Our latest chapter features new Detroit Tigers pitcher José Ureña.
This offseason, we’re looking back at the 630 men who got onto the field for at least one regular season game with the Florida/Miami Marlins. All players remaining are in our final bracket—over 800 PA/BF accrued while with the team. Players are sorted in order of ascending bWAR divided by PA/BF. Today’s group of three finished the Marlins’ leg of their baseball journey with a slightly positive bWAR. All prospect ratings courtesy of Baseball America. Statistics culled from Baseball Reference and The Baseball Cube.
99. Álex González
Six-foot-one shortstop Álex González is a native of Cagua, Venezuela. At the age of 17 in 1994, the Marlins signed him to his first professional deal through free agency.
González began the 1996 season as the number 10 prospect in the Marlins system, and hit .306 in 25 games between three minor league affiliates. He opened the following year as the number 54 prospect in baseball, and spent the entire year at the Double-A level with the Portland Sea Dogs. He slashed .254/.305/.434 with 19 jacks and 65 RBI in 133 contests.
González continued to rise through the Marlins system in 1998 after opening the season as the number 48 prospect in baseball. In August, he made his big-league debut with the Marlins and went 13-for-86 from the plate, with two doubles, three homers, seven RBI, and 30 strikeouts.
In 1999, González made the National League All Star team for the first and only time through his eventual 16 season major league career. He hit a career-best .277 in 136 games, with 14 homers and 59 RBI. He also struck out 113 times and drew only 15 walks, so I guess we could say plate discipline wasn’t a strong suit to his game. It was a facet of his game that he never really got a handle on, racking up 3.89 K’s per walk through his career.
González played his first eight seasons with the Marlins, slashing out a .245/.291/.391 line with 81 round-trippers and 375 RBI. He also stole 23 bases, and collected another 10 hits in the Marlins 2003 postseason run (including a walk-off homer in Game Four of the World Series). More-or-less an average defender at shortstop, González racked up a .970 fielding percentage while with the team.
On September 21, 1999, González hit a leadoff double in the fourth inning of a scoreless tie with the Montreal Expos. In the fifth, he hit a three-run homer to take a 3-2 lead, a lead the Marlins would manage to hold onto for a 5-3 victory. On April 2, 2001, González singled and scored the game-tying run in the top of the ninth against the Philadelphia Phillies. On April 23, 2002, he hit a leadoff, game-tying homer in the top of the eighth against the Houston Astros, then added a walkoff RBI-single in the bottom of the 12th, scoring Luis Castillo with the game-winner.
Granted free agency following the 2005 season, González soon afterward signed with the Boston Red Sox. He later also played for the Cincinnati Reds, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Atlanta Braves, the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Detroit Tigers. He played his final major league game seven years ago, and although he hasn’t announced his retirement, he’s been a free agent since April 20, 2014. His 81 Marlins home runs rank him 13th on the all-time leaderboard, his 375 RBI rank 10th, and his 183 doubles rank tied for fourth in team history.
98. José Ureña
José Ureña is a six-foot-two right-handed pitcher from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Born in 1991, he signed with the Marlins through free agency just weeks prior to his 17th birthday.
Ureña pitched 142 games in total for the Marlins over six major league seasons, starting 98 of them and posting a 32-46 record with a 4.60 ERA. He led the majors in 2017 with 14 HBP, and the National League with 12 in 2018. To hear the Atlanta Braves fandom speak of it, most of those HBP were Ronald Acuna Jr., although Ureña only drilled Acuna twice.
Although Ureña led the circuit in such an ignoble statistic during those two seasons, they were also the best of his career by a significant margin. He was 23-19 over that time, with a 3.90 ERA and 243 strikeouts in 343 2⁄3 innings.
On September 11, 2016, Ureña came one out shy of a shutout, striking out four and allowing four hits over 8 2⁄3 innings and throwing 108 pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers. A.J. Ramos came on for the final out. On July 31, 2017, Ureña endured a hard-luck 1-0 loss to the Washington Nationals, allowing one run on three hits while striking out six over eight innings. On June 15, 2018, he collected the highest WPA of his career to-date, with a .533 mark after pitching a 2-0, three-hit victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
Granted free agency following the 2020 season, Ureña signed with the Detroit Tigers on December 23. On the Marlins all-time leaderboard, he ranks 11th with 597 innings, 12th with 406 strikeouts, and second with 39 HBP.
97. Jorge Cantú
McAllen, Texas native Jorge Cantú is a six-foot-three first, second, and third baseman. In 1998, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed him through free agency, at the age of 16. By 2002, he was the eighth ranked prospect in the Rays system (he turned 39 earlier this week).
Cantú made his major league debut with Tampa Bay in 2004, and started his first four seasons with them before a trade sent him to the Cincinnati Reds in 2007. Prior to joining the Marlins in 2008, he hit .273/.312/.450 with 45 home runs and 209 RBI.
In 401 games over two-and-a-half seasons with Florida, Cantú put together a .278/.330/.450 slash line with another 55 home runs and 249 RBI. That includes a career-high 29 homers in 2008. One-hundred-twenty-one times through his Marlins tenure he finished with multiple hits.
On May 25, 2008, in the second game of a doubleheader against the San Francisco Giants, Cantú jacked a game-tying home run in the bottom of the first, added a game-tying two-run single with two outs in the seventh, and drew a walk with two outs in the ninth, allowing Dan Uggla a chance to stroke the game-winner two batters later in a 5-4 Marlins victory.
On June 11, Cantú smacked two solo homers in a 6-2 win against the Philadelphia Phillies. On April 28, 2009, he drew a walk to lead off the second, trimmed a three-run deficit by two with a two-run shot in the fourth, singled and scored in the sixth to again trim the Mets lead to one, then added a three-run, go-ahead homer in the seventh for the eventual game-winning, 7-4 margin over New York.
On September 23, Cantú collected four singles and two RBI in a 7-6 win against the Phillies. On April 11, 2010, he hit a three-run homer in the fourth to trim a Dodgers lead to one, then doubled in two for a one-run, 6-5 lead in the seventh inning of a win over Los Angeles. At the trade deadline that season, the Marlins sent Cantú to the Texas Rangers for Omar Poveda and Evan Reed.
Cantú played a half-season with Texas and spent 2011 with the San Diego Padres in his final major league appearances (to date). Since then, he’s hit 101 home runs in the Mexican League between the Quintana Roo Tigers, the Tijuana Toros, and the Mexico City Red Devils. That includes 2015, when he hit .351 with a .625 slugging percentage, 25 homers, and 100 RBI in only 106 games for Quintana Roo.