With Derek Dietrich “penciled in” as the Marlins starting left fielder, this leaves center field and right up for grabs. Presumably Lewis Brinson is the front-runner for one of these spots, but the rest of the competition is mostly amongst rookies such as Magneuris Sierra and Braxton Lee.
MLB Trade Rumors and Joe Frisaro of MLB.com report that there are three veteran outfielders that the Fish are most focused on as spring training opens: Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Jon Jay. All three have a connection to either Derek Jeter or to Florida.
Of the three, Jose Bautista has the biggest name recognition thanks to his power-filled seasons in Toronto, and his controversial bat-flipping antics. Last January, Toronto signed the six-time All Star to a one-year deal worth $18 million. His option was not picked up as
his value has declined markedly since 2014, and over the past two seasons in particular. His fWAR since since 2014 has been 6.3, 4.5, 1.4 and down to below replacement level (-0.5) last season.
Following an injury plagued 2016 season, 2017 was Bautista’s worst season as a pro. His strikeout rate was 24.8% with a flaccid slash line of .203/.308/.366 to go along with 23 HR and 65 RBI over 686 at bats. As the oldest of these three candidates at 37, he is clearly on the downside of his career, which is likely why he remains unsigned.
However, despite a gruff image, he has at least one fan in Marcus Stroman who attests to Jose being a good influence on young players. Additionally, Bautista lives in Florida in the off-season.
Melky Cabrera reportedly has at least four teams interested in his services this year, with the Marlins being one of them. He has just finished a three-year, $42 million contract that he signed with the White Sox in 2015. He finished last season with the Royals. Melky was also a teammate of Derek Jeter’s from 2005-2009.
Cabrera, 33, has been quite durable and consistent, playing in at least 150 games each of the last three seasons. The switch-hitter’s combined slash line for the past three seasons is .285/.327/.423 with an average of 14 homers and 83 RBI with an OPS+ of 105 over the time span. A reliable, but unspectacular addition, the Marlins can feel confident in what he would bring to the table.
Jon Jay, a Miami native, is the least compelling choice of the three. At 32 years-old, Jay is coming off of an $8M contract in 2017 with the Cubs.
Jay has been the dictionary definition of a fourth outfielder his past few three seasons; averaging 312 at bats with a slash line of .275/.346/.354, along with a mean of 2 HR, 23 RBIs and 16 doubles.
As seen above, one of Jay’s biggest attributes is being a magnet for pitches. He led the league in getting hit by a pitch 20 times in 2014. Though he would be the youngest and possibly least inexpensive of these three players, this solid defender would not be expected do much to improve the offense in the Marlins depleted lineup.