All off-season long, there has been fretting from various corners that the Marlins were going to screw up this rebuild by holding onto their most valuable assets and wasting their trading potential while various youngsters developed around them.
With Christian Yelich’s departure, that should be firmly put to rest, and now we have no choice but to presume that J.T. Realmuto wont be too far behind. Like Yelich, Realmuto has requested a trade and does not wish to be a part of the rebuild.
Still, it wouldn’t surprise to see something eventually unfold between the two clubs, so it would behoove us to consider the players who might hold down the catcher position for the Miami Marlins in 2018 (and perhaps further).
Ideally, the Marlins would want to synch up a young, talented catcher with major league experience to help bring along their up-and-coming pitching prospects.
So, basically what they have right now. Let’s keep it Realmuto (sorry).
Let’s say the Nats and Fish eventually hammer out a deal, though. What options can the Marlins then turn to?
Tomas Telis is the safest bet for regular playing time initially, and he remains the most intriguing offensive hopeful as a backstop within the organization. Between 2014-2017 he averaged a solid .311/.356/.410 triple slash line in AAA for the Texas Rangers and Miami Marlins, but his performance has yet to translate to success at the major league level (.240/.279/.346 in 111 plate appearances last season).
Defensively, he actually got in far more time at first base in the majors last season than at the catching position, but still appeared in 45 games as a backstop in New Orleans, so the team seemingly hasn’t given up on him as a catcher yet.
Chad Wallach was acquired via waivers from the Cincinnati Reds in early November of last year. He might not have the offensive upside of Telis, but he grades out better defensively and would have the chance to overtake Telis as the primary starter should the former struggle with the workload.
Austin Nola was quietly converted to catcher last season and apparently has impressed enough to remain on the 40-man roster. It wouldn’t be the first time the organization has had success converting a middle infielder to the catching position as the very same thing was done with now star J.T. Realmuto. He continues to be a below average hitter, but based solely upon his work behind the dish, Nola can’t be ruled out as a possible back-up to start the season.
The two other catching possibilities within the organization are Sharif Othman and B.J. Lopez, both of whom were picked up in the Rule 5 draft at the end of this past season. Othman was already in the Marlins organization from 2011 through 2016; he spent last season in AAA with the Yankees organization. B.J. Lopez is a career minor league back-up most recently with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. Michael Hill said at the time of the acquisitions that they brought in the two catchers because “they rate well in modern catching metrics and can help the Marlins’ young pitching develop.”
As neither are presently on the 40-man, it’s unlikely that we’d see either in 2018, though they remain potential back-ups in the future as they are going to be developing key relationships with the fresh crop of young, recently acquired Marlins starting pitchers.
A couple of catchers just came off of the marketplace in the form of Al Avila (Diamondbacks) and Miguel Montero (Nationals), but there are still plenty of catchers (and players in general, for that matter) available via free agency. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a starter out of this group...well, you probably shouldn’t.
Jonathan Lucroy is the best catching option out there, and thus, should ultimately be able to find a better landing spot than the Marlins.
Carlos Ruiz is 39 years old but he has stated he’d like to play for one more season. With the prevalence of Spanish-speaking youngsters currently on the roster and a reputation as a clubhouse leader and mentor, Chooch could certainly help both the pitchers he’s working with and whichever catcher he’d ultimately back-up. He offers little at the plate at this stage, but you’d be rostering him for the aforementioned qualities, much as with the Jeff Mathis’ and A.J. Ellis’ of days gone by.
Oh hey, A.J. Ellis is still lingering out there! There’s a guy who has already established a rapport with many on the Marlins’ pitching staff. If they’re going to lose their primary battery-mate in Realmuto, it couldn’t hurt to have someone around who’s familiar with their quirks and idiosyncracies.
It’s been a long time since Geovany Soto was the rookie of the year on the strength of a 3.7 fWAR season, but he’d still be capable of being a sage veteran back-up and has stated he has no interest in retiring just yet.
Chris Stewart has spent the last few seasons as the primary back-up for Francisco Cervelli and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now a free agent, he could potentially fill that role for the Marlins, although it seems to me they’d be better served looking inward if they’ve made it this far down the list, as he was pretty bad last year offensively and middling from a defensive standpoint.
Best guess at this juncture, the Marlins bring in someone like Ruiz or Ellis to trade off with Telis and Wallach, and they kind of hope that Wallach develops on the spot into someone who isn’t an automatic out up at the plate and a guy that the staff feels comfortable with.
Or, you know, they could just keep Realmuto.