The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Higginson to the Marlins?

We've tried to avoid the subject in hopes that it would keep therumors from coming true, but that doesn't seem to be working. It seems that talk of the Marlins acquiring Tigers' outfielder BobbyHigginson might actually be well founded.

For those of you who don't follow the Tigers very closely (and I suspect that the only reason some of you might is to keep up with Pudge Rodriguez and Ugueth Urbina), here's an overview of Higgy: He's a 34-year old left handed hitting outfielder. Back in the day, or as recently as 2000, he brought a combination of power and average to the plate, but those days seem to be far behind him. In addition, he - at least currently - carries the baggage of a large salary (he's due $8.85 million this season).

Rumors from as recent as Monday had the Marlins in discussion with theTigers about a Juan Encarnacion swap. Encarnacion is due to makeabout half as much as Higginson this year, but Juan doesn't bring aleft-handed bat or the power that Higginson could. On the other hand,he does provide more defense and offers more versatility, plus he'spaid a lot less.

Some folks even have speculated that Encarnacion was playing centerfield in the spring for the benefit of the Tigers, so they could get a feel for how well he could still play the position (early in hiscareer Juan played center for the Tigers). I disagree with that though, as it appears Encarnacion has played in center this spring as he's the Marlins best option with Juan Pierre out.

Fortunately for the Marlins, it looks like they have some time in this situation. The Tigers, though, are a little bit stuck. They'd like to move him soon, but every other team knows that they'll have to. Higginson has no role on the Tigers this year, and he'll likely have to be designated for assignment before opening day, meaning that theTigers will have to trade or release him within ten days.

That could be a good thing for the Marlins on two levels. One, itgives them more time to see if Jeff Conine heals. If he's not going to be ready for the early part of the season, acquiring Higginson might be more of a necessity than a luxury. Second, if the Tigers do designate Higginson for assignment and they're unable to find atrading partner, they'll end up releasing him. At that point Higginson would receive the windfall of his 2005 salary ($8.85million) from the Tigers and he would be free to sign with the club ofhis choice. That's when the Marlins could swoop in and sign him forthe minimum salary or something similar (as Higginson would be moreapt to take it at that point because he would be receiving his"normal" 2005 salary already).

Conclusion: It seems that Bobby Higginson is on the market. Depth is a major concern for the Marlins, so in that sense, acquiring Higginson makes sense. But to acquire him at the expense of another established player already on the roster doesn't seem to make sense, unless themove provides some payroll flexibility or other benefit (which at thispoint doesn't seem possible or even likely).

Hopefully the Marlins will be able to find away to pick up Higginsonon the cheap. Giving up Encarnacion to get him though, isn't cheap in any way. As much as you might not like Juan's bat, he might fill acrucial role for the Marlins this year - at least at the start of the season - if Pierre has to miss any amount of time. Plus, Encarnacion's offensive value could be just as much as Higginson's this season.


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