So far, the offseason has been pretty slow and quiet for the Marlins. Although they are expected to land an impactful hitter to their lineup at some point before the season begins, they’ve been acting very carefully.
Among their most recent acquisitions are reliever Yimi García and outfielder Matt Kemp, formerly a three-time NL All-Star for the Dodgers. García was inked to a major-league deal, while Kemp signed a minors contract with an invitation to spring training.
But what should Marlins fans expect out of them?
We should begin with García. He’s a 29-year-old righty who was a big piece of the Dodgers bullpen in 2015 and 2019. The Dominican carries a good fastball that can touch 95 at times (averaged 94.38 MPH) and a nasty slider that led only to six extra-base hits and a .150 average (12-for-80) last season.
But the best part about him is that he has a masterful control of his pitches. García’s never finished a year with a BB/9 rate higher than 2.0. His WHIP in 2019 was 0.87.
That command will surely be appreciated by manager Don Mattingly, who knows both García and Kemp from his time as Dodgers skipper. His Marlins relievers registered a 4.37 BB/9 in 2019, second-worst in MLB (tied with the Pirates).
On one hand, you could make the case that García overachieved last season—he allowed an unsustainably low .171 batting average on balls in play and most of his 15 home runs were hit with the bases empty, minimizing the damage. On the other hand, he was the victim of an inflated 16.9% HR/FB rate, which should normalize a bit moving forward and result in some would-be homers becoming routine fly outs.
With all that in mind, García has to be seen as an improvement for the Fish bullpen. Also, he’s coming from an always contending team that was always in the middle of pressure. Mattingly will have a confident late-inning weapon out of the pen at an affordable price ($1.1MM guaranteed).
As for Kemp, he’s a great buy-low bet for Miami. If everything goes the right way, Kemp earns a big-league spot, regains his 2018 shape and he’ll be an amazing trade chip for the Fish.
As recently as 2018, Kemp played in 146 games for the Dodgers, went to the All-Star Game, hit 25 doubles, 21 dingers, drove in 85 runs, and recorded a .290/.338/.481 slash line.
Then he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds along with Yasiel Puig and was a huge disappointment. After looking good in 2019 spring training, he couldn’t translate his offensive production in camp to the regular season. He was swinging through strikes at an insane rate (21.2%) and his contact rate was also a career-worst 60.8%. A below-average runner who struggled to get his barrel on the ball, don’t bet on there being any dramatic improvement to his .268 BABIP, either.
However, there’s no reason to think of this deal as a bad one. A successful veteran, who was a great all-around player in his prime, is always good for a rebuilding team full of young talent.
There are a lot of ifs, but Kemp deserves a vote of confidence. After playing only in 20 MLB games in 2019, he’s trying to make a comeback and must be eager to prove he’s not done yet. The 35-year-old will be given a chance to do so from Day 1 and is set to be one of the most interesting stories this spring training.
Kemp appeared to be in very good shape at the Winter Meetings. Marlins deal is chance to reestablish himself. pic.twitter.com/AKtTi80m45— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 18, 2019
If Kemp is indeed in good shape and receives plenty of playing time, he should be able to send some balls out of the park and put up a decent slash line that could attract a contender. That conveniently clears room for Marlins outfield prospects like Monte Harrison and Jesús Sánchez to be called up to the roster later in the summer.
Projecting all of this is fun, but ultimately, time will prove us wrong or prove us right.