Marlins catchers have been the least productive group of backstops within the National 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 usher in a extra productive all-around choice. Newly employed president of baseball operations Peter Bendix addressed the necessity when chatting with reporters — hyperlink by way of 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 “ideal.” 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. While 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. Depending on the magnitude of the seemingly inevitable catching additions Miami makes, he might be in a timeshare, a strict backup position and even retained as depth within the higher minors.
Also into account (however not on the 40-man roster) is 24-year-old prospect Will Banfield, the No. 69 total choose within the 2018 draft. Banfield went via Double-A for a second time in 2023, delivering a good .258/.302/.472 slash with 23 house runs. He not often walks and would possibly by no means be dependable to put up even a mean on-base proportion within the large 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 might be in line for his large league debut in some unspecified time in the future in 2024.
Still, it’s clear that Bendix and his employees might want to usher in catching assist in some unspecified time in the future. The free-agent market isn’t particularly deep on the place. Mitch Garver is the highest offensive choice accessible, although he’s coming off a number of injury-shortened seasons and is likely to be utilized in extra of a hybrid catcher/DH position wherever he indicators. Alternatives embody Gary Sanchez, Victor Caratini and Tom Murphy. There are a number of glove-first choices accessible (e.g. Austin Hedges, Roberto Perez), however their usually lackluster offensive monitor information would solely place Miami to seek out itself with subpar manufacturing just like that which they endured in 2023.
The commerce market might function a couple 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 probably makes veteran Christian Vazquez accessible. He’s nonetheless owed two years and $20MM. Vazquez had a troublesome yr on the plate in 2023 however was solely a bit under the league common on the plate from 2019-22. That, in fact, is solely a speculative handful of names fairly than any type of complete rundown of doubtless accessible names.
In phrases of payroll, the Marlins won’t have a lot area with which to work. Roster Resource presently tasks them at simply over $96MM — about $14MM shy of the place they wrapped up the 2023 season. But along with assist at catcher, the Marlins might additionally stand to discover upgrades at shortstop and within the outfield, to say nothing of some strikes to deepen the rotation combine.
While the beginning employees has lengthy been a energy 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. Top prospect Jake Eder went to the White Sox in alternate 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’ll commerce from their inventory of arms so as to handle different deficiencies, such because the obtrusive want at catcher Bendix lately referenced.