We have been covering the Miami Marlins' desperate need for a third baseman for what seems like forever, as the problem has become chronic much like the team's general woes. But in the above linked article from last week, former Fish Stripes author and current head at Marlins Daily Ehsan Kassim mentioned something that caught my eye.
Chris Coghlan would be a decent idea for the Marlins in 2013. If you will recall, Coghlan was a third baseman in college in the University of Mississippi, so the position is at least passably familiar to him. He was moved to second base in the minors, presumably because he seemed to lack arm strength for the position. But since then, Coghlan has been shifted to the corner and center field spots, discombobulating him defensively all along the way. The 2013 season would be a nice year to give Coghlan an opportunity to make good on some of the promise he showed as a Rookie of the Year winner in 2009.
But while the idea of giving Chris Coghlan an opportunity is an obviously good one, it also brings about a more general point about the state of the Miami Marlins right now. With the trade of Yunel Escobar, the Fish once again re-opened the gap at third base. However, the time to acquire replacement third basemen appears to have passed. Mark Reynolds, Jeff Keppinger, and Eric Chavez have already signed with teams for 2013. Kevin Youkilis, the best third baseman in the market, is way out of the Marlins' price range and would likely be uninterested in playing for a last-place team anyway. The Marlins are left with the dregs of the position, rummaging through guys like perennial journeyman Jack Hannahan, declining players like Orlando Hudson or Brandon Inge, or collapsed reclamation projects like Chone Figgins or Jose Lopez.
This is all to say that the options remaining for the Fish are universally poor. At best, a guy like Hannahan or Inge, with known defensive skills, can provide a win or so to the team by saving enough runs to make up for their terrible bats. Perhaps a player like Figgins can prove he is not replacement-level fodder. The overall benefit to such minor gambits on a winning or fringe contention team may be worthwhile, especially given the Marlins' poor options. But on a last place team? The level of usefulness is almost obsolete on a team like the Fish, who are going to hover close to 100 losses with or without a Hannahan or Figgins.
This would not be an issue if either of these players could potentially become trade assets by midseason, but given their current talent level, the odds of that seem highly unlikely. Hannahan was last traded for cash or a player to be named later. Figgins was just released outright because he became less valuable than his roster spot. Lopez had a stint with the Marlins that also led to a demotion and release. Given the level at which these players are starting, it is difficult to imagine a half-season turnaround worthy of picking up a good prospect on a one-year deal.
That point brings us back to the main one: why bother making any signings at all? The Marlins are clearly throwing in the proverbial towel in 2013 after the mega-trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Fish have no interest in competing after trading all of those players. Why bother utilizing any of the $5 million cleared up in trading Escobar when it will do nothing for the future of the ball club? The team may have some internal "options" with marginal upside in Chris Coghlan or prospect Zack Cox, but even if the team were barren at the position, adding a small asset would be meaningless. Greg Dobbs can fail at third base all year and the Marlins are already paying him $1.5 million. The team should not need to put in another $1.5 million to have Hannahan do a marginally better job.
Given that the Marlins do have internal options, albeit poor ones, perhaps the team would be wiser just testing them out in this lost 2013 season rather than acquiring a meaningless stopgap solution. With Escobar or a better player like Reynolds, at least the Fish had a shot at turning them into a trade asset. But with the guys available, the benefits do not really outweigh the cost of not testing the team's current assets.