One of the Marlins larger additions this offseason was a replacement for Logan Morrison at first base. Morrison had made the transition to first from left field during the 2013 season and the results were less than stellar. His bat, which always held unrealized potential, looked even worse in the context of a first baseman, he continually struggled to stay healthy, and his defense looked like he was begging his way to an American League team so he could fill a DH role.
While the decision to replace Morrison with Garrett Jones wasn’t met with great fanfare, (LoMo was certainly a crowd favorite, if for nothing more than his propensity to engage with fans through social media) certainly people had hopes that it would produce at a level that made the team better. Jones ended up signing a 2 year deal worth $7.75 million. It wasn’t an astronomical sum by an means, but the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates didn’t even offer him a contract and were going to roll the dice with Marlins cast-off Gaby Sanchez should have been a red flag.
Jones has a history of struggling against left-handed pitching but manager Mike Redmond was insistent upon Jones not being in a platoon, even though he had Jeff Baker on the bench who would be the perfect compliment to Jones in a platoon. Jones’ offensive numbers this year have been pretty well in line with his career, so the Marlins front office shouldn’t be surprised by his offensive output, or lack thereof.
I am actually not going to focus much on Jones’ offense, albeit could use some work. (That strikeout with one out and bases loaded in the 1st inning last night was brutal.) What I have seen lately is a lack of defensive skill that is alarming. No one would mistake Jones for a gold-glover, but even competent defensive play from first would be appreciated at the major league level.
The first thing that I have noticed since day one is Jones’ receptions on throws to first. He routinely starts his stretch too early, putting himself in poor position if the throw is not directly at him. I have seen him miss numerous throws (mostly at Adeiny Hechavarria’s expense) this season that have resulted in throwing errors, but could have been assisted with a stretch to where the ball is going as oppose to where the ball is coming from. Watch on the next play that Jordany Valdespin or Donovan Solano make in the hole. He steps toward 2nd base rather than where the throw is going.
The second aspect of his stretch, is ironically enough, his lack of a stretch. Watch the next time he sets up. I would describe his reception as more of a crouch than an actual stretch. Now I am not asking him to go into a split like Freddie Freeman does occasionally, but if that is as far as he can get, then maybe the man needs to do a little yoga or something.
All of these pain points and more were highlighted last night in an absolutely brutal game for Jones. The problems started out in the first inning when Jarred Cosart induced a double-play ball that wasn’t to be as Jones decided to run toward the throw rather than stretching. I never understood that move, but it didn’t work, the runner was safe by fractions. Later on in the game Jones would boot a ball, earning an error, make a poor throw on another double play ball that kept Miami from turning two, and try and back-hand a hard hit ground ball that deflected off of him into right field. (I would have given him at least 3 errors on the night, but he was fortunate to get out of there with only 1.)
Don’t mistake this for a reaction to last night’s defensive debacle that largely goes overlooked based on a stellar Cosart performance in a Marlins win. These defensive issues for Jones have been brewing from quite some time. It may be time to look for other answers at first base, and possibly look to move on from Jones at first base. In this situation, a negative offensively and defensively means 2 strikes and you’re out.