The first base position for the Marlins has been defined by inconsistency and instability for a number of years. The team has struggled to find a young player to stick there for a number of years nor a veteran to hold down the position.
This past offseason it appeared that the Marlins had finally stopped their revolving door at first base with the signing of Michael Morse. Morse, who was coming off a strong season and postseason for the World Champion Giants, signed with the Marlins for two years and $16 million. Unfortunately for both sides, Morse struggled at the plate early on and landed on the disabled list in late May.
Morse's injury created a path for Justin Bour to get a call-up to the majors. After striking early success as a pinch-hitter, Bour saw his playing time increase quickly as he continued to deliver at the plate. After Morse returned from the disabled list on July 5 he would go on to make just one start at first base until he was ultimately traded to the Dodgers on July 30, showing that Bour had taken firm control over the starting spot this season.
Even though Bour has played well this season, it is unknown whether the club views him as a long term piece at first base. But after last night's win against the Braves, manager Dan Jennings hinted that the club is at least considering moving forward with Bour as a starter and that they want to give him more at bats to prove himself worthy of an everday player, via Joe Frisaro of MLB.com:
"We want to answer those questions and see exactly how they handle that, and provide them that opportunity to see if they are guys who can be in the lineup against both righties and lefties," manager Dan Jennings said. "That opportunity is going to present itself. They'll get that chance."
The Marlins appear willing to hand Bour the full-time job at first base for 2016. The stretch run will give the club a chance to see if he is a platoon candidate or should be the regular.
Through 98 appearances in the 2015 season Bour has a slash line of .250/.320/.442 to go along with 14 home runs and 45 runs batted in. The left-handed slugger only has a .214 batting average in 43 at-bats against lefties this season. Should he be able to improve on that average in the final stretch of the season, it could go a long way in better setting himself up for a starting spot in 2016.
The free agent pool for first baseman this winter is very thin, as it is headlined by Edwin Encarnacion (player option), Justin Morneau (mutual option), and Chris Davis, followed by a drop off in talent. So if the Marlins are not interested in dishing out a good amount of money to those top players on the market, then giving Bour the starting spot would be a cheaper alternative. If the Marlins are keen on spending most of their money on a deep starting pitching pool this offseason, then Bour would appear to be the early favorite to start at first base in 2016.
Jennings also talked about giving Dietrich more at bats against lefties as well, in an effort to determine his fate as a starter or a bench player. Dietrich has also used increased playing time to turn in a solid season for the Marlins, but his near-term future is not as clear cut as Bour's. Dietrich is traditionally a middle infielder, although he has played all over the diamond this season. On next season's projected roster, there is not an available spot for Dietrich in the middle infield nor at third base if the team holds onto Martin Prado. If Dietrich continues to produce and proves to be an everyday player, the Marlins could face some tough decisions this offseason.