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This Day In Marlins History: Florida signs free agent CF Devon White in 1995

On this day in team history, the Marlins signed veteran free agent center fielder Devon White to a three-year, $9.9 million dollar contract. The seven-time Gold Glove winner's best days were behind him, but he did start on the 1997 championship team.

Devon White was an important signing for the Florida Marlins in 1995.
Devon White was an important signing for the Florida Marlins in 1995.
Wikimedia Commons

On this date, November 21, 1995, the Marlins signed free agent Devon White to a three-year, $9.9 million contract to be the team's starting center fielder. While White's career had peaked already during his years in Toronto, he still was a valuable contributor to Florida's 1996 team and 1997 World Series-winning team.

A native of Jamaica, White came up with the then-California Angels organization. The center fielder was known for his speed and defense but was a solid offensive prospect as well. In his first full season in 1987, the 24-year-old put up an OPS of .749 while hitting 24 home runs and stealing 32 bases. While he never again matched that home run total, White did show pop throughout his career and occasionally hit for a good average as well. White peaked during his time in Toronto, to where he was traded before the 1991 season. Over his five seasons with the Blue Jays, the outfielder averaged a .760 OPS and 14 home runs and 24 stolen bases a year. He also won a Gold Glove each of those years, adding to the two he won with the Angels, and was an All-Star in 1993 for the second time in his career. White helped Toronto win back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993, and in the former series he had a catch considered among the best ever in the Fall Classic.

When the Marlins signed him, then, the move certainly made a splash, although with White entering his age-33 season and his 10th full year in the majors, decline was sure to be around the corner. He was also coming off two straight years in which he missed significant time due to injury. Still, he was sure to be an offensive upgrade over Chuck Carr, who had been Florida's center fielder since the franchise's inception in 1993. Carr was also a speed-based outfielder, having led the NL in steals in 1993, but produced much less power and less offense than White, averaging a slugging percentage of .326 and an OPS of .646 during his three seasons as the starting center fielder. White's signing was billed by management as both a sign that the Marlins believed they were ready to contend for the postseason and that owner Wayne Huizenga was willing to spend money to help attain that end.

That belief proved somewhat correct in White's first season with Florida, as the Marlins finished with an 80-82 record, an improvement of 3.5 games over 1995, which had been their best season to date. Healthy all season, White had a resurgent year, putting up his best OPS (.779) since 1993 and his highest home run total (17) since 1992 and also adding 22 stolen bases. His defense, too, was an improvement over the previous two seasons, though it wasn't nearly as good as it was during his initial three years in Toronto. (According to Fan Graphs, he had a defensive rating of 11.1 in 1996, up from -3.5 the year before; he averaged just about a rating of 25 from 1991-93.) In 1997, White missed almost all of June and July with an injury and he was a less effective offensive player when healthy, OPSing .707 in 74 games. But the Marlins had great team success, of course, making the playoffs and eventually winning the World Series for the first time in the team's brief history. White had logged an .899 OPS in 33 career playoff games with the Angels and Blue Jays but couldn't recapture that postseason magic in 1997, starting all 16 games but OPSing just .655.

White was traded to Arizona after the season as part of the Marlins' fire sale. He had a great year for the Diamondbacks, OPSing .792 and hitting 22 home runs, the second-highest total of his career since his initial season. (That he did it at age-35 is slightly suspicious in retrospect.) White played three more seasons before retiring after 2001. He currently works as an outfield coordinator for the White Sox. An interesting postscript: White's actual spelling of his last name is "Whyte," but it got changed when his family emigrated from Jamaica in the early '70s. In 2003, Whi(y)te changed his name back to its rightful spelling.

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