Marlins offseason checklist, find the best taker for Heath Bell? Check. Managerial and coaching decisions? Pending this weeks' meeting in New York, but based on the tweet by Ozzie Guillen over the weekend, the result looks positive:

Trade Josh Johnson and/or Ricky Nolasco? To be determined. After dealing Heath Bell away, the Marlins cleared $6.5 million off their books for 2013 and 2014 respectively. This currently puts the Marlins payroll of guaranteed contracts slightly under $60 million without taking into account team control or arbitration eligible players which could push it near $75 million. If the Marlins are to have their payroll cut down by $20 million to the $70-80 million range as reported by Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, more drastic moves are coming. Could we see pitchers Ricky Nolasco ($11.5 million due in 2013) and Josh Johnson ($13.75 million due in 2013) be dealt this offseason? Both are entering the final year of their respective contract extensions and neither has lived up to them the way the franchise expected them too.


Johnson, 29 by Spring Training, was riddled with injury woes stemming from back and shoulder problems in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Nolasco, 30 by Spring Training, hasn't inspired confidence in being a top-of-the-rotation guy since his breakout 2008 campaign and his K/9 rate has drastically declined over the last four seasons.
What you have to ask yourself in trading either or both of these players is, can they regain form for 2013 and can you really trust them in another long-term deal if you get there? Johnson and Nolasco are already in the rare class of long-tenured starting pitchers for the Marlins organization but that could soon end. With a need to improve at various positions and to reduce payroll, trading both Johnson and Nolasco might not be far fetched at all.
The Marlins were anything but must see television in 2012, unless you love watching painfully terrible storylines or an occasional moment of bliss, courtesy of Giancarlo Stanton and his shiny bat and an innocent baseball. Even despite having a rising star and signing the reigning batting champ Jose Reyes, the Marlins scored 609 runs (second lowest in team history for 162 game schedule) and were shutout a franchise record 17 times in 2012.

Numbers aside, how do the Marlins go about fixing their offensive woes which have virtually declined, season by season, since Miguel Cabrera's departure? The free agent market certainly has its pickings but do the Marlins want to dip into their wallets again for high-priced option?
Outfielders Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton, and Nick Swisher are all going to be sought out by other teams and their final price is likely going to tally north of $60 million total, which might not entice the Marlins all that much.
At this point, trading Ricky Nolasco would be more about shaving some money of the books for 2013 than acquiring any actual pieces who can contribute. The Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins are possible landing spots for the right-hander if dangled.
With Johnson, the Marlins are going to have a hard time finding the "Mark Teixeria" package (4-5 high ceiling prospects) since health and production haven't been up to par.
One scenario lies in trading for Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton who has been the subject of trade rumors since July despite having an MVP caliber year in 2011. Even with reports that D-Backs owner Ken Kendrick has said it's "highly likely" he will be back, an offseason can change a direction.
As you can see below, for the last five seasons, Upton has been one to favor odd-numbered years:
2008 20 ARI NL 108 417 356 52 89 19 6 15 42 1 4 54 121 .250 .353 .463 .816 107 165
2009 21 ARI NL 138 588 526 84 158 30 7 26 86 20 5 55 137 .300 .366 .532 .899 129 280
2010 22 ARI NL 133 571 495 73 135 27 3 17 69 18 8 64 152 .273 .356 .442 .799 110 219
2011 23 ARI NL 159 674 592 105 171 39 5 31 88 21 9 59 126 .289 .369 .529 .898 141 313
2012 24 ARI NL 150 628 554 107 155 24 4 17 67 18 8 63 121 .280 .355 .430 .785 107 238
6 Yrs 731 3030 2663 438 739 147 28 108 363 80 34 306 694 .278 .357 .475 .832 117 1266
162 Game Avg. 162 671 590 97 164 33 6 24 80 18 8 68 154 .278 .357 .475 .832 117 281
Provided by View Original Table Generated 10/22/2012.
Joking aside, Justin Upton has become expendable in Arizona where even despite trading Chris Young in the Heath Bell three-team trade to the A's, they still have a surplus of outfielders among the likes of A.J. Pollock, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, and Adam Eaton.
Arizona craves a top-of-the-rotation caliber starting pitcher and a superior shortstop to add to the roster. As Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports mentioned, Arizona could package one of its own starting pitchers with Upton to fulfill those needs and with good reason. The Diamondbacks have eight starting pitchers on their 40-man roster and they are Trevor Bauer, Trevor Cahill, Josh Collmenter, Patrick Corbin, Daniel Hudson (Tommy John surgery), Ian Kennedy, Wade Miley, and Tyler Skaggs. Not to mention prospect Archie Bradley, who figures to crack his way in soon.
The Marlins who wanted an enticing return for Josh Johnson last July could find a trade partner in the Arizona Diamondbacks. One scenario could involve trading Johnson and a prospect such as Marcell Ozuna to Arizona for Upton and either Trevor Bauer (who was called out by Kendrick for lack of maturity) or Patrick Corbin. This would probably be a bit far-fetched because of Bauer's potential and the involvement of a prospect like Ozuna.
Another scenario could enter a third team into the fold. In it, the Marlins could send pitcher Josh Johnson to the Texas Rangers (who have twice asked about him over the years). The Rangers trade shortstop Elvis Andrus to the Arizona Diamondbacks who then trade outfielder Justin Upton to the Marlins. It's practically a win-win-win for all sides involved.
The Marlins would save another $4 million by trading JJ for Upton ($9.75 million salary in 2013). Justin Upton is under contract through the 2015 season at $38.5 million, which hails in comparison to what you have to spend on the more valuable free agents.
But for the Marlins to justify trading for him he will need to to produce to his capabilities and being in a lineup ahead of Giancarlo Stanton certainly can helps matters for the 25 year old.
It's a matter of principle for the Marlins, acquire a bat in Upton ahead of his prime and let him and a healthy Marlins lineup revolving around Giancarlo, Morrison, Brantly, Reyes, and Bonifacio do work or keep Josh Johnson, who will might be a liability this franchise can ill afford.
Johnson is a fan favorite and Johnson wants to stay with the Marlins, but does the franchise feel it's time to move on and start their rotation anew with up and coming arms Jacob Turner, Jose Fernandez, and Nathan Eovaldi to pair with Mark Buehrle as its new ace? The Marlins front office will have a big task fixing this team in a hurry for Jeffrey Loria whose patience is running thin with the long-tenured brain trust.