I was watching the MLB Network and the broadcasters were discussing what might happen if Albert Pujols doesn't sign a contract extension with the Cardinals. They mentioned possible clubs if he didn't return to St. Louis, and one of the teams was the Marlins. With Florida about to move into a new ballpark, is it possible that the organization would be looking to pick up a marquee player like Pujols as a welcoming gift for their fans? -- Benjamin F., Hollywood, Fla.
As the franchise makes the transition to its new ballpark in 2012, payroll naturally will increase. We're already seeing more dollars spent on players. This year, the Opening Day payroll projects to be about $58 million. Perhaps we could be looking at a $70 million payroll in 2012. Now, if Pujols reaches the open market, would the Marlins make a run at the player who might be the best in the game? I wouldn't rule anything out, because the organization is pretty thorough in exploring the market. If they get creative and something makes sense, then I wouldn't be surprised if Florida made a push for any high-profile player.
In the new ballpark, the Marlins should have more payroll flexibility because they don't have many players locked up to long-term contracts. Where the club would be cautious is allocating such a high percentage of its overall payroll on one player. Say Pujols signs a deal like Alex Rodriguez -- he would be making about $25 million to $30 million in 2012. If Florida's payroll jumped to about $100 million, then that figure would fit in more realistically than a payroll of say, $70 million to $80 million.
The Marlins don't want a situation like the Rangers had when they signed A-Rod years ago and then weren't able to surround him with enough support.
The Marlins have a track record of promoting talented young players. Does the organization have one of the better Minor League systems in the game? -- Leo V., San Bruno, Calif.
The Marlins have long been regarded as having one of the better Minor League systems in the game. They've developed some terrific talent, ranging from Josh Beckett to Miguel Cabrera to Josh Johnson. Now the roster has homegrown players like Gaby Sanchez, Chris Coghlan, Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton. All were Marlins Draft picks.
A year ago, Stanton was rated as the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball, while Morrison was ranked 25th overall by MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, who put together a Top 50 Prospect list.
With Morrison and Stanton in the big leagues, the talent pool at the Minor League level is a bit dry compared to this time last year. Players like Stanton and Morrison don't come around every year. So the organization's system is once again being refurbished. Still, there are some players to watch. Matt Dominguez will get a chance to win the third-base job in Spring Training. Alex Sanabia is a talented pitcher who will compete for a roster spot.
Some pitchers who will be in camp to keep an eye on are Chad James, Tom Koehler, Rob Rasmussen and Elih Villanueva.
What are the plans for young arms like Jose Ceda, Jhan Marinez and Daniel Jennings now that the team has acquired bullpen help? They all seem to have good stuff, and they are young. -- Alex F., Cape Coral, Fla.
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All three of these prospects will get a look in Spring Training. They each benefit by the fact the club went out and obtained experienced relief help. The reason is they won't have to be rushed to the big leagues. We saw last year that Ceda and Marinez were each promoted to the big leagues out of necessity. Marinez ended up suffering an elbow injury, while Ceda dealt with command issues. Jennings, meanwhile, is a lefty with a lot of potential. If they don't make the Opening Day roster, they will get more Minor League seasoning and perhaps then could help the team later in the year.
If DeWayne Wise has an impressive Spring Training, is it possible that he could play center field and then Chris Coghlan could move back to left? Logan Morrison could move back to first or he could also add depth to the bench and fill the lefty pinch-hit role. -- Steve M., Fredericksburg, Va.
Basically, you have the scenario backwards. Wise is the candidate to be the lefty bat off the bench and to provide veteran experience if for some reason Coghlan isn't ready to go in center field. There are no intentions of making Morrison a bench player. He is 23 years old, and I've spoken to people around the league who feel he will be a future All-Star. You have to allow Coghlan and Morrison time to play regularly in Spring Training and watch them develop. Spring Training statistics are pretty much meaningless, and they often are misleading. Wise was signed to a Minor League deal with the intention of him opening the year at Triple-A New Orleans if he doesn't win a big league roster spot.
The Marlins signed Josh Kroeger to a Minor League contract, and he has been pretty effective playing for Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League. He has speed, power and a good knowledge of the strike zone from the left side. Can he be a good candidate for the lefty bat off the bench? Will Scott Cousins or Bryan Petersen get a stronger look over Kroeger? -- Carlos B., Weston, Fla.
Kroeger, a 28-year-old left-handed-hitting outfielder, indeed has posted solid numbers while playing in Venezuela. He batted .369 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in 41 games in winter ball. He is a non-roster invitee with a Spring Training invitation, and he will compete for a bench spot. He has some big league experience, having appeared in 22 games with Arizona in 2004. There is, however, competition for the job he is looking to win. He is in the mix with a couple of other left-handed-hitting outfielders who are non-roster invitees, like Wise and Chris Lubanski.
The question was asked about Cousins and Petersen, and if they have an advantage. Their main edge is the fact that both already are on Florida's 40-man roster. If Kroeger makes the team, room would have to be cleared on the 40-man squad.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com He writes a blog called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.