‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Last season, the Florida Marlins ranked 24th in MLB spending with a payroll of $56,527,000.  With their $515 million dollar retractable roof ballpark set to be completed in March 2012, the new Miami Marlins will certainly be receiving the benefits of increased revenue.

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Their former home, Sun Life Stadium wasn’t exactly built for baseball or the Miami weather.  Tarps over seats, frequent rainouts and terrible sightlines prohibited the Marlins from being able to lure fans or coveted free agents.

Those trends are set to change as the Marlins now have a ‘state of the art’ stadium they can show off as one of their selling points to free agents.  They’ve been busy courting free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and are meeting with Albert Pujols and his representatives today.  Prince Fielder is on their radar and attended the private workout of 26-year old Cuban centerfielder Yoennis Cespedes.

Jorge Sedano of 790 AM The Ticket in Miami is reporting that a deal between the Marlins and Reyes is “almost done.”  No one expects Reyes to sign on immediately with the first team he visits but it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that he does end up in Miami.

It makes sense for Reyes to move to a team showing ambition rather than staying with the Mets who are struggling financially.  Hanley Ramirez appears willing to move to third base if the Marlins are able to sign his friend Reyes.

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He told The Miami Herald, “I think he’s a really good player.  Everybody knows that. This organization needs him. It’s good when you see the front office put the best team they can on the field.”

If the Marlins are able to capture Reyes and slide Ramirez over to third base, Loria would be doing his very best Yankees’ imitation.  In 2004, the Yankees acquired Alex Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers to take the ‘hot corner’ alongside Derek Jeter.  At the time, they had the two best shortstops in the game occupying the left side of their infield.  Now in 2012, the Marlins could very well be on the verge of doing the same.

Whether any of this is possible is up to Marlins’ owner Jeffrey Loria who grew up watching the Yankees and was a season ticket holder at Yankee Stadium for 20 years.  Known to be a collector of fine art, Loria is set to splurge upon free agents to fill his new ballpark, command high-revenue commercial partners and win ballgames.

I can’t imagine a scenario where the Marlins come away with either Pujols or Fielder as they have local product Gaby Sanchez at first base but Reyes is a strong possibility.  The most likely plan of attack for the Marlins is to make every effort to sign Reyes, win the bidding on Cespedes and acquire an additional starter cheaper than Buehrle to fill out their rotation.

The thought of Reyes moving within the NL East to the Marlins would surely break the hearts of Mets fans.  Without Reyes, the once promising future of the Mets’ franchise may have finally drifted away for good.  It would a major blow to their fanbase who will likely avoid Citi Field in greater numbers if Reyes isn’t retained.

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Mets fans – could you imagine Reyes pulling on a Marlins uniform this off-season?  What do the Mets need to do to keep their superstar?  Share your thoughts and opinions below.  Sean Hartnett will be covering the MLB Hot Stove all winter long.  Send him your tweets @HartyLFC.