Nearly two months removed from the end of the MLB postseason, the Miami Marlins are finally closing in on their first free agent signing. Infielder Jean Segura agreed to a two-year, $17 million contract with the club on Wednesday (pending physical).
Segura, who turns 33 in March, has spent the vast majority of his Major League Baseball career as a middle infielder, which makes this a curious fit. Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Miguel Rojas are the incumbent starting second baseman and shortstop, respectively. Joey Wendle, Charles Leblanc and Jon Berti also saw significant time at those positions in 2022 and enjoyed periods of productivity.
On Thursday, Jim Bowden of The Athletic and CBS Sports HQ reported that the Marlins plan on playing Segura at third base. How will he fare there?
Segura has only played 24 games at third base in his 11-year career, all coming in 2020. In that limited sample, he wasn’t completely out of place. He posted a .964 fielding percentage compared to his career overall .969 percentage. In 179 2⁄3 innings he had two errors, one defensive run saved and one out above average, according to Statcast.
For much of the last half-decade, the Marlins deployed Brian Anderson at the hot corner. Although Anderson has an edge over Segura in terms of defensive talent, the newcomer offers far more durability. Segura has played at least 125 games in eight of his 10 seasons as a full-time big leaguer excluding only 2020 (COVID-shortened season) and 2022 (suffered broken finger on bunt attempt).
The Domino Effect
Adding Segura slams the door shut on the possibility of re-signing Anderson. Using the current roster, the Marlins Opening Day infield would likely consist of Segura, Rojas, Chisholm and Garrett Cooper. From there, Miami would still need to determine roles for Berti, Leblanc, Wendle and Jordan Groshans, who played regularly at third base in September/October. There wouldn’t be room for all of them on the active roster—the Marlins typically carry 13 total position players at a time (including catchers and outfielders).
Because of his versatility and bat production, Wendle will command plenty of opportunities. In 111 games last season, he recorded 12 defensive runs saved, according to Statcast. Eligible for free agency a year from now, Wendle is predictably drawing trade interest (the Red Sox have reportedly called), but it would be more beneficial to the Marlins to “showcase” him in the first half of 2023 and deal him to a contender willing to give up more to make a playoff push.
Utilizing Berti primarily as an outfielder would help solve the infield logjam. As currently constructed, the Marlins lack a reliable center fielder, and Berti has the speed to cover a lot of ground.
That still leaves Groshans and Leblanc on the bubble. Their Opening Day status will be affected by spring training performance and potential injuries to their teammates.
Leblanc was an unheralded Rule 5 draft pick who debuted for the Marlins in late July of last year, and almost immediately became the hottest hitter on the team. In his first 12 games at the MLB level, he hit .405 with an OPS of .990. After 48 games, he slashed .263/.320/.404. Beyond his success at the plate, his familiarity with first base could be key. Cooper needs a backup on the roster.
Groshans was traded to Miami from the Toronto Blue Jays last August. After a brief, encouraging stint at Triple-A Jacksonville, he was called up to the big league squad. His numbers were a bit more modest, but he is projected to have a higher ceiling, assuming more of his power potential translates to game action. Like Leblanc, he has minor league options remaining. The Marlins have another three months to mull trade possibilities before the regular season arrives, but for the moment, the vets who are above Groshans on the infield depth chart make him a strong candidate to get sent down.