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With their brand-new World Series title, the Texas Rangers have officially opened the offseason. Congratulations to all those Texas fans whom had waited more than enough for the glory. This post comes also after Jorge Soler opted out, but we were all expecting that, right?
Now, in case you missed it, an analysis of the catcher situation was presented last week. Today, another pressing need will be discussed: shortstop. During the season, Joey Wendle played 107 games in the position, by far the most for any player on the roster, followed by Jon Berti (64 games), Garrett Hampson (30), and Jacob Amaya (3).
Playing Wendle as their main starter hurt the offense badly. This season, the Marlins ranked last in the MLB in OBP, SLG, and OPS from the position, while ranking no higher than 24th (AVG) in any offensive statistic. Wendle is now a free agent and it is improbable the Fish will bring him back.
By using the same approaches as in the previous post, let’s analyze how to get better this offseason.
Free Agents (5)
This is probably the weakest class of free-agent SS ever. Here is the list of players available, and none of them can be seen as a substantial improvement over Wendle. Nevertheless, here are some potential players to be considered:
Amed Rosario: He led the group with a 89 wRC+ in 2023 and is the youngest of all available players at the position (turning 28 later this month), and that’s about it on the positive side. In his profile there is no skill that jumps off the chart: he is a fast runner, poor fielder, who doesn’t strike out that much. Over the last 3 years, he has had an xBA over the 70% percentile, suggesting some bad luck. He is capable of providing a .270/.310/.400 season, which is acceptable but unenticing.
Elvis Andrus: Has more or less the same profile as Rosario, but the differences are that Andrus is not a terrible fielder, and at 35, he’s not fast anymore. Andrus had a nice bounce-back season in 2022 but seems like it was a fluke. Andrus is not an everyday SS anymore.
Kiké Hernández: He is still 32, can play any position except P and C, and had a great season only two seasons ago, but like Andrus, he is not an everyday solution there. You can peg him in the same player profile as the previous two.
Paul De Jong & Nick Ahmed: The list is so bad, that you have to consider players who batted a bit less terribly than Wendle, but their defense can play every day. Both DeJong and Ahmed ranked as Top-90% percentile SS last year in OAA, and are average or better in DRS. Then comes the bad news: a wRC+ of 66 and 51, respectively. There is a list for shortstops with min 200 PAs last year, out of 49 qualified players, Wendle ranked last in wRC+, while DeJong was 42nd and Ahmed 47th. Enough said.
Trade Targets (5+2)
Using the same two premises from the previous Post: there should be some kind of excess of the position on the other side of the transaction, and awareness of the Marlins do not possess a lot of trading material, so forget about blockbuster trade targets. Here are some potential trade candidates:
Geraldo Perdomo: The D-backs just won the National League pennant, so why would they trade their starting SS? There are some realistic reasons to think about. Starting the season, Perdomo shared the position with the aforementioned Ahmed because even though Perdomo is a switch hitter, he has no power batting righty, resulting in a wRC+ of 62 compared to a 105 when batting lefty. The Perdomo-Berti split platoon would be a great way to address the six.
In addition, Arizona has uber prospect Jordan Lawlar and MLB-ready Blaze Alexander already on the 40-man roster, so the team can go more or less the same route the Astros went with his Peña after Correa. Behind Gallen, Kelly, and Pfaadt, Arizona has more questions than answers when it comes to SP. If the Marlins can convince the Snakes, maybe another Jazz-for-Gallen-type trade can be on the table. Maybe they were one starter away from winning it all.
Luis Rengifo: There is some hesitancy about Rengifo being able to play SS, as he is ranked below-average defender when manning the position. However, the Angels’ farm system is even worse than the Marlins, and they are always kind of desperate for pitching, especially now after Ohtani not pitching next year, whether he is back with the team or not. Their roster has also Zach Neto, Livan Soto, and Kyren Paris on the roster, all young and capable, making Rengifo somehow expendable.
Jorge Mateo: So many times the Orioles look like the perfect trade partner for the Fish. Mateo is an OK fielder with tons of speed but lacks hard contact and strikes out more than enough. His splits vs LHP are above average and he is due to reduced playing time because of Henderson and Ortíz, not to mention that Jackson Holliday shall be ready at some point mid-next season. Ortíz (more about him later) is another trade candidate if they decide to keep Mateo.
Tommy Edman: The same reasons a trade for catcher Iván Herrera can apply for Edman. The Cards don’t HAVE to trade him, but they need a lot of help when it comes to pitching. They also have Masyn Winn as a starter late in the season and Brendan Donovan, capable of playing there.
Finally, Kyle Farmer: He is not a natural SS, but he played OK in 40 games there last season. The Twins have Correa, Lewis, and Lee coming next season. Farmer will not come expensive, as next year is his last one for arbitration.
Another two players that can somehow be traded are Ezequiel Duran (TEX) and Kevin Newman (CIN), but they are also better suited as utility players. Newman in particular is a strong trade candidate since the Reds’ infield is LOADED, with Noelvi Marte as the next prospect up.
Out-of-the-box options (5+2)
Here is where the front office gets “creative” (even though there is no front office at the moment). Some Rule 5 draft targets are considered.
Anderson or Báez-for-García trades: Swapping ugly contracts has become popular in the last few years. Even though Tim Anderson had a KO-year (both figuratively and literally), he is still one year away from being an All-Star. The trade with Javi Báez is just not happening, but if the Tigers are desperate and send at least $70 M back to Miami, then they can talk.
José Barrero (CIN): Remember that the Reds’ infield is loaded? Well, there is little to no hope for Barrero reaching the big leagues on a regular basis if he stays with Cincinnati. Barrero hit 19 HRs with Louisville in 2023, had a wRC+ of 110, and .873 OPS, and also has played a handful of games at SS over the last 4 seasons in the big leagues, but never posted an OPS+ over 67. Looks every bit like an AAAA player, but maybe a change of scenery can help him out.
Ernie Clement (TOR): Another player with some experience in the big leagues but somehow blocked within his organization. Clement had a tremendous cameo this past season, posting a 144 for both wRC+ and OPS+ in 52 PAs, but he’s still blocked by Bo Bichette and top prospect Orelvis Martínez.
Alika Williams (PIT): Williams posted a .915 OPS at AAA, so the Pirates gave him 112 PAs late in the season, producing a 43 wRC+. Not encouraging, but he is blocked by Oneil Cruz, Marcano, and Peguero.
Joey Ortiz (BAL): Barring injuries, Ortíz has no chance of competing with Henderson, Holliday, and Mateo. He was excellent in AAA this season (121 wRC+, .885 OPS), getting him into the big team for 34 PAs, and producing an ugly 26 OPS+.
Davis Wendzel (TEX) and Weston Wilson (PHI) are a couple of Rule 5 draft eligible who don’t really have much else to prove in AAA, but won’t get a chance to reach the big team. The former hit 30 HRs this season but comes with a low BA. The latter was rewarded with 22 PA this year in Philly, having led the International League with 31 HRs this season. At 29, seems unlikely that he will get a fair chance, so profiles as a depth piece.
Internal Options (5)
The dreadful Wendle output obliged Skip Schumaker to bet on Berti and Hampson to cover the SS during the last week of the season, while the Wild Card berth was on the line. The bet paid off, especially from Berti, who went 10-for-19 and hit 3 homers in that 6-game span. Counting both players, they had an unsustainable output of .368/.500/.684 with a wRC+ of 216 during those games. Both ended the season with an wRC+ just above replacement level, 103 for Jon and 101 for Hampson.
However, this is a friendly reminder that both players are better suited for the utility role. Berti is slightly the better defender with +3 Outs Above Average and +1 DRS, while Hampson qualified for -1 OAA and DRS +3. Out of 68 SS with a minimum of 50 attempts at the position, Berti ranked 17th while Hampson was 41st. Berti will be 34 next season and is due to some regression. Hampson had some stints where he didn’t hit at all. Are the Marlins ready to trust a pivotal position to the them two?
Jacob Amaya is already on the 40-man roster, but despite having hit 15 HR this season with the Jumbo Shrimp, he still ranked below average in terms of wRC+. Amaya seems every bit like Miggy Rojas 2.0, and that’s absolutely fine considering none of the options above is extremely exciting.
Jazz Chisholm Jr. would be returning to the position he was developed in his minor league career. Jazz started awkwardly in CF, but looked more and more comfortable along the season. It will not require a huge challenge for him to come back to the infield, but in the innings he has spent there, his ranks peg him as a below-average fielder with -9 OAA.
Nasim Núñez needs to be added to the 40-man roster during the Rule 5 draft. There is some chance that he will, but most probably Nasim will be left unprotected and no other team will claim him, and the reason is simple: he still profiles as a glove-first bench-utility infielder, and there are tons of them. He should join the Jacksonville team next season.
That is 20+ realistic options to address the SS blackhole the Fish suffered from last season. Would be nice to hear from you what would be your route moving forward.
Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos