Last week, Ben Lindbergh of the Ringer wrote an article showing how the Marlins are, along with the 2015-16 Diamondbacks, the only team in the modern era to go from first to worst in outfield WAR in a single offseason.
This can’t be shocking to anyone paying attention, but as spring training approaches, someone has to play in the outfield for the Marlins. But who?
According to the MLB.com depth chart, the starters would currently be Lewis Brinson in left, Magneuris Sierra in center, and Braxton Lee in right. Backing up this rookie trio would be Derek Dietrich and Garrett Cooper.
So, an all-rookie outfield? If nothing else, it would be much more entertaining to watch than the usual selection of journeymen and retreads that typically populate the lineup of teams in rebuild mode. That said, it seems unlikely that other than utility man Derek Deitrich, there will be no other veteran outfielders signed prior to the start of the season.
Clearly, an expensive free agent such as J.D. Martinez is not reasonable for the cost-cutting Fish.
Lower cost veteran free agent outfielders that still on the board include Ichiro, Melky Cabrera, Jayson Werth, Andre Ethier, Cameron Maybin, Seth Smith, Chris Young, Jose Bautista and others.
An ideal free agent would be one that could be flipped at the deadline for prospects, though having watched the Phillies rebuild up close, this tends to be easier said than done. With the Marlins 2018 lineup looking to be quite thin, a good bat might be more valuable than defensive prowess. So who would be the best fit?
I decided to focus on outfielders who met the following criteria:
- Younger than 35 years old
- FanGraphs defensive ratings of roughly replacement level or higher from 2016-2017
- Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) of at least 85
- At least replacement level based on 2017 fWAR
- In the market for a modest deal of two years or fewer
Here’s the top three in my mind (in no particular order):
Jarrod Dyson - The 33-year-old missed the end of the season with a sports hernia, but otherwise did well for Seattle. In 346 at-bats, he had 28 steals as well as 5 home runs, 30 RBI and 13 doubles. His slash line was .251/.324/.350.
Dyson could be flipped to a contender looking for bench help later in the season. He was on the Royals during their successful 2014-2015 run, so he does have valuable playoff experience.
Chris Young - This veteran has had several seasons as the fourth outfielder for the Red Sox. The 34-year-old went from a very solid slash line of 276/.352/.498 slash line with nine home runs in 2016, to .235/.322/.387 slash line with seven homers in 2017. He is typically close to replacement level is a solid clubhouse presence.
Carlos Gomez - The mercurial outfielder is likely to have a higher asking price than the other players on this list. In 2013-14, Gomez combined for a 13.1 fWAR, but his stock plummeted shortly thereafter. The slugger quietly enjoyed a rebirth last year with the Rangers. In 105 games, the 32-year-old hit 17 home runs and 51 RBI with a wRC+ of 110.
Gomez would join Justin Bour in the middle of the Marlins lineup. He could later become a valuable asset to a playoff contender, hopefully for someone willing to eat the rest of his salary after a trade.
Honorable mentions are Cameron Maybin, Seth Smith and Melky Cabrera.
Any thoughts? There are several options on the table, and precious little time left to make a choice as the season approaches.