Part of the off-season for the Miami Marlins will be spent on seeking an improvement for their first base situation. This comes just one year after the Marlins signed Garrett Jones to a 2-year deal to be their first baseman.
Jones’ performance in 2014 has been underwhelming. The former Pirate has struggled both at the plate and on the field. In 501 plate appearances, Jones owns a .244/.311/.408 slash line with a 98 wRC+ (weighted Runs Created+). He has actually improved since the time I stated that the Marlins need to pull the plug on his playing days, but probably not enough to warrant a $5 million dollar salary and a starting job next season.
With the first base free agent market not containing many major upgrades over Jones, the Marlins could also go in another direction at the position. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Marlins would consider moving left fielder Christian Yelich to first base, if they can find a suitable left field replacement:
"### The Marlins want to add another bat this offseason and would be open to moving Christian Yelich to first base –– where he played in high school — if they have better luck finding a quality free-agent left fielder than first baseman. One problem is that disappointing Garrett Jones is due $5 million next season. The Marlins would like to upgrade there nevertheless."
Yelich was originally a first baseman in High School when the Marlins selected him 23rd overall in the 2010 MLB Draft. The Marlins loved Yelich’s athleticism right away and wanted to move him to center field, where he thrived until he was moved to left field upon the acquisition of Jake Marisnick.
Yelich is enjoying a season where he has slipped under the radar, but has put up a 4.6 WAR season so far. ZiPS projects he’ll finish the season with a 5 win season, which is spectacular for a player playing his first full season. Yelich owns a .297/.376/.424 slash line with a 125 wRC+. He also has 9 home runs, 19 stolen bases, 26 doubles, and 9 triples to go along with a healthy 11% walk rate.
While Yelich has hit well, the question surrounding this move would be if Yelich has enough pop and if he can hit enough to have value as a first baseman.
His 125 wRC+ would be 13th among first baseman this season, in the same neighborhood as players like Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, and Mike Napoli. His 4.6 WAR would actually be the second best at the position, sliding behind Jose Abreu, but barely ahead of Miguel Cabrera.
However, the move would take one of the Marlins better defenders and move him to a less demanding position. While that could lead to him hitting a little more, it would hurt his value in the long-term.
Christian Yelich is a good enough hitter and is still improving to survive a move to first base. However, his athleticism is one of the better attributes he has, so a move to first base would waste be a waste of that talent.
Count me against a possible move of Yelich to first base. What do you guys think? Drop a comment and let us know your thoughts.