Scouting Report: Florida Marlins

The Florida Marlins are looking more and more like they're getting serious about winning. So far, they haven't traded away Dan Uggla and now, they've locked up Josh Johnson to a long-term deal.

The times, they are a changin' for the Florida Marlins.

First, the annual stadium name change is taking place in Miami. Land Shark Lager's agreement to hold the naming rights to the stadium has expired, so now, we're back to Dolphins Stadium. Of course, that won't be the case again in 2012, when the Marlins will move into a new stadium and will rename themselves the Miami Marlins. To help ease us into that change, they are dropping the "Florida" script from their road uniforms this season.

Second, after being rumored to be shopping either or both of Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu, the Marlins haven't traded either one and don't appear to be on the verge of trading either of them. In fact, manager Freddi Gonzalez is figuring on Cantu to be a big part of the club in 2010.

Cantu is one of seven arbitration-eligible Marlins and it was thought that he might be dealt in an effort to save money; Not so, according to Gonzalez.

The only question about Cantu is where he plays in 2010. Rookie Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez will compete for the first base job, and if one of them wins it, then Cantu would start at third base.

Sanchez lost that chance in 2009 and started the season at Triple-A New Orleans. If Sanchez and Morrison aren't ready by April, then Cantu would slide back to first.

"It doesn't matter where he plays for me, either first or third," Gonzalez said of Cantu. "I'd just like to see him coming up fourth (in the batting order)."

Batting fourth behind number three hitter Hanley Ramirez, Cantu drove in 100 RBI for the second time in his career. His 16 home runs were down from the 29 he hit in 2008, but he batted .289, his highest batting average over any season in which he played at least 149 games.

As for Uggla, who could get $8 million in arbitration, the team is still trying to trade him, but the Marlins won't just give him away. If Florida doesn't get the right package of players in return, Uggla will open the season with the Marlins.

Now, the Marlins have also shelled out big bucks to pitcher Josh Johnson, one of their arbitration eligible players. Johnson signed a four-year, $39 million deal. The deal buys out two years of arbitration and two years of free agency and is unheralded in the history of the Marlins under owner Jeffrey Loria.

So, why the change?

Both Major League Baseball and the players union were outspoken in addressing the Marlins payroll deficiencies. The club had refused to reinvest income that they received from the luxury tax to increase payroll and better the ball club.

A deal with the union and MLB was reached earlier this week, but the details of the agreement weren't reached. It's thought that the Marlins will increase their payroll as they lead up to the opening of their new ballpark in 2012.

With increased money for their payroll, the Marlins may be able to get out of their buy-low, sell-high approach and might be able to hang onto some of their veteran players. That change could make the Marlins contenders in the NL East, considering that they've played well above their payroll the past couple of seasons.

Now, if the Washington Nationals - who have also been accused of not reinvesting luxury tax funds - start to spend, the NL East might truly become a five-team division.

Of course, spending doesn't guarantee wins; Just ask the New York Mets. The spending has to be done wisely, but with the moves that the Marlins have been able to make simply to keep their club afloat, there has to be some hope that they can make the smart moves that will be required to improve the ball club.

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