Time to spend Bruce Sherman’s and Derek Jeter’s money! Entering the third year under new Marlins ownership, fans expect to see significant improvement at the major league level. Some of that improvement will surely come from within, but prospects—as they say—will break your heart. Successful MLB rebuilds make sure to surround their young cores with veterans who can bring credibility and reliable production. Free agent additions figure to be critically important to keeping the Fish on track.
To date, the largest investment that the Sherman/Jeter Marlins have made in any free agent was $5.25 million for Cuban outfielder Víctor Víctor Mesa. “Deep Sea Fishing” is a series of profiles on established, available players—all of them projected to cost more than Víctor Víctor—who should be seriously considered by the front office.
2019 team(s): Red Sox
2019 salary: $3.6 million
2020 season age: 32
Marlins connection? None.
Why the Marlins should want him
Brock Holt takes defensive versatility to an extreme. In 2018, he started games at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field, then did it again this past season. The only player on the current Marlins 40-man roster with that kind of comfort in both the infield and outfield is Jon Berti, and Holt has a far longer track record of doing it at the major league level.
The Fort Worth, Texas, native is a .271/.340/.374 career hitter (93 wRC+) who’s been above league average at the plate in consecutive years. He is among the few free agents with multiple World Series rings, earning them with the 2013 and 2018 Red Sox.
A Marlins club that was very undisciplined in 2019 could use Holt’s knack for working deep counts. He has averaged more than four pitches per plate appearance in all but one of his MLB campaigns; league average during that span was 3.86, according to Baseball-Reference. He rarely swings at the first pitch and never offers when ahead in the count 3-0 (seriously, Holt has never done it in 102 career opportunities).
As much as we’d all like to see Isan Díaz fulfill his potential, the second baseman’s first stint in Miami went poorly: -1.2 fWAR in 49 games. Should he struggle similarly early in 2020, the Marlins may have to option the Puerto Rican power hitter to Triple-A. That’s why they ought to be in the market for someone who can provide insurance at that position.
Holt is also an ideal candidate to fill the veteran leadership void with Curtis Granderson, Martín Prado and Neil Walker all departing. Matt Collins of Over The Monster describes him as a “key glue guy” and notes he performs especially well in high-leverage situations.
Holt describes his free agency as a “slow-moving process” (via Section 10 Podcast). The Marlins have time to think carefully about how he meshes with their overall team-building plan before formally bidding for his services.
The industry’s average contract prediction for Holt is $11.2 million guaranteed, per Jon Becker, more or less the same as Miguel Rojas’ extension which takes effect in 2020.
Why the Marlins might not get him
Holt gets hurt. A lot. He was placed on the IL/DL in each of the past four seasons, most notably sidelined by concussion-like symptoms and vertigo in 2016 and 2017, respectively. He has only one career season of at least 110 games played. A combination of that and other factors seems to have slowed him down on the basepaths. Holt’s Sprint Speed has declined in every season since Statcast began tracking it, from 28.5 ft/sec in 2015 (89th percentile) to 26.1 ft/sec now (34th percentile).
Despite the luxury of playing most of his games in hitter-friendly environments like Fenway Park, Holt averages about one home run for every 100 plate appearances. He can contribute to rallies, but rarely generates run production single-handedly.
In 2019, Holt matched his career high with a Christian Yelich-like .365 batting average on balls in play. That shouldn’t be fully sustainable considering the ordinary quality of his contact.
No other available player has Holt’s precise skill set, but the Marlins will have plenty of alternatives such as Howie Kendrick, Eric Sogard, Asdrúbal Cabrera, José Iglesias and Brad Miller.
Fish Stripes estimates a 11% chance of the Marlins signing Brock Holt this offseason.
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