Marlins catchers have been the least productive group of backstops within the Nationwide League final yr, batting a mixed .200/.272/.298. Jacob Stallings and Nick Fortes caught each inning for Miami in 2023, however Stallings was non-tendered final week because the Fish look to show the web page and herald a extra productive all-around possibility. Newly employed president of baseball operations Peter Bendix addressed the necessity when chatting with reporters — hyperlink through Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald — plainly stating that the Marlins want catching assist this offseason and that including a number of catchers to bolster the organizational depth could be “ideally suited.” He added that the Fish are open to each trades and free-agent choices on the place.
That’s not essentially a sign that the 27-year-old Fortes is on borrowed time with the group. Whereas he hit simply .204/.263/.299 in 323 plate appearances final yr, Fortes grades out as a superlative defender and has a number of minor league choices remaining. Relying on the magnitude of the seemingly inevitable catching additions Miami makes, he may very well be in a timeshare, a strict backup function and even retained as depth within the higher minors.
Additionally on the Marlins’ 40-man roster is 24-year-old prospect Will Banfield, the No. 69 general decide within the 2018 draft. Banfield went by Double-A for a second time in 2023, delivering a decent .258/.302/.472 slash with 23 dwelling runs. He not often walks and would possibly by no means be dependable to submit even a mean on-base proportion within the huge leagues, however Banfield had an influence breakout in ’23 after being labeled a glove-only catcher all through most of his time within the minors. He’s not but on the 40-man roster and is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, but when he goes unclaimed he may very well be in line for his huge league debut sooner or later in 2024.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that Bendix and his workers might want to herald catching assist sooner or later. The free-agent market isn’t particularly deep on the place. Mitch Garver is the highest offensive possibility obtainable, although he’s coming off a number of injury-shortened seasons and is likely to be utilized in extra of a hybrid catcher/DH function wherever he indicators. Options embody Gary Sanchez, Victor Caratini and Tom Murphy. There are a number of glove-first choices obtainable (e.g. Austin Hedges, Roberto Perez), however their usually lackluster offensive observe information would solely place Miami to seek out itself with subpar manufacturing much like that which they endured in 2023.
The commerce market may function a number of extra fascinating alternate options. There are some notable change-of-scenery candidates like San Francisco’s Joey Bart and maybe St. Louis’ Ivan Herrera, neither of whom has a path to common at-bats because of the respective presences of Patrick Bailey and Willson Contreras. The Twins wish to cut back payroll and had a breakout 2023 exhibiting from Ryan Jeffers, which seemingly makes veteran Christian Vazquez obtainable. He’s nonetheless owed two years and $20MM. Vazquez had a troublesome yr on the plate in 2023 however was solely a bit beneath the league common on the plate from 2019-22. That, after all, is solely a speculative handful of names fairly than any form of complete rundown of doubtless obtainable names.
When it comes to payroll, the Marlins won’t have a lot house with which to work. Roster Useful resource at present tasks them at simply over $96MM — about $14MM shy of the place they wrapped up the 2023 season. However along with assist at catcher, the Marlins may additionally stand to discover upgrades at shortstop and within the outfield, to say nothing of some strikes to deepen the rotation combine.
Whereas the beginning workers has lengthy been a power in Miami, it’s not fairly as sturdy because it as soon as was. Sandy Alcantara will miss the 2024 season after present process Tommy John surgical procedure. Pablo Lopez was traded to the Twins in final winter’s Luis Arraez deal. High prospect Jake Eder went to the White Sox in trade for Jake Burger. Fellow prospects Max Meyer and Sixto Sanchez have been injured. The Fish nonetheless have a proficient rotation group — Jesus Luzardo, Eury Perez, Braxton Garrett, Edward Cabrera, Trevor Rogers — however they’re not as flush with arms as they as soon as have been. That’s vital each as a result of it creates a doable want so as to add to the group and in addition reduces the convenience with which they will commerce from their inventory of arms with a view to deal with different deficiencies, such because the obtrusive want at catcher Bendix not too long ago referenced.