Marlins shopping list incomplete without center fielder

I hope all of you fellow Marlin Maniacs had a merry Christmas and happy holidays. I hope you all got your shopping done; in my family, we tend to give out gifts at any time which is opportune, meaning we do not necessarily have to get our gifts out by Christmas, but I still did some limited holiday shopping this year.

The Marlins appear to be done with their shopping for the holidays, having completed what they wanted to do this offseason. However, it seems that Marlins fans feel there is still something left to be addressed on the old shopping list. Check out the results of our Marlin Maniac poll question regarding what the team needs to acquire the most:

Which of the three openings do the Marlins most need to address?

Center field, starter or bench: 26 votes (74%)
Left-handed bench bat: 5 votes (14%)
Left-handed reliever: 4 votes (12%)

The Marlins already covered the last option, signing Randy Choate for two years, but they have not addressed the first two. It seems the Fish are interested in using John Baker in the pinch-hitting capacity after he finishes recovering from Tommy John surgery. As far as center field, the Fish remain confident that Chris Coghlan can manage the position just fine, and that a combination of Wes Helms, Emilio Bonifacio, and Matt Dominguez can handle third base. Most Marlins fans do not agree, myself included.

The dual problem

It seems the Marlins will continue with their plans of going with Coghlan in center field. Unfortunately, that poses two problems for the 2011 Marlins:

1) It puts Coghlan, an average at best left fielder coming off a knee injury that required surgery, in a more demanding outfield position.

2) It puts pressure on Matt Dominguez, who may very well not be ready to hit in the majors, to take over the starting job. If he can’t, it gives a lot of PA to the combination of Helms and Bonifacio, who are both .300 wOBA hitters.

If the move only impacted one of these two things, I would be much more amicable towards the idea of at least trying Coghlan in center field. While I fear Coghlan will not have the range to assist Logan Morrison in covering left field, the defensive impact would be at worst on the order of 1.5 to 2.0 wins (with a small chance it could be even worse than we imagined). However, for the Marlins to not only throw away defensive runs with Coghlan in center but to also sacrifice a position in third base with replacement level play in the hopes that their third youngster, a 22-year old who came off of an average year in Double-A at the plate, is ready to start in the majors? I cannot feel confident about that.

Options

What are the possible solutions to this dual problem? The Marlins have the obvious route possible, which is to sign someone who can serve as an option to start in center field or at least play a bench role. Scott Hairston was a name that I was considering ever since he was non-tendered by the San Diego Padres. Jody Gerut and Jim Edmonds remain available as well, though Edmonds is not much of an outfielder any longer and Gerut has not played well the last two seasons.

Another solution was one that was brought up in Joe Frisaro’s recent email inbox.

Why not deal Gaby Sanchez for a center fielder? He had a great year last year, and he could yield a very good return. Just swap him for another young player and move Logan Morrison back to his natural position, first base. Then put Chris Coghlan in left field.
— Ariya A., Lincolnshire, Ill.

This would not solve the ongoing issue in the infield, but it at least would put someone known to be capable in center field out in the position in favor of the unknown Coghlan. It would also solve the Gaby SanchezLogan Morrison dilemma, jettisoning the lesser of the two players while still under years of team control to maximize his trade value. Unfortunately, Ariya did not provide a good name in return for Sanchez, and off the top of my head I cannot come up with the name of a young outfielder under similar team control that would be available for trade. Oakland Atheltics outfielder Ryan Sweeney was the first name that came to mind.

The middle ground

If Marlins fans are looking for anything to help in this situation, they should hope for the team to reach this middle ground: acquire a third baseman. If the Marlins can afford another small amount of cash, they can take their pick among the remaining free agent third baseman in the market who could stand in and take the place of a Dominguez/Helms/Bonifacio trifecta at the position. Some of the remaining names are out of our reach (Adrian Beltre), while others would not be much of an improvement (Pedro Feliz, Kevin Frandsen), but there are still a few interesting names out there. I’ll mention one here.

Joe Crede: This is the name I am hoping for the most. Sun-Sentinel beat writer and friend of the Maniac Juan C. Rodriguez has mentioned that the Marlins have yet to look into Crede, but the team should provided they see him as healthy. Crede did not play in 2010, and he was last seen hitting .225/.289/.414 for the Minnesota Twins. Still, unlike Helms and Bonifacio, we know that Crede can bring it with the glove, as evidenced by his career 10.8 UZR/150 and his 68 rating by the Twins fans in the 2009 Fans Scouting Report. His bat does not have to be amazing to support his +5 glove, so the Marlins could make off with a bounceback candidate on a cheap contract if they are willing to take a shot. This could keep us away from Helms and Bonfiacio having to man a full season at third base and may even buy Dominguez enough time to develop for a midseason callup for when Crede undoubtedly gets hurt.

Other names the Marlins could look into include Edgar Renteria, who has expressed his desire to return in 2011 in a backup capacity, and Eric Chavez, who is still looking to make a comeback.

Tags: Chris Coghlan Gaby Sanchez Joe Crede Matt Dominguez Miami Marlins

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