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Seven free agent targets for the Marlins

The Marlins have some holes to fill, but free agency offers them little help unless they make a splash.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves
Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly (8) makes a pitching change against the Atlanta Braves in the seventh inning at SunTrust Park. 
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins are a few pieces away — the past few weeks confirm that.

While the Marlins will look to improve the team, free agency offers little help to the glaring needs on the roster. Unless Miami is willing to stay in baseball purgatory and mediocrity, the Marlins will have to make a free agent splash. Here are seven realistic options that can improve the team.

1. Nick Hundley (C) — .257 avg, 7 HR, 29 RBI, .282 OBP, .721 OPS in 2017

Hundley would provide depth and a veteran presence behind J.T. Realmuto. A.J. Ellis’ contract will expire after this season, and his .200 average, four home runs and nine RBI isn’t enough offense to rely on coming off the bench.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants
San Francisco Giants catcher Nick Hundley (5) during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park.
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

2. Chris Iannetta (C) — .239 avg, 14 HR, 33 RBI, .340 OBP, .835 OPS in 2017

Iannetta would add some pop to Miami’s bench, but he may be looking for a bigger role than backing up Realmuto. Since Realmuto is given most starts at catcher, Iannetta would seemingly see his plate appearances decrease if he were a member of the Marlins. It doesn’t seem like a perfect fit for either sides, but a viable option nonetheless.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers
Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Chris Iannetta (8) hits a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning at Dodger Stadium.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

3. Rene Rivera (C) — .236 avg, 9 HR, 29 RBI, .291 OBP, .685 OPS in 2017

Rivera and the Marlins would be an excellent match. He doesn’t require a ton of at-bats (203) to produce offensively and has had a very solid season. Rivera isn’t expected to be paid a huge contract, so signing him as a backup would be a bargain.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs catcher Rene Rivera (7) looks on against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fourth inning at PNC Park.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

4. Zack Cozart (SS) — .305 avg, 18 HR, 53 RBI, .396 OBP, .941 OPS in 2017

Cozart is expected to be given a huge payday in a mediocre shortstop free agency market. The young J.T. Riddle has been serviceable, but suffered a shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the season. Riddle, age 25, still hasn’t reached his full potential, but I don’t see any scenario in which the Marlins wouldn’t choose Cozart over him. However, Miami doesn’t usually throw money at free agents — and when they do, they don’t stay for long — so it seems highly unlikely for the Marlins to make a splash. Cozart, however, would be a dream addition.

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Cincinnati Reds
Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart hits an RBI single against the Milwaukee Brewers during the eighth inning at Great American Ball Park.
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

5. J.D. Martinez (OF) — .279 avg, 35 HR, 81 RBI, .361 OBP, 1.006 OPS in 2017

Another dream scenario here, but Martinez would be the final missing piece to the Marlins lineup. The Miami native would add a complete offensive package to the lineup that would protect Giancarlo Stanton. This would require the Marlins to part ways with one of Marcell Ozuna or Christian Yelich, which seems like a no-brainer: Move on from Yelich.

Ozuna is finally starting to play to the level of his potential, putting together a fantastic season (.306 avg, 32 HR and 109 RBI). Yelich is a good player having a good season, but he’ll always be a slap-hitter who will never be an elite player. There’s nothing wrong with Yelich, but the Marlins can reach a whole new level offensively if they were to replace Yelich with a signing of Martinez. Ownership will most likely want to cut payroll and avoid big transactions, but signing Martinez would make the Marlins a serious National League contender.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder J.D. Martinez (28) hits a two run home run in the sixth inning against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field.
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

6. Jake Arrieta (SP) — 14-9, 3.48 ERA, 160.1 IP, 157 K in 2017

Arrieta is having a bit of a down year, but he’s still an ace that can be relied on to pitch in big games. He’s not a top-5 pitcher in baseball like he once was, but he’s still a veteran presence that can be the leader of a young Marlins pitching staff. The Cubs may be inclined to let Arrieta walk in free agency since they have so many young players to sign in the upcoming years. Miami could get Arrieta at a slight discount, but they would still have to pay him a rather large contract. However, he would sure up the top of the rotation.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta (49) delivers a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at PNC Park.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

7. Lance Lynn (SP) — 10-7, 2.94 ERA, 171.2 IP, 139 K in 2017

Lynn has been outstanding the past three seasons. The Marlins need an ace and Lynn needs a payday. The Cardinals will likely re-sign Lynn, but if they choose to let him walk, Miami could insert themselves as a favorite to land the talented right-hander. Miami most likely won’t dish out a ton of money to any player on this list, but it’ll be interesting to see if they’re tempted to insert themselves into the starting pitching market.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Lance Lynn (31) pitches during the sixth inning as San Diego Padres catcher Austin Hedges (background, right) leads off of first at Petco Park.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports