One of the big needs this offseason for the Marlins was an upgrade at 3B. In fact, just about anyone would be an upgrade at this point but with slim pickings on the free agent market, there was little hope the Marlins would make an acquisition via free agency.
In fact, the biggest target on the market is Kevin Youkilis, whose skills are in decline yet still fetched a $12M one year deal with the Yankees. They paid high because they have Alex Rodriguez going to get hip surgery and will miss significant enough time.
It wouldn’t have made much sense for the Marlins to make a move like that considering the amount of money shelled out last offseason with little positive result in return. The other options are not much better as Eric Chavez, Jeff Keppinger, Mark Reynolds, all have their flaws and wouldnt offer much upside over the current options the Marlins have. The price certainly doesn’t make sense either.
Last season, the Marlins 3B hit .266/.322/.421 with 18 HRs in 629ABs with 122Ks and 167Hs. That includes Hanley Ramirez, Greg Dobbs, Donovan Solano as well. Can the Marlins find that production in the crevices of their couch? The hope is to improve on those numbers in order to try to win. To do that, they will have to go internal and find someone to step up. So, which options are the Marlins considering at this point?
Greg Dobbs is penciled in as the de facto starter but not so fast. His strength is to come off the bench as a pinch hitter and occasional spot starter. Much like Wes Helms, Dobbs provides a veteran bat off the bench to help keep the gears turning in a pinch; and a bit of a luxury for this young team. Still, he could put up solid numbers as the every day third bagger, around .270 with 10-15 HRs. In fact, last year as a 3B he hit .309 with 3 HRs in 123 ABs. Given the current market, he is a better option but it remains to be seen whether or not becoming a starter is in his best interest.
Chris Coghlan is listed as the 2nd option on the Marlins depth chart currently. The former 2009 NL Rookie of the Year showed great promise as a hitter with a disciplined approach and having a knack for getting on base. All of a sudden, after three more seasons, his numbers have plummeted in practically every category. His games played have dwindled as has his offensive performance. Coghlan had been battling injuries over the course of these past three seasons, but he may just be extra motivated to have an impact this upcoming season. He is going into his last season before being arbitration eligible and he will be looking to transition into a bigger contract and a more steady career. If he can get his batting eye back, the defense will be tolerable enough to see him man 3B. As a former 2B, Coghlan can play the infield position and is going to be getting a strong look at 3B this spring.
Another reclamation project worth keeping an eye on is Kevin Kouzmanoff. Signed by the Marlins to a minor league deal, Kouzmanoff is looking to come into spring with a chance at grabbing that wide open 3B job. In his three previous stops in the bigs, he has shown some pop with his bat hitting in the high teens with HRs. His AVG has fluttered around .260 and his strike outs are high, but he also does hit his fair share of doubles. He just may be solid enough to hit about .260 with 15+ HRs and around 30 doubles. Considering what the market had available, this may not be a bad move either.
There are younger options for the Marlins but most likely none will be ready at this point. Recently acquired Derek Dietrich looks to have a solid bat and will start getting looks at 3B, moving from SS where he was being moved anyway within the Rays organization. He projects to have 20HR power and solid hitting but most likely won’t arrive until 2014.
Zack Cox, acquired in the Mujica trade, is another college-polished hitter but his numbers have not hit where projected. His HR total went down but the yield was better (10 HRs in 394 ABs vs. 13 in 516 ABs in 2011). He may get a stronger look in spring, but will most likely head back for more ABs in the minors. Cox may be a September call up or, slightly sooner.
Yordy Cabrera, an athletic SS drafted by the A’s, is also projecting as a 3B but it remains to be seen whether or not the Lakewood High School standout will have the hitting tools necessary at 3B. He has a great infield arm and could be a great defensive player, but his poor hitting mechanics make him suspect offensively at this point.
Of these options, the hope would be for Coghlan to reclaim his 2009 form and take the job as the starter. The Marlins have mid-grade prospects in Cox and Dietrich to take over 3B long term but it remains to be seen whether either option will fare better than Matt Dominguez, let alone a Hanley Ramirez. Kouzmanoff provides an interesting alternative and if he can come in healthy and hungry, he may shock people with his production – maybe a Jorge Cantu-type of find. If that is the case, Coghlan can still mix in time in LF and 3B, which could be a plus to the team and both players.