How Can the Marlins Address Their Dismal Shortstop Situation?

The Marlins are inching toward contention in a competitive NL East. How can they upgrade at shortstop, currently a black hole on the roster?

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 01: Ezequiel Duran #20 of the Texas Rangers throws to first base in the seventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Globe Life Field on September 01, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

During the 2023 season, the Miami Marlins took a significant step forward in their quest to return to contention. At 84-78, the club secured their best winning percentage since all the way back in 2009 – when they were still called the Florida Marlins.

It’s pretty easy to see what went right for the club last year. Offseason acquisition Luis Arraez, as well as trade deadline pickups Jake Burger and Josh Bell, carried the team in a big way. Each of the trio is set to return in 2024.

It’s clear that the Marlins are doing things right to compete in a tough division. However, one significant black hole remains in their everyday lineup: shortstop.

Last season, Miami relied on a combination of Joey Wendle, Jon Berti, Garrett Hampson and Jacob Amaya to man the position. Only Berti and Amaya remain, with the former tabbed by Roster Resource as the everyday starter for 2024.

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Weighing the Internal Options

Berti, 33, is a long-time piece on the Marlins’ roster, as he’s been around since 2019. He is most valuable in a utility role that sees him bounce all over the diamond, although he did just put together his best offensive season to date.

In 133 games last year, Berti hit .294 with a .748 OPS and 103 OPS+. He is a speed demon and also hit seven home runs with 33 driven in last year, both career highs.

In a “Playing General Manager” episode of the Just Baseball Show, hosted by our own Aram Leighton and Jack McMullen, the guys mention that the Marlins’ shortstop situation consists of Berti, Amaya, Vidal Bruján, Xavier Edwards and Tristan Gray. In the words of McMullen, “You don’t want any of those guys being an everyday shortstop.”

Leighton follows this up by asking whether there is a worse shortstop situation anywhere in the league. The answer? No, not really.

Berti has never felt like the answer to fill the position on a consistent basis. He plays solid defense everywhere and has proven over the years that that’s where his value lies: his versatility. Tying him down to one position in the upcoming season almost feels like a waste.

Beyond an aging Berti, there’s next to nothing to be excited about in this organization at the shortstop position.

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No Depth To Speak Of

Edwards and Brujan, two former top prospects of the Rays, have fallen from grace in recent years. Neither is viewed as a true shortstop moving forward due to questionable arm strength and a lack of range. Like Berti, both can play the outfield as well and should be put in positions where they can exceed. Shortstop is not one of those positions.

Gray, 27, is another ex-Rays farmhand. He hit 30 home runs in Triple-A for Tampa Bay last year and 33 the year before. That said, he is another aging option who can’t be trusted with an everyday role in the majors just yet.

Weighing the External Options

The Marlins’ hands aren’t fully tied here, because there are some external options to fill their shortstop position.

Prior to his signing with Toronto, Isiah Kiner-Falefa was on Miami’s radar, but he is not quite the acquisition this team needs. IKF is another light-hitting utility option who can play solid defense everywhere but can’t hit.

Other free agents that make varying degrees of sense include Tim Anderson, Gio Urshela and perhaps even Adalberto Mondesi.

Leighton and McMullen rattled off some names in their video, both free agents and trade candidates. Casey Schmitt (SFG), Gabriel Arias (CLE), Jorge Mateo (BAL) and Oswald Peraza (NYY) are some names that make sense for the Fish to pursue, at least on paper. Any of them would be a younger option with more upside than Berti would provide.

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However, the two names Leighton and McMullen mention that make the most sense both come from the West divisions.

Geraldo Perdomo

Perdomo, a Diamondbacks infielder, made the All-Star Game for the first time in 2023. The switch-hitter had an excellent year in the desert, posting a 96 OPS+ while sporting elite defensive metrics and demonstrating patience at the plate.

Chase %98th
Whiff %96th
K %79th
BB %91st
Outs Above Average (OAA)86th
Baserunning Run Value77th
All stats courtesy of Baseball Savant.

Perdomo, 24, rarely struck out, drew a ton of walks, played a mean shortstop and raised his trade value through the roof. If there were ever a time for the Diamondbacks to consider a trade, it would be now. The club has clearly gotten 10 times more value out of Perdomo than they would’ve previously thought possible, and with the presence of Jordan Lawlar in the high minors, a move makes a ton of sense.

It remains to be seen what kind of return Perdomo would bring back in a trade. The Diamondbacks could use another starting pitcher like Jesús Luzardo, but Perdomo would be far from a centerpiece in such a deal. They could also use a southpaw reliever like Tanner Scott, who emerged as one of the more promising relievers in the game last season.

Scott, 29, finished the 2023 season with a 195 ERA+ and 12 saves in 74 appearances. He struck out 12 batters per nine innings and also lowered his walks by almost four per nine innings from the year before. The Marlins might want to move him before they’re forced to give him a pay raise.

Ezequiel Duran

Fresh off of a World Series-winning season with the Rangers, Duran is making a name for himself around the league. The righty batter hit 14 home runs with a 106 OPS+ in 2023. He also has an incredible throwing arm – as evidenced by his 99th-percentile Arm Strength – and is blazing fast on the bases. The Marlins would be targeting him as more of an offensive upgrade than a defensive one, but the team could use some additional pop.

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Heading into 2024, Duran is currently penciled in as the Rangers’ designated hitter. He doesn’t have a clear avenue to playing time anywhere in the infield thanks to the star-studded roster around him.

Chris Young, the Rangers GM, spoke to reporters at the Winter Meetings earlier this offseason. He made it clear the club holds Duran in high regard.

“It’s a luxury to have somebody like Zeke, and we’re going to need him,” Young said. “He may get at-bats at DH, and he may play the infield. He can play third, short, second, and first. You can put him in the outfield. That’s a real luxury.”

He went on to say that should any teams come calling on him, they’d need to be prepared to pay handsomely.

“We hold a super high bar on Zeke because we believe he has the potential to be a really impactful everyday player, and that may be this year if somebody goes down or if he outperforms somebody,” Young said. “I put no limits on him. He’s just coming into his own. He’s really good.”

Assembling a Trade Package

Leighton mentioned that the Rangers, an obvious fit for Josh Hader, could decide against paying top dollar for a reliever. Instead, they could make a deal with the Marlins for Scott, a deal which would help both teams involved. McMullen adds infield prospect Cody Morissette into the package and the consensus is that you’d have yourself a deal.

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The 23-year-old didn’t crack the Marlins’ top 30 prospects list (per MLB Pipeline) but he’s a young, versatile player with some pop in his bat.

If the Marlins want to be taken seriously, the time is now for an upgrade at shortstop. The trade market has some intriguing names, but Duran is the one that Miami needs to pursue. He is young, controllable and full of potential. What’s not to like?