2014 Free Agency: Third Basemen for the Marlins to Focus on this Winter
May 7, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Eric Chavez (12) is congratulated by shortstop Cliff Pennington (4) after scoring a run in the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Or Eric Chavez or Bust
Placido Polanco was so useless as an everyday third baseman in 2013 that he lost his job to a career Minor League journeyman- Ed Lucas. The Marlins although not the absolute worst in the league at the hot corner still combined for a -0.1 WAR, hit only 6 HR, slashed .255/.308/.320 with a .066 ISO with a 6.0/14.4 BB/K ratio and .282 wOBA Much better than the Marlins were able to put up at catcher, another position in which the Marlins are definitely looking to improve through free agency this winter. Lucas and Polanco aren’t credible choices because they’re not power hitters in a position where having a credible power threat as well as being a key defensive player is preferred. In the course of the season, Marlins management said that they were planning to make Chris Coghlan into the everyday 3B until the Marlins’ 2013 first round pick Colin Moran is ready to be the team’s everyday 3B going forward.
Call me skeptical but since playing 128 games his rookie year in 2009. He has played a combined 265 of the possible 648 games since 2010 season. Either because of injury or lack of performance. Coghlan despite winning Rookie of the Year in 2009 only has a career 1.1 WAR and is not a power-threat with a career .121 ISO and 21 career HR. Moran on the other hand is the real deal in 42 games in at Greensboro he mustered a 8.6/14.3 BB/K ratio and despite only batting .176 in the Arizona fall league he has a .323 OBP chiefly because of 11/7 BB/K ratio. Not many young hitters walk more often than they strikeout. Making the comparison to Kevin Youkilis apt. The Marlins have had a very complicated slog of it a 3B since trading Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers, Moran seems to be a credible option by the 2015 season. But in the immediate term free agency is probably the Marlins chance at upgrading at 3B.
Much like catcher, the 2014 free agent class at 3B is not the deepest with lots of borderline starters and older players which teams would be tempted to overpay for because of their previous performance. That leaves us with one choice, Eric Chavez or bust.
Eric Chavez was outside of Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada the best the player on those early 2000s Oakland A’s teams. He was in the beginning of the last decade as good if not better than the current crop of stud 3B, e.g Wright, Zimmerman, Longoria. 2014 will be his age 36 season and given the current free agent market he is probably the Marlins best choice at third base. In 2012 with the Yankees he started 50 games at 3B and played in 113 games, accumulating 313 PA. Given that he was left handed hitter in Yankee Stadium and played lots of games in AL East ballparks, he had a very good offensive season. Hitting 16 HR, an .844 OPS and a 126 wRC+. 2013 with Arizona he had very similar stats to his resurgent 2012, while only playing 80 games in an injury interrupted season.
Although not the elite defensive 3B that he was in his days in Oakland. He remains a very good and sure handed player at the hot corner. But honestly the Marlins would not be signing Eric Chavez for his glove, they would love to have him play about 120 games, hit 15 HR and be a legitimate choice to sixth in the order behind Morrison and Ruggiano. Chavez only earned $3MM from the D’backs in 2013 and if the Marlins could pay him about the same that would be a very good pickup.
While there are other choices on the market such as Kevin Youkilis, Michael Young and Mark Reynolds none of those players had good 2013s and have taken very sharp downturns in their careers recently. I would hate to see the Marlins overpay or give too long of a contract to someone like Mark Reynolds to watch him either strike out every third at-bat or sit on the DL. Again it is not a deep free agent market but Eric Chavez seems like making the best of a bad situation.