The Marlins have scaled back their efforts to sign baseman Yuli Gurriel, per Craig Mish of the Miami Herald, who reports that they’ve “stopped any aggressive pursuit” of the former Astros infielder. MLB.com had reported over the weekend that the Marlins were “moving toward a deal” with the 38-year-old Gurriel. The addition of another first baseman remains possible, Mish adds, but Gurriel doesn’t appear likely to land with the Fish at this point.
It’s something of an about-face for a Marlins team that looked to be gearing up for the addition of a second premium contact hitter just days after acquiring Luis Arraez from the Twins. Gurriel has fanned in just 11.2% of his 3305 Major League plate appearances since signing with the Astros in 2016; this past season’s 12.5% strikeout rate was a career-high for Gurriel, but it was also still more than ten percentage points better than the league average.
The Marlins reportedly had interest in using Gurriel at multiple positions, bouncing him between first base, second base and third base. That’d be a change for Gurriel, who outside of two innings at the hot corner in 2021, has been exclusively a first baseman for each of the past three seasons. Gurriel generally has a strong defensive track record, though metrics like Defensive Runs Saved (-2) and Outs Above Average (-9) soured on him in 2022 just one year after he won a Gold Glove in 2021.
If Miami is still seeking another option at first base, the free-agent market has largely been picked over but still has a few options. Old friend Jesus Aguilar remains unsigned, as do sluggers Luke Voit and Miguel Sano. Like Gurriel, all three are in search of a rebound campaign from lackluster performances and/or injury. Miami currently projects for a $103MM payroll, per Roster Resource, which would be only the third time topping $100MM in franchise history. It’s not clear just how much Miami has left to spend, though their weekend link to Gurriel clearly suggests there’s at least a bit of payroll capacity left.
It’s been a generally quiet winter with regard to Gurriel, although Daniel Alvarez Montes of El Extra Base reported over the weekend that the Twins were also in the mix to acquire his services. It’s not clear at this time if the dwindling talks with Miami are reflective of progress on the Twins’ behalf.
Minnesota added another right-handed bat last night when acquiring Michael A. Taylor from the Royals, though Gurriel would give them another contact-oriented infield bat to help offset Arraez’s departure. Former top prospect Alex Kirilloff seems likely to handle first base for the Twins in 2023 — assuming he’s recovered from a pair of wrist surgeries (one in 2021 and another in 2022). Gurriel would give them an experienced righty bat to pair with the lefty-hitting Kirilloff, and he could mix in at designated hitter as well, where Minnesota currently looks like they’ll cycle through a number of options.