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Marlins sign Yuli Gurriel

Does Gurriel have anything left in the tank?

Yuli Gurriel #10 of the Houston Astros looks on during batting practice ahead of Game Three of the 2022 World Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 31, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Longtime Houston Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel is signing with the Miami Marlins, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The Miami Herald’s Jordan McPherson confirms that it is a minor league deal.

This match is unsurprising. Rosenthal reported on Tuesday that the Fish were “continuing to talk” to the two-time World Series champion. Earlier in the offseason, the club made and retracted a one-year, $3 million contract offer, per the Miami Herald.

The Cuban great didn’t come over to the states until his age-32 season, but he’s been plenty successful at the sport’s highest level, slashing .284/.328/.448 (111 wRC+) and producing 10.3 fWAR/13.4 bWAR (all for Houston).

However, Gurriel is coming off his worst full-length MLB season—584 plate appearances of sub-replacement value—and he’s not necessarily a lock to rebound in 2023, as Leo Morgenstern of FanGraphs writes:

Gurriel’s biggest weakness—his lack of power—became an even bigger problem last season. Meanwhile, the newfound plate discipline that briefly helped him defy the aging curve completely disappeared. He still possesses elite contact skills, but those skills are far less valuable when he’s swinging at worse pitches and hitting without thump.

Yuli Gurriel’s 2022 Statcast percentile rankings
Yuli Gurriel’s 2022 Statcast percentile rankings
Baseball Savant

The Marlins do not have any glaring holes to fill in their everyday lineup, but they believe it’s important to have a high-quality backup for Garrett Cooper at first base. Luis Arraez could plausibly fill that role, but they are determined to use him as a full-time second baseman. Aside from Arraez, all of their other internal options at first come with significant offensive or defensive concerns.

Besides Gurriel, Miguel Sanó was arguably the next-best first baseman still available in free agency. Sanó is nearly a decade younger and has far more power, but he’s less durable and further removed from his peak season of 2019.

Despite exclusively starting at first since 2020, Rosenthal’s previous reporting mentioned that the Marlins may be open to utilizing Gurriel at second and third.

In the not-too-distant past, Gurriel showed he can be a great hitter with a serviceable glove. It’s rare to find that kind of upside at what is presumably a modest base salary.

Gurriel suffered a right MCL sprain in Game 5 of the 2022 World Series. He’s believed to be 100% healthy at this point.

Turning 39 in June, Gurriel would be the oldest position player to suit up for the Marlins since Ichiro Suzuki.

The Marlins have a full 40-man roster, but they could simply place Max Meyer or Anthony Bender (Tommy John surgery) on the 60-day injured list to make room for Gurriel if/when he shows them that he merits a spot.