The Miami Marlins made three significant free agent signings this offseason in catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, first baseman Garrett Jones and third baseman Casey McGehee. We now have a half season’s worth of games to evaluate the acquisitions, so let’s take a look at how they have done so far.
All three moves were made to address critical needs and supply considerable offensive improvements at positions that provided historically bad production during the disastrous 2013 campaign. Measured by weighted On Base Average (wOBA), the Marlins ranked last or second to last in the Major Leagues at all three positions. The moves were expected to provide good value at reasonable prices and were mostly looked upon favorably in the media especially considering the caliber of player being replaced.
Since we are talking about free agents, I will include the value of the contracts signed in evaluating each player and measure them based on the concept of the cost per each Win Above Replacement (WAR). As a general rule, I will assume is that each unit of WAR on the free agent market currently costs about $6 million. Let’s dig in:
|2013 Marlins Catchers||644||.192||.249||.280||.235||10||11||56||42||-1.9|
Saltalamacchia joined the Fish this offseason on a 3 year, $21 million contract after leaving the World Champion Boston Red Sox. His signing was meant to solidify a position that had been black hole offensively as witnessed by the -1.9 WAR in 2013. Even though his production has declined significantly from the .349 wOBA he provided the Red Sox in 2013, he has still hit enough to post $7.2 million worth of market value based on his 1.2 WAR. This is to say, he has already outplayed his contract in just half a season. When compared to the production received from the catchers in 2013, Salty has improved the team by over 3 wins. This one is looking like very smart move by the Marlins front office, just as it was perceived to be at the time of signing.
|2013 Marlins 1B||715||.230||.309||.333||.283||10||59||69||75||-1.7|
Jones came to the Marlins on a 2 year, $7.75 million deal after the front office got fed up with waiting for Logan Morrison to finally become the productive first baseman he appeared to be as a minor league prospect. By no means a star, Jones was expected to provide a power bat in a lineup that ended 2013 last in the majors in home runs by a significant margin. He has delivered the power with 10 home runs, which already matches last season’s total for the position. His 105 wRC+ shows that he has been 5% better than the league average, which is a huge upgrade in comparison to the 75 wRC+ received from the position in 2013.
WAR of 0.0 shows Jones to be exactly at replacement level despite his positive offensive contributions though, indicating that his defense has been a problem. A look at Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) stats among first baseman confirms that he is 4 runs below average, a mark that places him second to last among all qualifying first baseman. The positive is that his modest contract only requires that he produce 0.6 WAR in the second half to be worth his $3.375 million salary. Continuing to keep him out of the lineup against left-handed pitching might do the trick considering he has amassed just a 29 wRC+ mark against them in 58 at bats.
|2013 Marlins 3B||871||.255||.308||.320||.282||6||80||60||74||-0.2|
McGehee was signed to a 1 year, $1.1 million offer after having spent the 2013 season winning a championship in Japan. The Marlins took a chance on a player who was looking to rebuild his career in the majors and Casey saw an opportunity to jump into a starting position at the big league level. So far it has been a perfect union thanks to a .345 wOBA which ranks McGehee third best among National League third basemen. He has taken full advantage of having spent most the season hitting in the cleanup spot behind Giancarlo Stanton to the tune of 53 RBI despite hitting just one home run. His 2.1 WAR so far means that he has been worth $12.6 million or looking at it another way, that’s a 1146% return on investment. Any way you slice it, this signing has been a huge win for the front office. If not for the fact that he has one more year of arbitration eligibility, McGehee would have probably played himself off the Marlins for next season as he surely would have attracted a considerable multiyear offer as a free agent this winter.
Collectively, these three free agents have combined for 3.3 WAR in half a season which would be worth $19.8 million on the open market. The total value of their contracts for the year is roughly $12 million and with half a season to go their production could easily end up worth double that figure. Considering that these three positions combined for -3.8 WAR in 2013, the acquisitions have meant over 7 additional wins thus far for the Fish. Simply stated, the Marlins front office had an outstanding offseason on the free agent market.