The Marlins are said to be looking to boost their lineup this winter after finishing 29th in runs scored in 2021. They’ve begun the process by signing Avisail Garcia, but Garcia doesn’t so much fill a void as add to an arsenal of right-handed power bats. Among the players whose playing time is made complicated by the addition of Garcia is the oft-injured Garrett Cooper.
Cooper recently posted video of himself on Twitter taking batting practice for the first time in four months. Cooper spent the final 77 days of the regular season on the injured list because of an elbow sprain. A back strain landed him on the injured list for 17 days prior to that. The Marlins maintain two years of team control over Cooper, who turns 31 on Christmas.
The Marlins missed his bat in the lineup, as the 30-year-old slashed a robust .284/.380/.465 in 250 plate appearances when he was healthy. That kind of production is exactly what the Marlins need, especially at the minor cost of $3MM, his projected arbitration salary for 2022.
Cooper is one of many options the Marlins have for first base, the outfield corners, and designated hitter, should there be one in the National League. Cooper has slashed .279/.355/.451 in 842 plate appearances over four years with the Marlins, providing production 19 percent better than average – but struggling to stay healthy.
Finding regular playing time shouldn’t be a problem, but Cooper doesn’t run particularly well, and because he’s right-handed, he doesn’t necessarily platoon all that well with Brian Anderson, Jesus Aguilar, or Garcia. He could, however, serve as the short-side platoon partner for Jesus Sanchez in left field, should the Marlins decide to give the lefty regular run opposite Garcia.
The job isn’t Sanchez’s yet, however, as there are still a number of free agent options on the market, including Kyle Schwarber, whom the Marlins explored a deal with before the lockout. The Marlins have also talked to the Diamondbacks about acquiring Ketel Marte, though that would require quite the prospect haul.
Cooper could ultimately be used as trade bait given his duplicative skill set in Miami. His age and injury history would limit any potential return, but if he’s healthy now, he could absolutely be of interest to someone in need of a right-handed bat. Cooper’s versatility, two years of control, and productivity at the plate make him a relatively valuable resource for a contender on a tight budget.
Still, for now it would have to be considered counterproductive for the Marlins to move one of their more potent bats unless they can fill a hole elsewhere in the lineup with part of the return. If not, there are still plenty of at-bats to go around in Miami, so long as Cooper can stay healthy.