Marlins to terms with Yuli Gurriel on Minor League deal

18:15: It’s an off-roster deal, tweets Mark Feinsand of

17:50: The Marlins and first baseman Julie Gurriel agree on a deal, he says Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. For now, the financial details of the deal are not known.

Gurriel and the Marlins have been dancing with each other for a few months now. They were first publicly linked to each other in January, and since then further reports have been linked to the two sides. About a month ago, it was reported that the Marlins offered Gurriel a deal of around $2 million, but took it off the table when about a week went by without a response. Just a few days ago, it was reported that the two sides were still in talks, but that Gurriel might have to settle for a minor league deal.

This will be the second MLB stint for Gurriel, who has spent the previous seven seasons with the Astros. He was a solid offensive contributor for the first stretch of that era, but has been pretty inconsistent in recent seasons. From 2017 to 2019, he hit .296/.333/.486 for a wRC+ of 119, indicating he was 19% better than league average at the time. Struggled badly in 2020, finishing with a slashing .232/.274/.384 line, 76 wRC+. He rebounded tremendously in 2021, winning a batting title with a .319/.383/.462 line and 132 wRC+. But another dip followed in 2022, as he hit .242/.288/.360 for a wRC+ of 85.

The Marlins will look for another bounce-back from Gurriel, who turns 39 in June. Despite the up-and-down nature of his overall production, he’s been pretty consistent with his lack of offensive stops, striking out in just 11.2% of his career plate appearances. Last year, that rose to a career-high 12.5%, but that was still just half of the league average of 22.4%.

In recent years, the Marlins have had good pitching, but have been softer on the offensive side of things. They looked to add some success to their lineup a year ago by signing Jorge Soler and Abishael Garcia, but both players hit over 28% of their plate appearances last year. Although Jazz Chisholm Jr. had a big blast last year, also striking out in 27.4% of his trips to the plate. Other players like it Garrett Cooper, Brian De La Cruz and Jesus Sanchez also struck out more than a quarter of the time.

The Marlins seem to have diagnosed that problem as they brought in some players this winter with much better bat-to-ball skills. They signed Jean Segura and his career 13.8% percentage in December, which was then acquired Luis Arraez and the strike rate of 8.3% in January. Now with Gurriel added to the mix, these are three tough-to-hit additions to the organization in recent months.

Gurriel has played multiple positions in his career, but has essentially been limited to first base the past three years. It’s possible he gets the occasional look somewhere else, but given his age and recent track record, it’s hard to imagine the Marlins giving him extended time at a position other than first base. The club’s best option in this position at the moment is Garrett Cooper, who is an underrated hitter but has struggled to stay healthy. Cooper has hit .274/.348/.440 in his career for a wRC+ of 117, but has yet to play 120 games in a season due to health issues. Adding Gurriel would give the club a safety net in case Cooper struggles or simply allow the club to manage his workload.

If the Marlins are willing to consider Gurriel at other infield positions, he could potentially bolster a team with some uncertainty. Over the last eight months, the club has traded its longtime shortstop Miguel Rojas to the Dodgers, a non-tendered third baseman Brian Andersonfirst baseman released Jesus Aguilar and moved second baseman Chisholm to center. The club has answers for these positions, although they all carry some level of risk. Segura signed to play third base despite just 24 career games at that point. Arraez was acquired to take over at second base, though he had more of a role at first base last year with Minnesota. Then there’s the injury-prone Cooper at first. All of this seemingly goes away Joey Weddle as the short term. He has generally received passable grades in this position, but only in a part-time role and now turns 33 in April.

Gurriel has played all of those positions, but his nine innings at shortstop came back in 2018. His occasional appearances at second base ended in 2019. His time at third is a bit more extensive, but it’s been just two innings over the past three years combined.

If they want to add Gurriel to their MLB roster, the club should have an easy time opening a spot. Max Mayer and Anthony Bender could be moved to the 60-day disabled list since both will be out for a while to recover from Tommy John surgery.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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