Despite their best efforts to avoid being the laughingstock of the baseball world, the Miami Marlins have largely struggled to fill holes that are now present on their roster after November’s blockbuster trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. Free agents appear hesitant to sign with the Marlins in light of recent events and the team has limited assets that would appeal to other organizations via trade. One area of need that actually predates the trade, however, was that at third base – a hole the team has been looking to find a long term solution to ever since they moved Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July. The team addressed that need, though not before pursuing numerous options.
According to ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark, the Marlins had explored deals to acquire a trio of young third baseman since the offseason began. None of their efforts were successful, of course, and Stark doesn’t delve into any specifics regarding any of the discussions had between the Marlins and these other teams, so we’re left to speculate on what players could have been discussed in those conversations.
Mike Olt of the Texas Rangers is a name we’ve seen talked about quite a bit this offseason, as he’s been linked to numerous teams in a variety of potential deals. Texas has been largely hesitant to move any of their young prospects but have shown a willingness to move Olt – first in failed talks with Atlanta over Andrelton Simmons (who’d of been flipped to Arizona in a larger move for Justin Upton) and then in talks with New York for R.A. Dickey – but never appeared close to completing an actual deal on either front. Olt hit .288/.398/.579 with 28 HR and 82 RBI in 421 plate appearances this past season for the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate before a brief 16 game cameo with the team in September. Texas has been looking to upgrade their outfield and starting rotation this winter, suggesting there may not have been much of a fit with the Marlins in a potential trade as it doesn’t appear likely that the Rangers would consider moving Olt in a deal centered on right-hander Ricky Nolasco (and for the sake of argument, we’re assuming the Marlins’ top pitching prospects were off the table).
Miami also reportedly talked to the Detroit Tigers about Nick Castellanos, but once again it’s presumed that talks likely did not get too far. Castellanos split the 2012 season between High-A and Double-A, batting a combined .320/.365/.451 over 584 plate appearances. Determined to find a way to work him into their lineup with both first and third base locked up for years to come (Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera) the Tigers began experimenting with Castellanos as an outfielder over the season’s second half. Detroit has also been searching for pitching this winter, but again it appears highly unlikely that Nolasco would have been enough to entice the team to consider moving their top position player prospect.
The Marlins also reached out to the San Diego Padres about Jedd Gyorko, only to hear more of the same answers. Splitting the year between Double-A and Triple-A, Gyorko hit .311/.373/.547 with 30 HR and 100 RBI over 557 combined plate appearances. He looks to be a big part of the Padres future, leading to speculation about the team’s willingness to move incumbent third baseman Chase Headley, which could mean it is possible that they simply turned down Miami’s request, rather than discuss potential trades. San Diego is similarly working within strict budgetary means, suggesting that if they were to move Gyorko they’d of asked for some of the Marlins’ top prospects in return.
Once the Marlins failed to acquire any of the three prospects they need to shift gears. Names like Brandon Inge and Miguel Tejada were linked to the team, but ultimately they reached an agreement with Placido Polanco on a one year, $2.75 Million deal. Polanco hit just .257/.302/.327 over 328 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies this past season, appearing in 90 games. He missed significant time dealing with knee, wrist, and back injuries – only starting two games after July 22nd. Philadelphia declined their side of a $5.5 Million mutual option that they held for the 2013 season, making Polanco a free agent. He’s a career .299/.344/.403 hitter over a 15 year career and has won three Gold Gloves since his 31st birthday, proving he can be an asset when healthy. At 37, however, health remains a big question and this signing does little to alleviate concerns over Miami’s dismal offseason.