It seems odd for the Miami Marlins to finally start making room for Derek Dietrich instead of finding reasons to not play him for a change.
The Fish have started Dietrich in left field nine games in a row thanks to the club's current need for outfielders and the utility infielder's significant hitting prowess in 2015. With Dietrich hitting .257/.356/.495 (.367 wOBA) in 118 plate appearances, Miami feels its underpowered lineup needs to keep him around somehow. The club is playing with a lack of outfielders right now, with Giancarlo Stanton on the disabled list and Marcell Ozuna continuing to languish in Triple-A despite monster numbers.
"Keep the bat in the order," manager Dan Jennings said. "Versatility, the rest of the year, is going to be a key for a lot of these guys. A lot are working at different spots. ... If the bats stay hot, then they're gonna find a place to play wherever that will be. We do not have a plug-and-play lineup right now."
There are a few good reasons for this move. As mentioned, the Marlins are scrounging around for any offensive talent given the dearth of players currently in the big league lineup. Dee Gordon has cooled off significantly, and Adeiny Hechavarria has been hitting at about the level he hit last season. Christian Yelich has cooled off a little after a scorching start in July. Ozuna is in the minors tearing it up, with the Marlins having dubious talent-based reasons (and legitimate financial reasons) to continue letting him sit. The rest of the lineup needs assistance, especially in the power department. Dietrich's six home runs are a bonus.
Beyond that, however, the Marlins have good reason to display Dietrich's flexibility. The Fish are likely to not be in need of an outfielder next year given the likely reunion of Yelich, Ozuna, and Stanton. If they insist on holding onto Martin Prado, they may not be in need of a third baseman immediately next season either. Dietrich may be a man without a position by next season once again. However, if the Marlins display his ability to play the outfield, he would gain a little more trade value if that is the club's intent.
Moving a defensively-struggling infielder like Dietrich to the outfield would not be a first for Miami. The Fish kept Chris Coghlan away from the infield in the majors throughout his career despite the fact that he spent much of his minor league career playing second and third base. The Fish have about 1000 innings and change showing that Dietrich may not be a capable infielder, but letting him work the outfield allows teams interested in a young outfielder with marginal defensive skills get a glimpse of a trade asset. Miami needs to utilize its trade assets in any way possible given the team's awful farm depth.
The Fish have long underutilized Dietrich's bat, but getting an extended look at him in a lost season like 2015 is a hidden opportunity. One may be surprised to hear that, despite spending parts of three seasons in the bigs, Dietrich has only racked up 530 plate appearances in the majors for his career. The lack of chances at the big league level leave him thus far as a relative unknown to Miami and any potential suitors. The Fish need more time to get to know Dietrich, and games in the outfield are yet another way to accomplish that.