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3 most interesting MLB free agents still on the shelves after Christmas

Why the Marlins should be trying to pursue these veterans.

Jurickson Profar #10 of the San Diego Padres is congratulated by teammates after scoring in the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at loanDepot park on August 16, 2022 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

A longshot possibility to begin with, the fantasy of Bruce Sherman’s cash transforming the Miami Marlins from a 93-loss team to a contender is dead. The vast majority of impactful MLB free agents have signed contracts for the 2023 season, none of them with the Fish. This front office must be very active and creative on the trade market in the coming months to assemble a complementary roster.

I’m not ready to turn all of my attention to the trade market, though. The list of available free agents is still a long one, albeit deplete of individuals who would single-handedly “solve” the team’s weaknesses, excite the fanbase and move tickets/merchandise.

Here are five names I hope the Marlins are pursuing.

Jurickson Profar

Projected contract terms: two years, $20 million with opt out after 2023 season

There’s been barely any buzz about Profar’s next landing spot since he opted out of his contract nearly two months ago. As the Padres everyday left fielder in 2022, he established new career highs in numerous counting stats, including games played (152), hits (140), doubles (36) and walks (73). The switch-hitter’s standout skill is making contact—he has a 15% strikeout rate since 2018, during which period the MLB average has been 23%. Since his MLB career was initially stalled by injuries, he has proven his durability. Aside from brief IL stints due to COVID and a concussion, he has been fully available for his teams since 2018. Before San Diego placed him in a steady role, Profar showed his defensive versatility by starting games at every position on the diamond except for pitcher and catcher.

Profar is relatively young for a free agent—turning 30 in February—but there has already been a drop-off in his speed and baserunning value over the past two seasons. Every year of his career, he has posted a sub-.300 batting average on balls in play. Opponents frequently shifted Profar when batting from the left side (63.8% of plate appearances in 2022). Even with new rules coming into effect, his offensive upside isn’t high unless there is a sudden uptick in his quality of contact.

Trey Mancini

Trey Mancini #26 of the Houston Astros reacts after hitting a single against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning in Game Six of the 2022 World Series at Minute Maid Park on November 05, 2022 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Projected contract terms: one year, $7.5 million

Mancini’s 2022 season was going well while he was on the Orioles (116 wRC+), having the comfort of knowing that his daily lineup spot was secure. He continues to mash four-seam fastballs. According to Baseball Savant, the 30-year-old produced 14 runs above average against that pitch type; on a per-pitch basis, he was just as good as Juan Soto and Kyle Tucker. Earlier in his career, Mancini rated as a poor defender in the corner outfield spots, but showed last season that he’s still somewhat serviceable. For what it’s worth, he also brings a friendly personality and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Even so, the Astros declined their side of Mancini’s $10 mutual option for 2023 due to his second-half struggles at the plate. From mid-August through Houston’s World Series run, he was simply atrocious. I could see Mancini serving as a slight upgrade over Jesús Aguilar, splitting up the LF/1B/DH duties with Garrett Cooper and Jorge Soler. However, you could also make the case that the skill sets of those three plodding righty bats are too redundant.

Brandon Belt

Projected contract terms: one year, $9 million plus playing time incentives

The Marlins have been burned so many times over the last decade by accomplished hitters who cannot adjust to the challenging conditions of LoanDepot Park. That shouldn’t be a worry in Brandon Belt’s case—Oracle Park is comparably favorable to pitchers, yet Belt enjoyed a great career with the Giants, hitting better in his home games there (135 wRC+) than on the road (114 wRC+). Belt works deep counts, consistently gets on base, and from 2020-2021, he blasted balls over the fence more frequently than ever (38 home runs in 560 plate appearances).

The key to all of this continuing is Belt getting cooperation from his bothersome right knee. He was merely a replacement-level contributor in 2022 when able to take the field. The Marlins would be signing Belt under the assumption that he is a part-time player.

More interesting options for the Marlins: Jackie Bradley Jr., Zack Britton, Johnny Cueto, Corey Knebel, Evan Longoria, Jean Segura