Orestes Destrade: Florida Marlins First at First

Orestes Destrade was the Florida Marlins first ever first baseman.

On the Florida Marlins first ever Opening Day, on April 5, 1993, native Cuban-born switch-hitter Orestes Destrade handled first base duties for the fledgling team. Six-foot-four and 210 lbs. during his playing career, Destrade came to the Florida Marlins as a free agent on December 15, 1992, four weeks after the completion of the MLB Expansion Draft.

Destrade was born in Santiago de Cuba on May 8, 1962. In 1980, he was a 23rd round pick out of Christopher Columbus HS in Miami, FL, by the California Angels, 588th overall — but he did not sign. A year later, he signed a free agent deal with the New York Yankees, and played in 63 games for their Rookie-level affiliate in the Appalachian League, the imaginatively named Paintsville Yankees. Destrade hit .274/.413/.543 in his first professional look, with a league-leading 14 home runs and 46 RBI.

Destrade worked his way up slowly through the Yankees system, finally making his first major league appearance in 1987. In nine games he was five-for-19 with five K’s and five walks. Prior to the 1988 season getting underway, the Bombers traded Destrade to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Hipolito Pena.

Florida Marlins

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1993: Orestes Destrade #39 of the Florida Marlins. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

Destrade spent most of the 1988 campaign with the Buffalo Bisons in the Triple-A International League, but also got in 36 games with the Bucs proper. After going seven-for-47 in that look, the Pirates ceded Destrade’s rights to the Seibu Lions in the Japan Pacific League for cash.

In three-and-a-half seasons in the Far East, Destrade put together a .264/.313/.567 slash line in 471 contests, with 154 home runs and 366 RBI. He drew 119 walks while striking out only 100 times, and stole 25 bases without getting caught. His efforts were key in leading the Lions to three consecutive league titles.

Despite never having appeared in more than 36 games at the major league level before, Destrade ranked third on the Florida Marlins with 153 appearances during their 1993 maiden voyage. He slashed a disappointing .255/.324/.406 with team-leading figures of 20 home runs and 87 RBI. Destrade’s 92 OPS+ actually ranked him second on the team, as nobody on the club finished above the “league average” mark of 100. Jeff Conine led with a mark of 99.

On August 27, Destrade had a career-game in a 7-4 win against the San Francisco Giants. He went three-for-four with two home runs and six RBI in the Marlins win, accounting for most of the team’s offensive production.

Unfortunately, Destrade’s near-average offensive production was offset by his deplorable defensive contributions. He committed 19 errors at first base, grading out as 10 zone fielding runs below average for the season. The mix ended up with Destrade totaling a WAR of -1.2 for that first season, the second worst figure on the Marlins (Darrell Whitmore totaled -1.6).

Through the first two months of the 1994 season, Destrade hit .208/.316/.354 with the Marlins, clubbing five homers with 15 RBI in 39 contests. On June 2, Destrade was granted free agency, but he didn’t sign on with another team.

Since his retirement, Destrade has found work in broadcast. After starting with MLB Tonight on ESPN, Destrade eventually made his way to the Tampa Bay Rays broadcast team, where he is the host of their pre- and post-game shows.

Next: Jeter Forgoes Salary