3 Free agent fits for the Miami Marlins

Jim McIsaac

I know what you're thinking. The Marlins? Spend money? I know, I know, but hear me out here.

After a huge sell-off of the team's most highly-paid and highly-productive players, the Miami Marlins look more like a Triple-A franchise than a major league one. Though there are some dark days ahead for this team, the minor league system has some talent, and it's nigh-impossible to lose more than 40 games in a season. So that's what passes for hope these days in South Florida.

With free agency winding down, the Miami Marlins aren't looking to spend big this offseason, but the team still could add another bat or arm on a short-term, low-priced contract. Heck, the team's already done that with new out machine left fielder Juan Pierre.

Below are a few speculative adds for the Marlins, as the team looks to add players in a number of slots to start the 2013 season. I'm trying to list players who would be smart fits for the team, and not players who are certainly not in the Fish's price range or skill level. So no Michael Bourn here. Take a look.

Ryan Raburn (estimated contract: 2 years, $4 million)

Ryan Raburn may have been a part of the pennant-winning Tigers team of 2012, but he did as much to sabotage that team's chances during the season as players on opposing teams of the Tigers did. Raburn was awful in 2012, posting a -1.5 FanGraphs WAR, meaning that if you were to replace him with an average, freely-available Triple-A player, his team might have been about a win and a half better. And Raburn did that damage in only 222 plate appearances. The main culprit was a .216 wOBA, which was in part due to both a power outage (only a .254 slugging percentage) and a terrible .224 batting average on balls in play. Raburn split time between the outfield corners and second base, as he has for much of his career.

While Raburn's 2012 was an unmitigated disaster, his bat has played at least at league-average (or close to it) in every season but his last. Raburn has a career .345 wOBA when hitting against left-handed pitchers, and he has to be due to regress a little back to his true talent level, even if his skills are declining. While Raburn is not a good defensive second baseman, perhaps he could be paired with incumbent pivot Donovan Solano in a defense-offense platoon, given that Solano pretty much can't hit anything, but would be better defensively.

This would certainly be kind of a worst-to-first situation for the versatile Raburn, but at this point he's without a whole lot of options. The stats show that Raburn's 2012 is a bit of an outlier, and I'd expect him to return to a decent level of production with his bat, especially if he's used in more of a platoon role. The combo of showing some defensive versatility as well as a reasonable bat from at least one side of the dish, make him a fit on a team such as the Marlins.

Placido Polanco (estimated contract: 1 year, $1-2 million)

It's time to find value at a low price wherever you can, and Polanco might be the only free agent third baseman worth anything at all on the open market. Coming off a couple of injury-plagued seasons with the Phillies, Polanco has still managed to put in 344 games over his three-year stint with the division-rival Phils, despite always seeming injured. While his once-effective bat has diminished into something wholly dependent on his batting average on balls in play, Polanco would be a supreme upgrade over Greg Dobbs at third base due to one critical factor: defense.

Polanco, over his career, has been as effective a defensive third baseman as nearly anyone in baseball. UZR, an advanced defensive metric used at FanGraphs, regularly grades Polanco as worth a win or more each season, just based on his defensive efficiency. Even in limited action with the Phillies last year, Polanco was worth about half a win with the leather. When you combine that with a bat that is below league average, but not painfully so, you've got an okay stopgap 3B who can do the job while the team hopes Zack Cox develops. And he and Juan Pierre played together last year for Philadelphia, so that's something, right?

Tim Stauffer (estimated contract: 2 years, $4 million)

Stauffer, only one year removed from a season in which he had a 3.73 ERA in over 180 innings, was released by the Padres at the end of the 2012 season, following a serious elbow injury. Stauffer only pitched in one major-league game in 2012, but was actually quite good in 2010 and 2011. While Stauffer's not much of a strikeout pitcher, he gets ground balls with some alacrity (51.8% groundball rate in 2011), but remains a bit homer-prone. The vast dimensions of Marlins Park might help with that, as it is fairly similar to Stauffer's former home in San Diego.

If the 30-year-old righty can be healthy enough to contribute in 2013, he could add a veteran presence (for whatever that's worth) and some low-cost, moderate-quality innings to a Marlins rotation with quite a few question marks. And, most importantly, he'll give the Fish an opportunity to deal Ricky Nolasco at some point for more young players.

Though the Marlins won't be very competitive next year, the addition of these veterans on short, low-risk contracts could help mitigate some embarassment risk during the 2013 season. While you shouldn't expect these players to change the fate of the 2013 Marlins, they will provide some inoffensive (in Polanco's case, perhaps quite literally inoffensive) production at weak spots in the Marlins' depth chart, and allow you to focus on the few good players the team has left.

All stats come from FanGraphs, and thanks to the MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Tracker.

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