5:40pm: Joe Frisaro of Man On Second Baseball tweets that Jorge Soler is the “most realistic free agent still possible” for the Marlins, though he also adds that trade talks with several teams are ongoing.
8:04am: The Marlins have been quiet on the free agent front since the lockout lifted. General Manager Kim Ng has expressed a desire to add another bat, particularly one who can play center field, but she’s not prepared to rush to make an addition that might not be the right fit, per MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola.
While the rest of the division has been busy making re-shaping their rosters, the Marlins have settled for backup plans in the form of minor league deals to fill their biggest need. Delino DeShields and Roman Quinn both have extensive experience in center, and if the Marlins aren’t able to find a more permanent solution, either speedster could factor into the Major League roster with a strong spring.
Otherwise, their big pre-lockout free agent signing, Avisail Garcia, will be one of the internal candidates to captain the outfield, along with Bryan De La Cruz, Jesus Sanchez, and utilityman Jon Berti. None are natural options for a full-time gig in center, however.
Monte Harrison, who might otherwise have been an option, was designated for assignment this week. The 26-year-old could still return, but he has yet to establish himself as a viable regular option anyhow. Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra, two of the part-time players at the position in recent years, were released this offseason and now play for the Astros and Angels, respectively.
In the minors, 24-year-old JJ Bleday and 25-year-old Victor Victor Mesa are the most well-known prospect names that could potential play themselves into the mix at some point this season. Neither have appeared higher than Double-A, however.
But the fact is, center field is perhaps the toughest position to field these days. Free agency doesn’t offer much by way of regular options, with veterans like Kevin Pillar, Brett Gardner, Billy Hamilton, Brian Goodwin, Jarrod Dyson, and Juan Lagares making up the bulk of the remaining free agent pool with center field experience.
Thus, if the Marlins are going to find themselves a new center fielder, they’ll probably have to do so through trade routes. Ng can dangle third baseman/outfielder Brian Anderson as a potential trade chip, per Barry Jackson and Andre Fernandez of the Miami Herald. The offseason acquisition of Joey Wendle makes Anderson somewhat expendable, though likely only at the cost of filling their need in center.
Anderson should be an intriguing option for a team in need of some offensive pop. Anderson owns a career 111 wRC+ heading into his age-29 season, and he brings experience at third base and right field. Given his position on the defensive hierarchy, however, it’d likely take more than just Anderson to net the Marlins a comparable center fielder.
If the Marlins can’t find that player in the trade market, they could turn to adding another corner outfielder like Jorge Soler or Michael Conforto, notes De Nicola. Either one would fit comfortably into the corner outfield mix while pushing De La Cruz and Garcia into more regular playing time in center. The designated hitter role is also available to the Marlins, though they seem content with letting Jesus Aguilar and Garrett Cooper split time there, as well as at first base.