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Here Come the Marlins

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    NEWSLETTERS

    In past years, there wouldn't be much need to make a headline out of a prominent baseball player making a trip to Miami in November.

    What better way to unwind after a long season is there than a weekend enjoying the many charms of South Beach? Some good meals, killer nightlife and good weather are pretty good ways to shift your mind into off-season mode. If the player happened to be a free agent, no one would think that they were in that neck of the woods to visit with the Marlins.

    The Marlins didn't spend money on players. They didn't seem to spend much money on anything. If they did get a player who started to earn some coin, they were traded away for some kids to restock the farm system and the 65 or 70 fans who showed up to watch games at a football stadium wouldn't notice the difference.

    Things appear to be changing, though. The Marlins have a new stadium opening next season and they are actually making an effort to get some players on the team that will have people forking over their cold hard cash to buy tickets to see them play. So now when players head down to Miami, all those South Beach charms are suddenly part of a recruiting pitch to get them to sign with the home team.

    And the Marlins are going for some mighty big trophies to put on their wall. Jose Reyes was down there earlier this week and Albert Pujols is visiting the team on Friday which means they are a Prince Fielder short of playing host to all three of the biggest names on the free agent market. There's no sign right now that they will wind up with any of these players, but these aren't just courtesy visits. The Marlins are determined to grab a star or two for their roster before next season and there's a good chance they'll succeed.

    This is of obvious interest to the Phillies because the Marlins are in the same division and because they've proven to be a strong organization when it comes to developing their own talents. Throwing money into that mix, both to keep the players that you develop and to sign players developed by other teams, makes them a formidable foe within the division.

    There's no reason why a market like Miami can't produce enough revenue to become an annual competitor in the NL East and the Marlins are showing this off-season that they're willing to put that money to use. Fear the Marlins?

    Not quite yet, but fear the idea of what they could become in a division that's already tough enough.