It's fairly obvious that they Marlins front office knows that they need to find a third baseman this offseason. Even after signing Kevin Kouzmanoff, the Marlins are likely going to use their limited spending money on a new third baseman. With no serious third base prospects rising up through the minor league system, the Marlins will have to turn to free agency or the draft. There are some decent veteran options out on the market, but no third baseman will draw more than $50 million from a team this winter. If the Marlins do decide to buy a new third baseman, which one should they choose?
First of all, the Marlins have absolutely zero third base prospects in their system. The closest player the Marlins have to a third baseman is probably Austin Nola, who would't provide any upgrade over Kouzmanoff or Solano. The other option is Austin Barnes who has a nice hit tool. However, Barnes has never played third base and he was drafted as catcher (The Marlins converted him to second base before 2012). In other words, there's no chance the Marlins are going to find their third baseman of the future from their current farm system. It's hard to be optimistic when there is nobody to get optimistic about.
Kevin Youkilis is not the same player he was in 2009 where he posted a 147 wRC+ and played above-average defense at third. Now thirty-three, Youkilis has lost a lot of his power and ability to hit for average. Nonetheless, after being traded from Boston to the White Sox at midseason, Youkilis proved he can be a valuable player on a contending team. In eighty games in Chicago, Youkilis hit .235/.336/.409 with fifteen homers. Believe it or not, in roughly the same amount of games, Youkilis outhit young Toronto phenom Brett Lawrie.
The White Sox smartly decided to decline Youk's $13 million team option for 2013. As Jon Heyman noted about a month ago, Chicago could still offer Youkilis a contract around two year, $15 million. I agree with Heyman and believe that Youkilis will sign with a team for around two years, $15-20 million. The Reds, and Phillies reportedly are interested so the Marlins won't be alone if they choose to pursue Youkilis. Youkilis wouldn't be a bad fit for Miami but I would surmise that he would rather play for a contending team.
Okay, I know Alex Rodriguez isn't a free agent. Still, with the trade rumors that have circled around him and the Marlins, it was impossible to resist bringing him up. Rodriguez, who is set to make $114 million over the next five seasons, is a Florida native who New Yorkers, and the majority of the country, can't stand. It's hard to imagine a situation where the Marlins trade for Rodriguez and everything works out. Not only would he have to produce like the best third baseman in the game in order to live up to his contract, but his shaky injury history is cause for concern. The Marlins should stay far away from Rodriguez despite the local connection and his immense potential.
Speaking more realistically, one name that should be tossed into the Marlins' wish list is Maicer Izturis. Izturis, who is "only" thirty-two years old, can play shortstop and second base as well as third. Izturis was not all that different from Donovan Solano last season, but he has proven in the past that he can play at a higher level. Izturis's best year was 2009, where he hit .300 and played tremendous defense at shortstop and second. Izturis has played on a lot of winning teams and his position flexibility makes him a valuable commodity. I would expect Izturis to receive a one or two year contract this offseason, worth no more than $1.5 million per year. While bringing in Izturis wouldn't be as big of a move as Youkilis or A-Rod, the Marlins could spend their money in different places and wait for the 2014 offseason which will feature David Wright.
The Angels have shown minimal interest in bringing Izturis back next season, so he'll likely be playing for a new team for the first time since he played for the Expos in 2004. It would be a smart and thrifty move if the Marlins decide to go after Izturis. That's not to say he is going to be an above-average producer, but he'll hold the spot down until they can find a better option.
Speaking of David Wright, why wait until next offseason? The Marlins could attempt to trade for Wright this winter, as the Mets might be shopping him. He's the youngest player on this list and probably the most talented. However, the Mets might be reluctant to trade with a division rival and I'm not convinced the Marlins would give up the type of talent that the Mets would require in a swap.
It's hard to be a contending team without a third baseman that can either hit or play defense. The Marlins chances of contending next season are slim, but they'll likely be nonexistent unless Miami can find a new option at third base. The farm system offers no reason for hope and the free agent class isn't particularly exciting. Look for the Marlins pursuit of a third baseman to be the main storyline that follows this team through the offseason.