The 2021 Miami Marlins season is complete and it was a disappointing season, to say the least. The Marlins finished with a 67-95 record and placed fourth in the NL East, representing a step in the wrong direction on the heels of a 2020 postseason berth. After falling short of expectations, they must address their weaknesses in order to solidify themselves as a competitive team.
One thing that needs to be fixed is the catcher position. As a catching unit, the Marlins had a 57 wRC+, which ranked third-worst among MLB teams.
Here are five realistic options, potentially available via trade and free agency, who should be considered by the Marlins this offseason.
Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras is one of the top catchers in baseball. He is a logical trade candidate for the Cubs, who are in the middle of a rebuild and unlikely to sign him to a long-term contract.
The Marlins and Cubs had some trade discussions last winter, Craig Mish reported, but nothing ended up happening. The Fish are looking to be more competitive next season while the Cubs will look to add to their future.
The Marlins have the resources to strike a deal with the Cubs thanks to the depth of their farm system. A big question for the Fish if they were to get this done: Is Contreras open to a contract extension with Miami? He has only one more year of arbitration before he’s eligible to enter free agency.
Another popular option for the Marlins to consider for their starting catcher in 2022 is Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings. Last season’s backstops were not only terrible at the plate, but liabilities defensively.
That’s where Stallings come in. He would be an upgrade with the bat, but even more so with his receiving and the way he calls a game. Stallings is one of the top defensive catchers in the league and might be the frontrunner for the NL Gold Glove award.
Stallings slashed .246/.335/.369 with 20 doubles, eight home runs, 53 RBI and had a 3.0 WAR for Pittsburgh during his age-31 campaign. He’ll remain under club control through 2024.
3. Mike Zunino
Former Golden Spikes Award winner and current Rays catcher Mike Zunino might be the best free agent catcher this offseason. However, reaching free agency is no sure thing—his availability relies upon the AL East champs declining his $4 million club option for 2022.
The former Gator is one of the best power hitting catchers in the league is also pretty solid behind the plate. During his 2021 All-Star season, Zunino slashed .216/.301/.559 with 33 home runs, 62 RBI and a .860 OPS.
It might be tough for Zunino to replicate his breakout season, but the Marlins would be grateful for anything close to that.
4. Mitch Garver
Another American League catcher that could be an option for the Marlins is Mitch Garver. The 30-year catcher is coming off a season in which his availability was limited by back and groin injuries.
Even though Garver only played in 68 games, he posted some solid numbers. Garver batted .256 with fifteen doubles, thirteen home runs, 34 RBI and walked 31 times. He also had a 140 OPS+ and a 2.1 WAR. Since breaking through to the majors, Garver owns a 122 wRC+ overall—that’s third-best among all catchers, trailing only Will Smith and Yasmani Grandal.
Just like the Marlins, the Twins endured a rough 2021 season relative to expectations. Trading Garver to fortify their pitching staff is on the table. The cost might be a little pricey, but Garver is a very sound catcher with a Silver Slugger under his belt.
5. Carson Kelly
The final potential quality pick-up I’ll cover in this piece is Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Carson Kelly. The 27-year old is coming off a productive season in which he posted a 2.2 WAR. He is also slashed .240/.343/.411 with 13 home runs, 46 RBI and a 104 OPS+.
Kelly is probably entering his prime and has three more years on control before entering free agency. With that many years of control, the Marlins will likely need to trade multiple impactful prospects to add Carson Kelly to their organization.
The D-Backs might want to keep Carson Kelly, but they also had Daulton Varsho emerge as a viable internal replacement during the final months of the 2021 campaign. The Marlins should be at the front of the line of suitors calling them to inquire about his availability.