Derek Dietrich's recent rash of defensive miscues apparently has cost him a Major League job for now.
The Miami Marlins have stepped up their efforts to keep Dietrich's poor defense out of the lineup, as the team announced that it has optioned the 24-year-old lefty second baseman to Triple-A New Orleans. MLB.com's Joe Frisaro was among the first to report the news via Twitter.
#Marlins Derek Dietrich optioned to NOLA— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) June 4, 2014
Dietrich's recent resurfacing of defensive problems led manager Mike Redmond to bench the second baseman in this most recent stretch, but Miami did not appear to show any inclinations to outright send him to the minors. Dietrich had been hitting .246/.342/.431 (.346 wOBA) on the season; among Marlins with at least 150 plate appearances, he was second only to Giancarlo Stanton in offensive performance.
But the defense has been an issue all season long. So far, Dietrich has cost Miami between three and seven runs on the year through his poor fielding, and the vast majority of his contributions have come from error department. Dietrich has made seven errors on the season, tied with Dan Uggla and Daniel Murphy for most in baseball among second basemen with at least 200 innings of work. Dietrich is fourth-to-last in Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and tied for last in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), two zone-based defensive metrics.
Clearly Dietrich has been bad, but he has also been among the team's best hitters, and there is a balance to be had there. But the Marlins are closest to the situation and are likely the most aware of the problem of Dietrich's fielding. If the Fish felt that the binary decision was to either bench Dietrich for a spell or give him sporadic playing time versus outright sending him to the minors for a short stint, then the team made the right decision to option him and allow him more time to work on the field. Whatever may be ailing him may best be served by him working consistently rather than sitting on the bench. While it previously seemed like Miami thought the problem was mental, the team felt it was physical enough to warrant time away from the big league club. If there were any physical or mechanical problems, Triple-A New Orleans would be the best place to work them out while fulfilling the Marlins' desire to have his defense not hurt the team's chances of winning.
Yes, the Marlins are going to be using a designated hitter for the next few days as they finish up their half-and-half with the Tampa Bay Rays. But while the Citrus Series continues in Tampa and would require a DH, Dietrich's time is better spent working on his problems on the field rather than avoiding them by slugging a bat full-time. Again, it is in the team's most immediate interests to have Dietrich's bat in the lineup, but it is in their best long-term interest to have him working out his issues as quickly as possible.
But all of that only works if the Marlins had a binary choice between benching Dietrich and sending him to Triple-A. But odds are Miami doesn't have such a black-and-white dilemma, and that is why this move will certainly frustrate the average Marlins fan. The Marlins likely had a better choice than benching or demoting him.