The Miami Marlins are still trying to fill some roster holes on the team, but free agency is a difficult route for them. The Marlins have only $38 million in total budget likely available to them, so their purchasing power for free agents is relatively limited. But that does not mean that the team cannot find some bargain options for free agents this season, and there are a few players who could fit that designation in 2014.
MLB Trade Rumors predicted Uribe would sign with the Marlins in their top 50 free agent predictions, and the prediction makes sense. He got $21 million for three years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but two of those seasons looked like abject disasters. Then, when injuries struck the Dodgers in 2013, Uribe stepped up and played well for a change, batting .278/.331/.448 (.334 wOBA) and put up a surprising four- to five-win season, depending on your choice for defensive metrics. Each metric thought he was a wizard at third base, and considering that he was only three years removed from playing shortstop regularly and well, this is not terribly surprising.
Uribe is not going to repeat his monstrous defensive year, and it is important to note that he has hit .237/.295/.360 (.288 wOBA) in the last three years and 900 plate appearances with the Dodgers. He is also 34 years old and not likely to get any better. But the Marlins could use a player who was a plus defender and a .288 wOBA hitter in 2014, considering that six Marlins with 200 or more plate appearances last year hit worse than that mark. Uribe could either hold second or third base down for one to two seasons until minor league reinforcements like Colin Moran arrive. At a starting price of $5 million a year, that would be a bargain, though the Marlins may have to go higher.
Betemit is the cheaper, less defensive version of an Uribe signing. Betemit has a career .267/.332/.442 (.335 wOBA), making him a more than passable hitter in the corners. The problem is that he is a horrific third baseman, averaging 13 runs below average per full season according to UZR. The fact that he has been so bad on the field has essentially rendered him a replacement-level talent, and he has been seen this way by most teams; no team has given him more than 412 plate appearances in a season.
Betemit is coming off an injured 2013 year, and his biggest benefit to the Fish would be cost. Whereas Uribe would likely earn a legitimate contract, the Marlins could easily have Betemit for bench prices or even a minor league contract at this point. He has a bad reputation and spent most of last year hurt, which usually yields very little for a player in the free agent market. The team could try him in a Jorge Cantu-role at third base to their defensive detriment.
Chavez continues to have solid seasons at the plate since returning from a devastating injury that cost him three of his finer years with the Oakland Athletics. Since he returned full-time in 2011, he has hit a very respectable .276/.336/.456 (.339 wOBA) in primarily a bench/platoon role. The Marlins could employ him a similar fashion as the heavy side of a platoon with incumbent third base candidate Ed Lucas, and they can promise more playing time than most teams would likely give the 36-year-old Chavez.
Chavez has signed for $3 million for a single season recently, and his continued good performance may earn him another one-year deal at $5 million in an larger role. The question is whether, at 36, Chavez is looking for more playing time or a ring as a bench player at this point.
McGehee has been away from the majors since 2012, but he just had a nice .289/.371/.512 season in Japan and may come back stateside if the right offer shows up. He is only 31 years old, which puts him at a good age for a stopgap option at third base. He is not a great third baseman, but he is not a disaster according to most metrics. He also would not be looking for a major price, as he is coming off a season away from the highest competition. The Marlins could take a flier on him on a one-year deal.
Navarro is your prototypical backup catcher, but he did have a nice season in 2013 with the Chicago Cubs. He hit a surprising .300/.362/.492 (.374 wOBA) and that led to a 1.7-win season off the bench for the Cubs. A move to Miami would easily give playing time, but his primary advantage from last season was power (.192 ISO), and Marlins Park is not favorable to that kind of swing.
Navarro is almost certainly looking for a starting job as a result, and the Marlins have a gaping hole at catcher. The team could easily slot in the 29-year-old backstop with a two-year contract at $5 million a season to be a primary starter and see what he can do years removed from his ugly days in Tampa Bay. Navarro represents the team's best option at catcher this offseason, and we have mentioned this before..