Bored speculation on corner IF free agents
By Michael Jong
The Hot Stove has died down a bit with anticipation for free agent signing time in a few days, so Marlin Maniac has been in a bit of a lull. Topics are hard to come by at times. With that in mind, I’ll drop by here with some ideas about some corner infielders available in the free agent market that may interest the Marlins.
Keep in mind that this is solely SPECULATION, and that the Marlins may yet be set at this position, depending on how they feel about Emilio Bonifacio and moving Chris Coghlan into the infield. Still, I believe that, should the team (rightfully) drop Jorge Cantu for whatever they can get for him, they should be in the market for a left-handed 1B/3B who can at least platoon with Gaby Sanchez. Using MLB Trade Rumors’ free agent list, I ran down some candidates.
I’m just kidding, I’m not going to talk too much more about him. Let it be known, however, that a) he’s a decent hitter, especially in a platoon role; b) he isn’t bad defensively, no matter how awkward he looks (I project him as average everywhere he generally plays); and c) he’s been a part of the last three American League teams to make it to the World Series! That last one’s got to count for something, right?
It’s surprising to find out that Blalock is only 29 years old. Blalock was once a premier player in his early years with the Texas Rangers, but injuries and steadily declining play at third base made him expendable this season, and he’s out on the free agent market for the first time. He’s frail, but he bats left handed, is still presumably around the peak of his career, and can hit righties pretty well (career OPS split of .846 vs. righties against .656 vs. lefties), it seems. In other words, he’s an excellent platoon candidate.
Bill James has him projected at around a .335 wOBA, while CHONE has him at a very similar .331. Either way, he would not be much better than average hitter. Still, I suspect that a .249 BABIP from last season is weighing the projections down a bit, and I would not be surprised to see him back around .290-something next year. If he’s leveraged mostly against righties, he may be able to do well and perhaps even survive a season without a significant injury. And the best part about injury-risk players like this is that they usually can come at one-year deals on the cheap. It would not surprise me to see Blalock land somewhere for less than $2M.
I did not know that Doug Mientkiewicz was still playing. He saw some sparse time with the Dodgers last year, and he more or less did what he usually does. He’d be a far worse option for the Marlins than either of the previously mentioned players, but you could do a lot worse than his walk rate and good defense. The problem: he’s old (36), and he’s never been a hitter of any kind. He’s really more of a bench player at this stage of his career, and the Marlins would likely prefer to pay someone worse like Ross Gload because of his mystical pinch hitting powers (which likely don’t exist, but that’s just me). Nevertheless, at this point I’d say that’s probably a good move.
Never really followed Tracy’s career, but I’m guessing that injuries and other players coming up through the Arizona Diamondbacks organization have gotten in the way of Tracy being a legitimate starter in Arizona. He’s spent parts of the last three seasons as a part-timer, but he seems to be decent at hitting right handers (career OPS vs. righties at .846) and seems serviceable with the glove at either first or third, though perhaps at this stage of his career Arizona felt his frame was better for first. Again, if he can be had for cheap, he may be a viable platoon candidate.
Ward is the quintessential corner infield/outfield bench player, except that unlike Hinske, he actually appears to be a poor player. I won’t say anything except that I’d rather have Gload.
Hey, it’s Ross Gload. I think Gload’s image with the team last year was romanticized a bit, just due to the nature of his pinch-hitting play. Like I said, I would not put it past the Marlins to pay him a small sum to be the second veteran player on the bench who cannot hit. Presumably, he could serve as your defensive replacement at first base, but if you really need a defensive replacement at first, maybe you should consider dealing your current first baseman to an American League team so he can DH.
Gload is nothing but a line-drive hitting singles hitter with no big redeemable offensive traits. You can have Brett Carroll doing that off the bench because Carroll can play defense, but there’s just no reason for the team to bring in Gload. Give me Hinske any day.