Spring training is just around the corner, and in case you've tuned out this off-season, your hometown Miami Marlins might just be worth watching this year. Really!
The Fish made a few small splashes in free agency, tinkered with the roster a bit via some trades, and signed their best player, Giancarlo Stanton, to a contract that keeps him in Little Havana for a long time. Yes, Jeffrey Loria still owns the franchise, but there are plenty of reasons to tune in this year.
Let's review what you missed this off-season:
Ichiro is a Marlin, which is pretty awesome.
A few years ago, the Marlins' signing Ichiro would have been a huge get -- but it's now 2015, and Ichiro is old enough to have fathered some of his teammates. Signing Ichiro falls in line with the Marlins' annual "lottery ticket" signing. It's a cheap, low-risk, high-reward move. Regardless, the Marlins could do much worse at the fourth-outfielder spot, and Ichiro is sure to provide fans with a few fun moments this year.
No more mopey Stanton, because your boy got paid.
Over the past few years, there were times when you could tell Giancarlo Stanton was in full LeBron-chill mode, sort of checked out and just going through the motions because his team was an utter disaster. Now that he has won the megamillions jackpot and seems to have some control and say upstairs, you can bet fans will get 100 percent monster-homer-slapping Stanton in 2015.
Dee Gordon is extremely cool.
This dude -- acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for lefty Andrew Heaney and several others -- will be fun to watch, and not just because his game involves sprinting around the diamond like his pants are on fire. Gordon has a lot of personality, which is something that will fit right in on a Marlins team that has many young and carefree ballplayers. Gordon should fit right in with guys like Jose Fernandez and Stanton.
Christian Yelich is about to make your mom know his name.
Baseball people, whoever they are, are higher on Yelich than most Marlins fans -- mainly because most Marlins fans haven't been paying attention to the young outfielder. Yelich is one of the brightest young defenders in the game, but people dig the long ball, and that's not exactly his strong suit. This season, though, surrounded by a good team, Yelich will get even more attention.
The midseason return of Jose Fernandez.
When phenom starter Jose Fernandez re-joins the Marlins, it'll be like the best trade deadline pickup ever. Fernandez is still recovering from Tommy John surgery but is scheduled to make his debut sometime after the first few months of the season, and when he returns, it will be all anyone in South Florida is talking about. See the above clip for a quick reminder why.
Marcell Ozuna is a boss.
With Yelich, Ozuna, and Stanton, the Marlins have the potential to have the best outfield in baseball and -- bonus -- one of the youngest. Ozuna has a cannon attached to his upper torso, which apparently is not illegal. Some scouts have compared Ozuna's potential to Stanton's as a young player, so, holy moly, this could be fun to watch.
Mat Latos is from South Florida, has a bunch of tattoos, inexplicably spells his first name with only one "t," and loves baby alligators.
Aren't those enough reasons to be sold on why Mat Latos will be a fun thing to watch? No? Well, add this to the argument: He's really good at pitching a baseball. Latos posted a 3.25 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 74/26 K/BB ratio in 102 1/3 innings last year for the Reds. Not too shabby.
Adeiny Hechavarria is a superhero.
Yes, Hechavarria hits like your sister, but he covers short like Spider-Man. Every week he promises to do something with the glove you've never seen before, but the key to his being a part of a true contender this season will be whether he helps the offense score some runs. There's no doubt he'll take some away from opponents.
Tommy Hutton is back to lose his ever-loving mind in the booth.
One of the greatest traditions in Marlins baseball is booth announcer Tommy Hutton going absolutely berserk after a bad call. It's one of the funnest regular occurrences in South Florida sports. Whenever Hutton loses it, you stop being mad at the call he's angry about and just start laughing because you know it was all so worth it.
Marlins dancing kid is back, probably.
The Marlins are sure to cash in on this kid again, and it's sure to be a train wreck because he's gotten older and now it's just sorta weird and sad. But it's still funny! Let's hope Gramps is back too, but you know, maybe not.