The Miami Marlins are looking to improve on their roster for the 2015 season, and there are a few ways that the team can go about that. This year, the free agent market is flush with starting pitching, which is where the Marlins happen to be deepest, but the Fish have smaller opportunities in other locations in the market. In places where they need the most help, Miami could pursue some names on relatively cheap deals in an attempt to re-establish themselves. Alternately, the Fish could turn to the trade market and use their copious pitching depth to acquire help where they need it the most.
The Infield Free Agents
The Marlins have an opportunity at two players who were down on their luck at the plate this past season and could use a year with a no-pressure team situation like Miami to rebuild their stock. The Oakland A's could still retain Jed Lowrie, but it is a possibility that Lowrie gets left out in the free agent market after a 2014 season that did not clearly match up to his stellar 2013 campaign. But while it was a lesser year, it certainly wasn't a bad year, and Lowrie retains the ability to play both shortstop and second base. Miami may have limited budget space in their payroll, but the club could be able to squeeze in a multi-year deal to a player who would probably be a massive upgrade at either position.
If the club is looking for a cheaper, higher-variance option, they can turn to Stephen Drew. Drew had an awful season last year and is likely going to be looking for a one-year contract on the cheap. Part of that awful season could have been the significant delay to start the year thanks to Drew's qualifying offer. Part of it could have certainly been terrible play or even a decline. But the soon-to-be 32-year-old Drew is not so old that a 300 plate appearance blip with odd circumstances surrounding could not have been a bad fluke. He would likely be willing to sign a one-year deal to prove that it was not said fluke, and that deal may come cheap enough to fit Miami's budget. If Drew can stay healthy like he did in 2013 with the Red Sox, the Fish could have a huge upgrade at second base.
The Third Base Switcheroo
Another scenario Miami could employ is to add a long-term third baseman while shifting Casey McGehee to first base. This does not solve the first base conundrum, but it does give the Fish a future third base option, as McGehee would not have been around beyond this season. The top third base name on the free agent market is Pablo Sandoval, but it is unlikely Miami could acquire him, as he is seeking likely $17 million a year. But it has happened before.
Chase Headley has been the more accessible name for the third base switcheroo. Miami could sign the defensive whiz to third, shift McGehee to first, and figure out the first base situation later on. Meanwhile, they could have a long-term four- or five-year solution at third, with a guy who has spent years hitting in a pitcher's park and adds value with his glove. But the Yankees are more likely to sign Headley than not.
The Trade Market
Only a few names have really emerged from the trade market early on. Alexei Ramirez has come up as a potential target, and Ramirez would be a nice fit for Miami. Furthermore, with the Chicago White Sox searching for young, cost-controlled pitching, Miami would be right up their alley as a potential trade partner. The Fish are loaded with young pitchers, and they could offer someone close to the majors for a year of Ramirez and see if the team can retain him from there. Ramirez has a reputation as one of the better shortstops in the game, and while he hasn't won a Gold Glove, he may even move Adeiny Hechavarria to second base, where he may excel.
Other trade market names to consider could be options, depending on their availability. Brandon Phillips was made available in the offseason last year and had a worse year this season. Ben Zobrist was made available this past trade deadline but ultimately was kept; with the turnover in the Tampa Bay Rays' organization, would the team consider dealing Zobrist for prospects to replenish a depleting minor league system? Would the Mets be willing to deal within the division with Daniel Murphy on the line?
The Marlins would have to get creative to find a true middle-infield option, but the team has some opportunities to work with.
What do you Fish Stripers think? Any of these names strike your fancy as options for the middle infield for next year?