The Marlins are the only team in MLB that hasn’t signed at least one free agent to a major league contract this offseason. This morning’s minor league pact with Trey Mancini stands as the team’s most notable free-agent pickup to date, and the trade front hasn’t been particularly active either. The Fish acquired catcher Christian Bethancourt from the Guardians for cash and bought low on former top prospect Vidal Brujan and reliever Calvin Faucher in a trade with new president of baseball operations Peter Bendix’s former club, the Rays.
It seems as though some modest activity could at least be on the horizon. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the team is looking into a thin crop of free-agent shortstops and hoping to add someone on a big league deal — ideally a player who could also handle some third base on occasion.
This offseason’s crop of shortstops is the worst in recent years, and one of the better names is already off the board: Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Notably, Jackson adds that the Marlins made an offer to Kiner-Falefa but balked at adding a second guaranteed year. He instead signed with the Blue Jays on a two-year, $15MM contract.
Looking elsewhere on the free agent market, there’s not a lot to be had. Tim Anderson will likely sign a one-year deal in hopes of bouncing back to his previous All-Star form, but he’s coming off a catastrophic 2023 showing in which all of his slash stats checked in south of .300 (.245/.286/.296). Anderson has never played third base in the majors, but he did say a few months back that he’s open to a move to second base if need be. Presumably, that means he’d be similarly open to spending occasional time at third base.
Other options on the market include Amed Rosario and longtime Giants cornerstone Brandon Crawford. Rosario, like Anderson, is seeking a rebound opportunity after he hit .263/.305/.378 last season — his worst production since the shortened 2020 season. That batting line checked in 12% south of league-average, by measure of wRC+, and it’s worth noting that Rosario has also never played third base in the big leagues. But he’s put in over 6000 innings of shortstop work since his debut, in addition to occasional work at second base and all three outfield spots. Presumably, he’d be comfortable moving to the hot corner.
Crawford, 37, is a lifelong Giant and could well be averse to traveling clear across the country to continue his career on a team that is, at best, a Wild Card contender. He’s looking to bounce back from a career-worst .194/.273/.314 performance at the plate last season. Statcast still pegs Crawford as a plus defender at shortstop, while Defensive Runs Saved feels (rather emphatically so) that the opposite is true. Regardless, he’d likely be available on a one-year deal and ought to be capable of handling third base on occasion, given his nearly 14,000 career innings at shortstop.
Veteran infielder Gio Urshela represents one more speculative option, though it’s far from clear any club will give him everyday work at shortstop. He’s been more of a third baseman since establishing himself as a regular, and he’s now coming off a season-ending pelvic fracture sustained last June during his lone season as an Angel. The Halos gave Urshela 71 innings at shortstop last season, but that was the second-highest total at the position in any single season. A full-time role at shortstop is probably a reach, particularly coming off an injury of note.
The market has a handful of other options, but most are generally going to be available on minor league deals. Elvis Andrus, Nick Ahmed, Yu Chang, Adalberto Mondesi and Matt Duffy all know their way around the shortstop position; Chang, Mondesi and Duffy have quite a bit of experience at the hot corner as well (Duffy in particular). All have been below-average hitters more often than not in recent seasons though, and Mondesi has one of the lengthiest injury histories of any active player in the game.
Beyond that, free agency doesn’t have much in the way of shortstop options. A creative trade still seems viable — particularly if the Marlins remain amenable to dealing a controllable starter like Edward Cabrera, Braxton Garrett or Jesus Luzardo. If the plan is to find a short-term option in free agency, however, the options are few and far between.