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Miami Marlins' free agent signings cripple lineup versus left-handers

The Miami Marlins made a number of moves in free agency, but all of them have limited their options when it comes to facing left-handed pitching. How can the Fish turn around this situation?

New Marlin Jarrod Saltalamacchia's problems versus left-handers are helping to contribute to a growing issue.
New Marlin Jarrod Saltalamacchia's problems versus left-handers are helping to contribute to a growing issue.
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins made a number of moves this offseason, and it has felt like they have declined in order of quality.

1) The Marlins signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a reasonable three-year deal that fills in the roster's biggest hole for some time.

2) The Marlins signed Rafael Furcal to a one-year deal that did not appear to have much upside, but couldn't hurt the team.

3) The team signed Garrett Jones to a two-year deal despite his clear issues as a player.

4) The team traded Logan Morrison to make room for Jones and fill in a position that did not need a lot of help.

In the midst of these moves, however, the Fish opened up an increasing lineup concern that now figures to be very difficult to resolve. Two of the Marlins' three signings are functional left-handed hitters with wide platoon splits for their careers. Jones, in particular, has an extreme split and replaced a player who was not only younger, but had more reasonable platoon splits for his career. Morrison is a career .244/.329/.378 (.317 wOBA) hitter versus lefties.

All of this has led the Marlins to an extremely bad lineup versus left-handed pitching for the 2014 season. Take a look at this proposed lineup I put up last week in our post on optimizing the batting lineup.

1 Donovan Solano .306
2 Marcell Ozuna .324
3 Rafael Furcal .300
4 Giancarlo Stanton .424
5 Christian Yelich .299
6 Adeiny Hechavarria .290
7 Jarrod Saltalamacchia .277
8 Pitcher ---
9 Garrett Jones .273

When one of your prized free agent acquisitions, picked up particularly for their bat and power, should bat last in the order versus lefties, you have a problem.

Manager Mike Redmond has apparently downplayed the problem of Jones's troubling splits in discussing his potential lineups next season.

The Miami manager, in his second year directing the club, added that he intends to give the left-handed-hitting Jones opportunities to face lefty pitching. With the Pirates last season, Jones was used in a platoon situation, as he batted .095 (2-for-21) against lefties. And he's hit southpaws at a career .193 clip.

Redmond pointed out that a few years ago, Jones fared better against lefties. In 2010, for instance, his lefty split was .220 (47-for-214).

"You look at his numbers in the past ... he has been successful," Redmond said. "So I think initially, my thoughts are he can play every single day."

This may either be Redmond saying all the "right" things about a player for whom the team is trying to find a platoon partner. Or it could be Redmond being blind in terms of the statistics, which would not surprise me either. In 2010, Jones indeed did hit .220 versus lefties versus .262 versus right-handers. What the lone batting average does not reveal is that he actually hit .220/.261/.360 (.273 wOBA) that year, which is exactly what we have him projected to hit against lefties in 2014. Even that line is not acceptable, but it sounds as though Redmond would be willing to bat Jones as high as cleanup, even versus left-handers!

The problem is made worse by the fact that the roster is not built with ready-made platoon partners for Jones and Saltalamacchia. Jeff Mathis will likely platoon with Saltalamacchia, but he is projected to hit worse versus lefties than even Salty will. At least in Mathis's case, the defensive and game-calling contributions may help. The Fish have no such partners offering superior defense or offense at first base, where the team's only players may be utility men Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas. Both players are better than Jones versus lefties, but they are not maximized at first base. The Marlins did not help their roster construction with the trade for lefty outfielder Brian Bogusevic and the re-signing of lefty bench-only player Greg Dobbs.

These problems should constrict the Marlins' chase for a third baseman as well. The best player remaining on the market may be Eric Chavez, whom the Marlins could have signed and platooned with Lucas or Solano. But with Miami now loaded on left-handers who could require platooning, the team is looking more for a right-handed option to play first and third base on a more regular basis. That cuts Chavez, a legitimately appealing option with a .276/.335/.456 batting line over the last three seasons, out of the mix. The team's bench situation also requires that the player can play third and first, because Miami cannot afford to carry a third first baseman between Jones, Dobbs and any acquired player.

The most widely-discussed option for the Marlins is Casey McGehee, who may be willing to be imported after a successful season in Japan. Wilson Betemit has also been mentioned in talks. One name that has resurfaced is Will Middlebrooks, whom the Marlins might be able to acquire in a trade from the Boston Red Sox. The problem is that the Sox have no need for the team's best trade asset, their copious starting pitching, and the Marlins would definitely not be willing to trade Giancarlo Stanton in a blockbuster move that would include Middlebrooks.

So thanks to Miami's moves this offseason, they have strengthened some of the roster but exposed a glaring weakness. This weakness is also limiting the team's next moves to acquire a third baseman. If the Fish cannot find a trade for a player who can play third base and can work at first base in the near future when top prospect Colin Moran arrives, the team may have to dig through the minor league scraps to find their 2014 third baseman who will not hurt the lefty weakness the team has.