For a rebuilding Miami Marlins’ team, this chapter of the franchise’s history has emphasized finding roles for players short and long-term.
Garrett Cooper is among the names whose role is somewhat undefined.
A right-handed hitting and throwing first baseman, Cooper’s first four seasons in the majors have been defined by injury.
After making the Opening Day roster in 2018, Cooper would miss two months with right wrist contusion.
The totality of his 2018 season would consist of just 14 games.
2019 would prove more fruitful though, as Cooper would play a career-best 107 games, hitting .281 with 15 home runs and a modest-109 OPS+. A calf strain in March and a hand injury in May would further limit Cooper’s playing time.
The pandemic-shortened 2020 season would affect Cooper, limiting him to just 34 games, though he would post a .500 slugging percentage (130 OPS+), splitting first base and DH-duties with Jesús Aguilar.
With Aguilar slated to be the team’s primary first baseman in 2021, finding consistent playing time for Cooper will be something manager Don Mattingly will be tasked with finding for the former New York Yankee.
Beyond first base, Cooper, as previously noted, has experience in right field.
But could the team actually benefit from - for lack of a better term - depriving Cooper of everyday at-bats?
The method to the madness of this quandary is rooted in the more-prevalent-than-ever tanking strategy Miami and several other franchises have ceded to taking part in.
Duvall signed a 1-year/$5 million deal the previous month, a deal that will pay him $2 million in 2021 with a $3 million buyout in 2022 should the team not exercise his $7 million option.
While Duvall provides the team with power, an element long-missing in the lineup, his career .293 OBP and 97 OPS+ leave little to be desired long-term.
Cooper, when healthy, provides more in the way of offensive consistency given his track record, but his presence could prevent the team from acquiring eventual assets moving forward.
These assets, of course, would come via the First-Year Player Draft.
While the aforementioned Mattingly or the front office would concede to losing games purposefully, to merely ignore the elephant in the room that is tanking would be a farce.
Playing the likes of Magneuris Sierra, Lewis Brinson, or Monte Harrison, all of whom remain unproven performers at the major league level, whether that’s at the outset or later in the season should the team be out of contention by the All-Star break, would further position the team to garner better draft positioning for 2022.
Playing Cooper - someone with a career 111 OPS+ - alongside Aguilar on an everyday basis, would make for modest improvements over the team’s 2019 win totals - where they lost 105 games - but could hurt future draft placement.
As of right now, the team does have Lewin Díaz as a possible successor at first base.
Like any player, age is always a factor, and the fact that Cooper is already 30 leave little to be desired for long-term sustainability.
The problem the lies within thinking in these terms comes with the sheer crowded nature and bevy of questions surrounding the National League East.
The Mets’ additions of Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, James McCann and Taijuan Walker have them in the division’s driver seat on paper, but the Nationals three-headed monster of Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin and presence of Juan Soto mean they are not to be written off either. Atlanta, as well, are in the midst of defending three consecutive division titles, and Miami is coming off their first playoff appearance in 17 years. Let us not ignore the moves Philadelphia has made to upgrade a historically bad bullpen from 2020 and the re-signing of J.T. Realmuto.
Cooper, too, had previously been the subject of trade rumors, with teams such as the defending champion-Los Angeles Dodgers, showing interest in his services.
While nothing has materialized here, Cooper could better be utilized by a Dodgers’ team whose recent reputation is preceded on their emphasis of positional versatility.
The Marlins, too, are no stranger to making trades with the Dodgers, recently acquiring reliever Dylan Floro to bolster their bullpen.
Whether or not the team ship Cooper off is yet to be determined, but the premise of a return via-trade in addition to future prospect capital could make new GM Kim Ng’s first full-season at the helm an intriguing one as she looks to piece together a winner for years to come.
What Should the Marlins Do With Garrett Cooper in 2021?
This poll is closed
Allot him everyday playing duties
A first base platoon with Aguilar with occasional starts in the OF