Don Kelly in mix for Marlins utility role

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The Marlins on Sunday signed veteran utility man Don Kelly to a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training, per MLB Trade Rumors.

In parts of seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers, the 34 year-old has slashed .232/.296/.336 with 23 home runs and a 72 OPS+, never accumulating more than 281 plate appearances in a season. He spent parts of the last six years with the Tigers, appearing at every defensive position including pitcher and catcher. After hitting .245/.322/.288 with no home runs in 185 PA last year, the Tigers non-tendered the veteran.

Miami already has Donovan Solano and Miguel Rojas likely competing for super utility duty in Spring Training. Jeff Baker also returns this year. Kelly should provide some internal competition for that spot, but is essentially the same player as Solano, if not a slightly weaker bat. Solano, the Marlins primary utility player the last three seasons, owns a .252/.300/.323 career line.

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Kelly does offer a bit more pop than Solano; he has 23 home runs in 1189 career PA, to Solano’s eight dingers in 1051 PA. Kelly also has the advantage of batting left handed and being able to play anywhere, outfield or infield.

Perhaps if the Marlins don’t end up signing Ichiro Suzuki, Kelly could contend for the fourth outfield spot. However, he had negative dWAR each of the last three years in limited playing time, and in seven seasons has been worth -1.3 WAR. Still, the Marlins don’t seem to pay much attention to those metrics, and Kelly’s left handedness might just be enough to keep him around on Opening Day.

I predict that Kelly won’t make the club out of Spring Training and will either start the year in New Orleans or try to catch on elsewhere. The Marlins are too enamored with Donovan Solano, and Jeff Baker is a lock to make the team. This isn’t much of a move by the Marlins; just a chance to give another guy a look in Spring Training and much-needed minor league depth.

Next: Marlins must sign James Shields

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