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Kevin Barral’s Top 10 Free Agent Targets for the Miami Marlins

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The most hyped Miami Marlins offseason is upon us. There are many free agents available with the talent to help turn this team into a contender.

Today we go through the top ten targets who make sense for the Marlins to go after based on their fit with the existing roster and their expected cost.

#10: Mark Canha OF

Formerly of the Oakland Athletics and also a former friend of ours—drafted and developed by the Marlins organization—Canha makes sense to bring back on a 1-year deal after the season he had with Oakland (2.5 WAR, 519 AB, 120 H, 17 HR, .231 BA, 93 R, 61 RBI, 12 SB, .358 OBP, .387 SLG, .746 OPS). Although his 2021 numbers weren’t the flashiest, they still represent a upgrade over most of the players that are currently on the team so this will fill a much-needed outfield position with somebody who you feel good about putting into the everyday lineup because of his on-base skills. If there is a big competition among teams interested in signing Canha, maybe it requires a 2-year deal in the $12-15 million range. But that shouldn’t scare the Marlins away: their offense needs help.

#9: Yan Gomes C

Gomes split the season with the Washington Nationals and the Oakland Athletics (349 AB, 49 R, 88 H, 14 HR, 52 RBI, .252 BA, .301 OBP, .722 OPS). Now in his mid-30s, Gomes has been on the decline little by little since the 2019 World Series, but nonetheless, he holds appeal considering the shortage of quality catchers around MLB. In the case of the Marlins, he ideally profiles as a backup option assuming they trade for somebody like Willson Contreras, Jacob Stallings, etc. However, worst-case scenario, he’d be serviceable as a starter and good influence for developing catchers at all levels of the organization, from Nick Fortes to Joe Mack and all the prospects in between. Other free agent catchers include Sandy León and Robinson Chirinos.

#8: Andrew Chafin RP

Andrew Chafin #39 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago White Sox in the eighth inning at RingCentral Coliseum Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Looking at another player who split time with multiple teams this season, Andrew Chafin (2-4, 1.83 ERA, 71 G, 5 SV, 68.2 IP, 64 SO, 0.93 WHIP) had himself a really good season that went under the radar with all of the star relievers on the market. He declined his $5.25 million mutual option with the Athletics, so he’s expecting to get even more than that in free agency. Chafin in the Marlins bullpen can contribute in high-leverage situations either as a setup man or even the closer. Why make a huge investment in a big-name closer when Chafin can give you just as many innings and a similar ERA?

#7: Raisel Iglesias RP

Raisel Iglesias publicly stated that he would prefer to play for the Marlins. As the Los Angeles Angels closer this last season, he had 34 saves and only blew 5 save opportunities. He would obviously be more trustworthy than Anthony Bass in those situations or anybody else in the current Marlins bullpen, and compared to Chafin, he is more overpowering. Iglesias still needs to make a decision on the $18.4 million qualifying offer he received from the Angels. Assuming the right-hander declines, free agent negotiations with him would probably start in the 3-year, $30 million range.

#6: Leury García UTL

A player who I myself have been extremely high on the Marlins getting is Leury García. That’s because of all the positions he can play—2B, SS, 3B, LF, CF, and RF—and what he can do offensively, batting .267 for the White Sox 5 HR, 111 H, and 54 RBI. He won’t start every single game for the team, but can see frequent playing time in favorable matchups and in the event of injuries. Off the bench, he’s an interesting weapon as a pinch-runner, defensive substitution, and pinch-hitter. García is a relatively cheap, short-term candidate to potentially fill the role of Jon Berti whose future in somewhat uncertain following a serious concussion.

#5: Chris Taylor UTL

For many of you, Chris Taylor is the dream signing of the Miami Marlins offseason, but not for me. Yes, he had an All-Star season in 2021 (507 AB, 92 R, 129 H, 20 HR, 73 RBI, 13 SB, .254 BA, .344 OBP, .782 OPS) and played a huge role for the Dodgers in the postseason. And I admit, Taylor can play the same positions as Leury García while posting better stats overall. However, it’d be challenging for Taylor to reach the high expectations being placed upon, not to mention a big risk for the Marlins because of the years and dollars he’ll be seeking.

#4: Max Kepler OF and Mitch Garver C

I am cheating a little bit by including these trade targets on a free agent list, but they should be getting more attention. Miami and Minnesota have pretty good history as trade partners, swapping Sergio Romo for Lewin Díaz in 2019 and reportedly engaging in more discussions the following offseason about potentially moving Elieser Hernandez. Maybe both sides come to revisit this deal and make it work. Packaging Kepler and Garver who would address the needs that Miami has for a catcher and an outfielder; on the other side, the Twins get a strikeout pitcher who they very much need in Elieser, plus probably multiple solid prospects. Contractually, Kepler (3 years) and Garver (2 years) have a combined 5 years of club control remaining. The Marlins would be betting on Kepler bouncing back from a mediocre year (.211 BA and 19 HR) and for Garver to just stay healthy.

#3: Kris Bryant UTL

Kris Bryant is going to be one of the more expensive free agents because in some ways, he’s even a better version of Chris Taylor. Bryant has been mostly known as a 3B, but he played more of his games this season in the outfield, including CF. It’s very rare to have a 25-30 HR threat who can handle premium defensive positions. The fit makes a lot of sense, though the Marlins don’t seem likely to spend $100-plus million on any individual player.

#2: Eduardo Escobar 3B

Miguel Rojas himself approves of Eduardo Escobar as a free agent option (they used to be teammates in the Venezuelan Winter League). Escobar had himself a great 2021 season (549 AB, 77 R, 139 H, 28 HR, 90 RBI, .253 BA, .314 OBP, .786 OPS), finishing on a high note after a midseason trade from the Diamondbacks to the Brewers (.268 BA, 6 HR, 48 H). Imagine having him at 3rd, Rojas at short, Jazz at second, and Lewin at first base for the Marlins—nice blend of young guys with breakout potential and steady veterans. Right now, this team is missing a switch-hitter like him. Miami can get a deal done by bidding high enough on a 2-year deal ($20-25 million max).

#1: Nick Castellanos OF

Nick Castellanos #2 of the Cincinnati Reds looks on during the game against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Run producer Nicholas Castellanos would fit perfectly in Miami. It is all about whether or not the Marlins have the money and the drive to go and acquire this guy who will most likely get offers from big-market teams. Marcell Ozuna’s 4-year, $65 million deal last winter represents the absolute floor for him. Castellanos could earn every penny by bringing consistent batting to the Marlins and playing a part in packing the stadium if his supporting cast is good enough to chase a World Series. This is the kind of signing that would make the Marlins one of the most improved MLB teams.