions of Petit and Sanchez give the organization even more young pitching depth. The Marlins clearly are rebuilding with a focus on pitching.

The rotation may only return Dontrelle Willis from last year. Starting off with an ace who won 22 games and finished second in the Cy Young Award voting isn't a bad starting off point.

Willis turns 24 in January, and he promises to be the leader of a new group of young guns which will include Jason Vargas, Josh Johnson and Scott Olsen.

"Petit goes right in with Johnson, Vargas and Olsen. We have Petit, Sanchez, Johnson, Vargas and Olsen," Beinfest said. "We think they are Major League ready."

Since becoming the Marlins general manager, Beinfest has continued to put a premium on pitching. The organization is now stockpiled with young arms, including three first-round choices and two sandwich picks in the June draft.

Developing in the Minor Leagues are potential stars Chris Volstad, Aaron Thompson and Jacob Marceaux, the team's top three picks in June. Additionally, Ryan Tucker and Sean West, who were sandwich picks before the second round, are considered quality prospects.

Based on his Arizona Fall League performance, Nic Ungs will get a shot to make the club as a spot start/long reliever when Spring Training opens.

By moving established, expensive parts -- Delgado, Lowell, Beckett and Mota -- the Marlins have trimmed about $67 million in total contracts.

Beinfest didn't rule out more major moves, but the payroll is getting more manageable. The status of Paul Lo Duca ($6.25 million in 2006) and Luis Castillo ($5 million in 2006) remains very much up in the air. Both could be dealt. And Juan Pierre, in line to earn about $5.5 million in arbitration, is on the trading block, as is reliever Ron Villone, who is signed for $2 million.

Without the security of a new stadium, the future of the franchise is very much up in the air. The Marlins have been granted permission to seek relocation in hopes to find a stadium deal.

"This is following through on our market correction," Beinfest said.

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