Miami, Florida – Before the lockout kicked in the Miami Marlins went fishing trying to reel in bats and more showing how serious they are in a strong NL East. Among them, there are three in particular that have been highlighted as major plays. Over the winter the league was buzzing with red hot activity before coming to a screeching halt. Makes you wonder what would’ve happened if an agreement between the players and owners was made. Let’s start with the first big free-agent acquisition made days before the MLB’s collective bargaining agreement expired.

Avisail Garcia: The Slugger

In conjunction with the club’s goal of acquiring more bats during the offseason, the Marlins signed free agent right fielder Avisail Garcia to a four-year contract. I really liked this because it bolsters the outfield adding some much-needed power.

The 30-year-old is a career .270 hitter with a grand total of 127 home runs, 475 RBI, and 453 runs scored over 951 career games in 10 MLB seasons. He’s coming off his best year with 29 dingers and 86 RBIs both single-season career highs. Miami was ranked 28th in the league with only 158 HRs. The club has struggled in this department for years, coming in dead last in 2018 and 2019. Garcia also rocked a .820 OPS and .490 slugging in 2021.

The veteran OF also brings versatility. The guy can play anywhere outside the diamond with right field his primary stomping ground. With the addition of Garcia, the Fish added further depth to the outfield. He will likely be situated in the heart of the order.

This is hands down the best acquisition so far but another deal almost topped this one.

Jacob Stallings: The Gold Glover

The Marlins shipped out RHP Zach Thompson, RHP Kyle Nicolas, and OF Connor Scott to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for NL gold-glove catcher Jacob Stallings.  Stallings not only recorded 21 defensive runs saved, tied for the league-best by the way in 2021, but he finished the season as the only MLB backstop to not allow a passed ball in 104 games behind the dish. The team finally fulfilled a big need.

Once a major piece of the J.T. Realmuto trade, Jorge Alfaro never lived up to the high expectations. Alfaro only slashed .252/.298/.386 with his defense lapsing more than fans liked. El Oso now plays for the San Diego Padres.

Stalls’ is durable (participated in a career-high 112 games) and brings a great pitcher-catcher dynamic. Remember Francisco Cervelli? They were teammates. Prior to getting his shot in 2020, he served as a backup to him (and Elias Díaz). I remember how well Cervelli interacted with the young Marlins aces. He brought the best out of them. Something that Derek Jeter sees.

“We have young pitchers. You need someone that is going to help them continue to develop, not only Sandy [Alcantara] but the other guys that are coming as well.”

It’s intangibles like these that make this trade a crucial one. The Marlins didn’t give up much in order to obtain him either. Thompson made his MLB debut back on June 7th as a starter (began 2021 season as a reliever in Triple-A) filling in for an injury-riddled rotation. By the end of the campaign, the 28-year-old finished 3-7 with a 3.24 ERA in 26 games (14 starts).

Nicolas, a former No. 16 prospect, posted a 3-2 record and 2.52 ERA in eight starts for Double-A Pensacola in 2021, his first pro season. Connor was a former No. 23 prospect that slashed .276/.333/.446 at Beloit with a .779 OPS.

Joey Wendle: The Big Bopper

This is a move I’m not crazy about but OK with. The Fish exchanged CF prospect, Kameron Misner, for the Rays’ All-Star infielder Joey Wendle. He’s not who I would have targeted but the undeniable fact is Wendle’sbrings glove and tremendous versatility. The Rawlings Gold Glove Award finalist not only plays second base but also shortstop, third base, and even left field.

Some folks think we paid too high for him in giving up Misner but there’s a reason why I am not criticizing the trade. Firstly, let’s look at our current options out there: Jesús Sánchez, Bryan De La Cruz, Garrett Cooper, Monte Harrison, and Jerar Encarnacion. Now for our prospects: JJ Bleday, Peyton Burdick, and Griffin Conine all of who are closer to their debuts for the big show.

We have plenty of depth in this area. The fact that they didn’t give up a core player or essential prospect is great. In 2021, Wendle slashed .265/.319/.422 including 31 doubles and a career-high 11 homers in 136 games. The former Rays player should be productive on the field becoming an additional bat in the Marlins’ growing arsenal.

Final Thoughts

I’m fairly happy with the front office’s efforts. With that said, there’s still a big fish for Miami to reel in: Nick Castellanos. If they get this guy then I will say the ballclub had a legit successful offseason. If they don’t and things stay as they are in terms of adding players (or not) then it’ll be limited progress in an intimidating division.

The lockout has to end first, however. Let’s see where it goes.

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Gabriel Garcia
Just an avid sports fan who happens to have a love-hate (mostly love) relationship with his local teams be it collegiate or professional and also happens to be a news junkie. Mix in outstanding optimism with cold realism and you've got yourself a balanced cocktail perfect for champions.

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