Gone are the days when the Marlins became the talk of the 2011 offseason, spending millions on high-profile free agents leading up to the opening of a new ballpark and identity.
After that disappointing 2012 campaign and a 100-loss season in 2013, Miami is back to what it used to do best: rely on homegrown talent to develop in the minors and then produce at the big-league level.
The Marlins won’t be competing for pricy guys like Brian McCann (wouldn’t it make things interesting if he caught Jose Fernandez’s starts, though?) or Mike Napoli (a local guy who loves the Miami Heat).
It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Miami delved into its farm system, offering up prospects as trade bait for a third baseman or catcher. As baseball’s worst offense by 85 runs, the Marlins need hitters that can protect slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup.
General manager Dan Jennings told SiriusXM’s “The Front Office” show last week that Mark Trumbo of the Angels and Will Middlebrooks of the Red Sox both appealed to the team and could be options.
Here’s a look at Miami’s free agents and those the organization might target …
OF Matt Diaz Stats: .167, 0 HR, 1 RBI Salary: Minor league contract 2013 impact: The 35-year-old, once a Marlins killer with a .360 batting average in 189 at-bats, began the season in Triple-A New Orleans. When Adeiny Hechavarria went to the disabled list with an elbow injury, Diaz’s contract was selected. He wound up on the DL 10 games later with a left knee contusion he suffered while slipping on the base paths. Diaz would eventually move from the 15-day to 60-day DL to free up space on the 40-man roster. Offseason prediction: Diaz won’t be back in a packed and young outfield.
OF Austin Kearns Stats: .185, 0 HR, 0 RBI Salary: $700,000 2013 impact: The 33-year-old played in just 19 games in his second season with Miami before going on bereavement leave May 5. Seven days later he was placed on the restricted list and didn’t return. Offseason prediction: Kearns will not be back.
3B Placido Polanco Stats: .250, 1 HR, 23 RBI Salary: $2.75 million 2013 impact: The team’s opening day third baseman, Polanco tried bouncing back from an injury-plagued 2012 season. Though the 38-year-old played in 118 games, manager Mike Redmond would give him time off to rest his back. Polanco collected five hits in 10 pinch-hit appearances. He hit .317 against lefties and just .232 against righties. Offseason prediction: Polanco would enter his 17th season in the Majors. The Marlins will look for a stopgap before their first pick of the 2013 draft, University of North Carolina’s Colin Moran, is ready to man the hot corner. Chris Coghlan is an option, as is a free agent or player via trade.
OF Juan Pierre Stats: .247, 1 HR, 18 RBI Salary: $1.6 million 2013 season: Instead of playing in 162 games like he did in 2003, the Opening Day starter sat in the dugout when rookies like Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick earned call-ups as part of the organization’s future. Pierre hit .273 (12-for-44) as a pinch-hitter and became 175th on the all-time hits list with 2,217. Offseason prediction: The 36-year-old could retire or join a team looking to add a veteran bat off the bench. His main job once the young players took over the outfield was to tutor them.
RHP Chad Qualls Stats: 5-2, 2.61 ERA, 62 IP, 49 Ks, 19 BBs, 66 G Salary: $1.15 million 2013 impact: Qualls recorded his lowest ERA — in his most appearances — since 2011 as a member of the Padres. When Steve Cishek struggled as the closer in the early part of the season, the 10-year veteran was an option in manager Mike Redmond’s closer-by-committee. As a set-up man, more than half of his work came in the eighth. Offseason prediction: The 35-year-old could be back if Miami wants to keep its bullpen intact, but Qualls should receive a fair amount of suitors. Instead of dealing him during the trade deadline, the Marlins decided to keep Qualls even when his stock rose. He provided a steady, veteran presence to the bullpen.
Gamble on these free agent targets?
INF Jhonny Peralta Stats: .303, 11 HRs, 55 RBI Salary: $6 million 2013 impact: The 31-year-old served a 50-game suspension for his use of PEDs. Detroit traded for Jose Iglesias, and Peralta lost his starting shortstop job. His batting average was a career-high. Peralta has four seasons of 20 or more home runs (nine of at least double digits). He would provide pop the Marlins want and could use. Offseason prediction: Peralta could be an option for the Marlins if the market for him proves to be wary of what he can do post-PED. He could sign a one-year deal — what Miami would offer as it waits for Moran to be ready – but he would also have to be open to moving from short to third for Adeiny Hechavarria. He has played 213 games at the hot corner as opposed to 1,152 at short.
C Dioner Navarro Stats: .300, 13 HRs, 34 RBI Salary: $1.75 million 2013 season: The 29-year-old had a career year with the Cubs, setting personal highs in batting average and home runs in 89 games. Navarro actually hit a long ball off Steve Cishek at Marlins Park on April 28, sending it to deep right field. As a team, Miami was third worst in the Majors against lefties (.233). Navarro posted a .361 mark. After a slow start (.167 in April/March), he hit .300 or better in all but one of the remaining months. Offseason prediction: A former Ray, Navarro could provide offensive pop the Marlins need behind the plate. Jeff Mathis is as good as they come instructing a pitching staff and with the glove, but he and Rob Brantly struggled at the plate.
Keep an eye on …
INF Mark Trumbo Stats: .234, 34 HRs, 100 RBI Current team: Angels Salary: $540,000; arbitration eligible (first time) 2013 impact: The 27-year-old would offer protection to Stanton, but his primary position is first base (299 games) followed by the outfield. He has started just eight games at third. That would mean moving him to the hot corner or him replacing Logan Morrison. Despite the lowest batting average of his career, he bested his number of home runs and RBI, which were more than any Miami player in 2013.
INF Will Middlebrooks Stats: .227, 17 HRs, 49 RBI Current team: Red Sox Salary: $498,000; pre-arbitration 2013 season: The 25-year-old would fill the need at third base, where he has played in 164 games (159 starts) over the past two seasons in Boston. Ed Lucas and Polanco combined for just five long balls in 2013. Middlebrooks and Chris Coghlan would compete for the majority of the workload with the latter serving more in a utility role.