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Five Center Field Options for the Marlins in 2022

The Marlins have a CF void to fill and a variety of ways to address it.

Byron Buxton #25 of the Minnesota Twins reacts against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

With the 2021-22 MLB offseason upon us, the Miami Marlins should be getting pretty busy. The Fish disappointed this past season with one of the worst records in baseball. They followed up a rare playoff berth with a 67-95 record, just barely avoiding last place in the NL East. Turning that into a competitive ballclub will require some serious adjustments to their roster.

One specific area where the Marlins need to improve is center field. Unable to find common ground in contract extension talks with Starling Marte—one of the best center fielders in baseball—they traded him to the Oakland A’s last July.

Softening the blow of Marte’s departure, the Marlins picked up Bryan De La Cruz from the Astros in a separate deadline deal. De La Cruz played very well for Miami down the stretch. His MLB track record isn’t long enough yet to justify entering 2022 as Miami’s everyday starter at the position, but he represents a quality CF fallback plan in case of a teammate’s injury or underperformance.

Fish Stripes original GIF Fish Stripes original GIF

The 2021-22 free agent class is one of the deepest and most talented in recent history. The Marlins could also acquire their future center fielder via trade, or even go with a creative internal solution.

Here are five center field options for the Marlins to consider this offseason.

1. Chris Taylor

The first option the Marlins should look at to be their future center fielder is Chris Taylor. The 2021 All-Star is coming off a typically productive season in which he slashed .254/.344/.438 with 20 HR, 110 OPS+ and a 2.7 WAR, plus .351/.419/.784 with 4 HR in the postseason (11 games).

Taylor is most known for being the Dodgers’ swiss army knife. The former Virginia Cavalier played all over the field during his time in L.A., rotating mainly between shortstop, center field, left field and second base depending on the team’s needs. He has graded out as a roughly average defensive CF in 186 career games, according to both defensive runs saved and outs above average.

On Sunday, the Dodgers extended a one-year qualifying offer to Taylor. He is expected to decline it and hit the open market.

2. Starling Marte

That’s right. If the Marlins are actually serious about building a winner in Miami, they should bring back Starling Marte, even if it means dramatically increasing the offer they originally made to him in midseason negotiations.

Marte was the Marlins’ best player until they shipped off to the west coast. During his time in Miami dating back to 2020 (92 games), Marte slashed .286/.370/.440 with 11 HR, 38 RBI and 27 stolen bases. He showed no signs of slowing down with Oakland. He comfortably led the majors with 47 steals in 2021 and nearly did the same in batting average (.310).

Marte is two years older than Taylor and we need to wonder whether the Marlins front office might have already burned their bridge to him by lowballing him during extension talks.

3. Byron Buxton

One of the top center fielders in the league is Minnesota Twins star Byron Buxton. He is still a year away from free agency, but it’s no secret that the Twins are willing to listen to trade proposals for him.

The former first-round draft pick is extremely athletic and his offense has improved a ton since 2017. At age 27, he ranked in the 96th percentile among MLB players in max exit velocity, the 99th percentile in sprint speed and the 94th percentile in outs above average, per Baseball Savant. Buxton’s 169 weighted runs created plus—100 represents league average—was second only to Bryce Harper (min. 250 PA).

While Buxton’s talent is undeniable, he’s also very injury prone. He has played more than 100 games in a season only once, missing time with head, hip, shoulder, wrist, hand and foot issues. That makes him a risky target for Miami, but also increases the likelihood that he would be open to a reasonably priced extension.

4. Seiya Suzuki

Seiya Suzuki is a 27-year-old outfielder who is expected to be posted by the Hiroshima Carp this offseason after a consistently dominant tenure in Japan.

Suzuki is 5’11”, 182 pounds with good plate discipline, power and baserunning. He’s been a five-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove winner and won the Best Nine Award four seasons straight. During the 2021 season, Suzuki slashed .319/.436/.640 with 38 HR, 88 RBI with a career-best 1.075 OPS. He walked more times (88) than he struck out (87). He also competed for his native Japan in the Tokyo Olympics.

United States v Japan - Baseball Gold Medal Game - Olympics: Day 15 Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Suzuki is not required to come to the states right now—he can return to the Carp for the 2022 season if he doesn’t receive a satisfactory contract. After watching some recent highlights of Suzuki, I think he could be a great addition to the Marlins.

5. Jazz Chisholm Jr.

Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s rookie season was really solid overall, but there’s no sugarcoating the fact that he struggled defensively. Should the Marlins look into acquiring another impact player for the middle infield and transition him to center? This idea was floated in recent Fish Stripes conversations with radio broadcaster Glenn Geffner and veteran baseball writer Keith Law.

One of the most well-liked and toolsiest players on the Marlins roster, Jazz slashed .248/.303/.425 with 18 home runs and 23 stolen bases. However, the Bahamian infielder made 24 errors—tied for the most in the majors—and had minus-4 defensive runs saved.

Jazz is still a very good athlete who might have the range to be serviceable in CF next season despite his inexperience. That would give the Marlins the flexibility to shop for one of the many highly coveted shortstops currently on the market.