Young at heart of order would help Marlins contend

Michael Young could help the Fish leap into contention. (Getty Images)

The Matt Dominguez experiment has morphed into the Matt Dominguez project. In the long run, that’s not a bad thing. Let the 21 year-old mature another season, bolster his bat in Triple-A and debut in a shiny new ballpark in 2012. It’s a feel-good story … for next year.

With Dominguez moving from the headlines to the transactions page, the Marlins have a decision to make: work with what they have or seek outside help. The platoon crew of Donnie Murphy, Emilio Bonifacio and Wes Helms is not the answer offensively or defensively. Bonifacio is too valuable as a utility player, Helms is best as a spot starter and pinch hitter, and Murphy is as unknown and unproven as Dominguez, save for a decent showing this spring.

So, I’m jumping on the Michael Young bandwagon – even though it makes little sense financially with an heir waiting in the wings. What it does immediately – for players, fans and the media – is make a statement: We want to win now; something owner Jeffrey Loria states frequently with words, but rarely with actions. Signing Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez and John Buck to longer term contracts indicates management is interested in building a solid core, but what about now? When does rebuilding turn into contending? Is the message, “Hold on for one more year, and things will get better”? It’s a contradiction when Loria vocally states his playoff expectations and then expects the manager to win despite missing key ingredients.

Young has $48 million remaining on his contract, but recent reports say Texas is willing to eat half of it. That’s still scary big for the tight-fisted Marlins, but the investment isn’t an albatross when you consider the possible short-term benefit. If Young’s bat and glove contribute to a playoff run, fans will come out in droves next season to celebrate in the new ballpark. It’s a risk worth taking for a franchise that annually teases fans with late-season playoff fantasies.

The big question? How serious are the Fish about winning in 2011? Bringing in a player of Young’s pedigree would take pressure off the young Marlins sluggers and send a strong message to fans that management is as interested in winning as it is in maintaining healthy profit margins.

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