Finding low-cost third baseman becoming a challenge
MIAMI — In the past, the Marlins had success finding players with something to prove. Jorge Cantu was brought in on a Minor League deal after Miguel Cabrera was traded to the Tigers during the 2007 Winter Meetings. Cantu gave the Marlins a couple of very productive seasons, belting 29 homers and driving in 95 runs in ’08. The following season, he reached 100 RBIs.
Once again, the Marlins are hoping to find a low-cost bargain to play third base.
But the search has become challenging. Miami officials saw that at the Winter Meetings. They made a push for Jeff Keppinger, who agreed to a three-year, $12 million deal with the White Sox.
Miami has interest in Mark Reynolds, who has tremendous power. Reynolds also strikes out a lot, and he’s not very good defensively at third base.
It appears Reynolds, who may be more suited to play first base, is taking other options more seriously.
Ian Stewart was on the Marlins’ radar, but the left-handed hitting third baseman is about to sign with the Cubs, who recently non-tendered him.
Miami would have strong interest in Placido Polanco, but the former All-Star may be done because of a painful back injury. So Polanco isn’t even in consideration.
Ryan Raburn, Matt Downs and Jack Hannahan remain in the mix.
The Marlins are finding even modestly-priced free agents are reluctant to sign with Miami, even for a one-year, guaranteed deal.
There is an issue of trust after Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, who signed multi-year deals last December, were moved after one season in South Florida.
At the Winter Meetings, I spoke with one veteran player who is looking for a job. “I don’t want any part of that fiasco,” he said.
Miami’s blockbuster trade with Toronto on Nov. 19 has made it more difficult to convince players with any kind of track record to buy into the program.
What Miami may wind up doing is mixing and matching at third base. Greg Dobbs could be an option to play regularly, but the veteran is best suited for a bench role.
– Joe Frisaro