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MLB Free Agency: Do the Marlins need another bat?

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Miami leaves the Winter Meetings still looking to add offense, but could already make some noise with their current crop of hitters. 

Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Compared to other teams around baseball, the Marlins made few headlines at the Winter Meetings in San Diego this week. While they did sign former Dodgers reliever Yimi García on a one-year deal and pick up both pitcher Sterling Sharp and minor league catcher Julian Leon in the Rule 5 Draft, the rest of the snippets that surfaced were merely rumors. There seems to be plenty of interest around the league in Miami’s young and controllable starters, but at this time the front office is disinclined to move either Sandy Alcántara, Caleb Smith, or Pablo López, even if it would allow them to achieve their number one goal—adding more offense.

It has been well documented that the Marlins struggled to get on base (.298 team OBP, 29th in baseball), hit homers (146, 30th), and score runs (615, 29th) in 2019. Recognizing this glaring issue, the organization acquired former All-Star Jesús Aguilar and the productive Jonathan Villar last week via waivers and trade, respectively. Those players should prove to be significant upgrades over the likes of Martin Prado and Neil Walker, even if they do not quite match the heights that they reached in previous seasons.

After these moves, Miam’s offensei may already have enough bats to return to respectability in 2020.

On any given night, the Marlins could have Jorge Alfaro, Aguilar, Isan Díaz, Miguel Rojas, Villar, Brian Anderson, Harold Ramirez, and Garrett Cooper in the starting lineup, with Jon Berti available off the bench as a super-sub. And that is before the likes of Monte Harrison, Jesus Sánchez, and possibly Jazz Chisholm burst onto the scene at some point during the summer. Granted, the lineup you just read probably couldn’t go toe-to-toe with the best in baseball, but it isn’t “playoffs-or-bust” for Miami for at least another season or two.

Making a notable free agent signing would go a long way towards showing the more casual portion of the fan base that Derek Jeter and Co. are committed to winning and could generate excitement. The Marlins are reportedly linked to the charismatic and oftentimes electric Yasiel Puig and the historically streaky and aging Kole Calhoun (among others), but out-bidding the competition for them isn’t a necessary move given that the Marlins are not in win-now mode and should already fare a lot better next season with the growth of their current roster.

If most of the young holdover talent from this past season takes the anticipated next steps in their development, and Aguilar and Villar perform in-line with their career numbers or better, it wouldn’t be crazy to imagine a 15-20 game leap in the standings from the team in 2020.

Although such an improvement would mean another season of sub-.500 baseball, it would still be a huge leap in the right direction for the rebuild and put the team in a great position for 2021 given that there will be yet another wave of top prospects knocking on the door this time next year.

Adding another bat would help the Marlins make the leap that they are hoping for next year, but I would argue that beefing up the bullpen—which was for all intents and purposes the worst in the league in 2019 and is only marginally improved with the signing of García—should be the top priority right now. While it would be a welcome addition, a free agent hitter should be more of a want than a need, especially if such a signing would take away from the funds available for impact relievers.