The Marlins are “moving toward” a deal with free agent Yuli Gurriel, according to Mark Feinsand and Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. No deal has been finalized yet, and Miami isn’t the only club involved, as Daniel Alvarez-Montes of El Extra Base reports that the Twins are also in on Gurriel.
The Marlins had been the only previously reported team interested in the former Astro, so it’s no surprise that they’re front and center as Gurriel’s market heats up a bit. Miami and Minnesota just joined forces on a trade this week that sent Luis Arraez to South Beach, the Marlins are planning to deploy Arraez at second base (moving Jazz Chisholm Jr. to center fielder), thus leaving some room for Gurriel to help out at first base. Of course, Garrett Cooper is Miami’s incumbent first baseman, and both he and Gurriel are right-handed hitters, making for a less-than-ideal platoon fit. Jorge Soler is another right-handed bat who looks to be the first choice at DH, leaving fewer at-bats for manager Skip Schumaker to potentially find for Gurriel.
In terms of pure playing-time fit, the Twins might be a better option for Gurriel, as the left-handed hitting Alex Kirilloff looks to be moving into first base duty and Minnesota doesn’t have a set designated hitter. Of course, any number of factors could be impacting Gurriel’s ongoing decision process about choosing his next team, including the fact that Gurriel has a home in Miami.
Gurriel hit free agency this winter after seven seasons in Houston. The 38-year-old had some very strong seasons with the Astros, but his production dipped off significantly in 2022. Last year, he hit just .242/.288/.360 with eight home runs over 584 plate appearances. That was good for a wRC+ of just 85, about 15 percent below average and well down from the 132 mark he put up just a year prior. There also wasn’t much to like about Gurriel’s Statcast numbers, apart from the fact that he remains one of baseball’s tougher hitters to strike out.
At Gurriel’s age, a sudden dropoff in productivity isn’t unexpected, yet his 2021 success is still so fresh that the Marlins, Twins, or perhaps other teams might think a rebound is still possible. In regards to the Fish, Gurriel’s ability to avoid strikeouts is a valued skill for a club that went into the winter looking to add contact hitting, with the Arraez trade standing out as how the Marlins are trying to achieve that goal.