We’ve looked at Jai Miller and John Raynor. Last on the list is the name that is likely most familiar with a Marlins fan, Alejandro De Aza. De Aza had of course won the starting CF gig both at the start of 2007 and 2008. Freak injuries prevented him from getting any kind of substantial playing time. In ’07, he stepped on a sprinkler. And in ’08, he collided with John Raynor going after a fly ball in the last inning of the last game of spring training.
The Marlins would DFA him at the start of the offseason, and he was claimed by the Chicago White Soxs. Even if he cleared through waivers, he would have become a free agent. When a player clears waivers and you send the player to the minors, that is called “outright.” You can only outright a player once in his career, if you do it again he has the choice to become a free agent or accept the assignment. And we had already outrighted in the previous offseason. So when we DFA’d him, we were cutting all ties to De Aza. But was it the right move?
Up until last year, De Aza was looking like a basic slap hitter. He struck out at an average rate, he walked at an average rate, and his speed and batted ball ability gave him an above average BABIP. But he had very limited power. There’s a big gap of no data from 2007-2008, but then came 2009. His power absolutely blew up last year. After hitting an unadjusted 9 home runs between 2004-2006 in 1213 PA, he hit 8 last season in just 307. He also wacked a total of 26 2B+3B, previously he averaged 17 in the same amount of PA. The PCL is certainly partly to thank for that, and it’s a very small sample size, but he still did what he did. One thing to factor in his age. He’s now in the prime of his career, his body is now more developed. He very likely isn’t going to even put up average power, but could he at least be around his now-career .127 ISO?
If he is, that .319 wOBA still isn’t much better than Raynor’s and Miller’s .316, but the difference is defense. De Aza has the ability to play an average CF, which as the other two would struggle outside of a corner spot. The difference in offense and defensive ability between De Aza and Miller will probably end up in a full win difference. On top of which, projection systems are even higher on De Aza. CHONE has him a slightly above league average wOBA of .331! That would bump him up to a 2.6 WAR player, or an above average starter. I have my doubts De Aza could do that. In fact, I think it’s more likely he goes back to being a ~.100 ISO hitter than he does in being a .331 wOBA. And if he does that, he drops to about a .311 wOBA, and he’s even with John Raynor at a ~1.5 WAR.
And that’s still better than Miller. Jai Miller just strikes out way too much, and he’s long past the point of “He could cut them down down the road.” De Aza’s defense is considerably more valuable and he had a great season in NOLA last season. And while Raynor struggled last year, he still put up amazing numbers previously and at worst still gives you blazing speed. In the end, it’s likely not a move that will impact the franchise. None of them were in line to become starters, and Petersen and Cousins probably have a strong hold on the future bench spots. Still, you don’t want to get rid of superior players while keeping the inferior ones.