The Miami Marlins have made two of their final big roster decision ahead of the 2023 season.
General manager Kim Ng on Sunday announced the team intends to select the contract of Yuli Gurriel, paving the way for the veteran infielder to be on the active roster when the Marlins begin the season on Thursday against the New York Mets.
Meanwhile, shortstop Jose Iglesias who, like Gurriel, signed a minor-league deal with the club on March 10, will not make the Opening Day roster but will stay in the organization.
Ng said the team made the decisions Saturday, the same day both players had an opt-out clause in their contract for Saturday that they could have enacted if the Marlins informed them they were not going to making the Opening Day roster.
Iglesias, despite not making the team, did not enact the opt-out clause.
“It was a very difficult decision because they got to camp late,” Ng said. “I just wish we had more at-bats and we had more games to see them play, but ultimately you don’t get to determine what exactly happens on that front. We just had to make the best decision that we could.”
Gurriel making the team seemed almost like a lock as long as he stayed healthy. Miami only had one natural first baseman on its 40-man roster in Garrett Cooper before adding Gurriel, who has started 668 games there over his seven-year MLB career and won a Gold Glove at the position in 2021.
And despite a down 2022 season at the plate, Gurriel still offers the Marlins a player who can provide steady at-bats.
Gurriel, who turns 39 in June and won two World Series titles (2017, 2022) during his seven-year stint with the Houston Astros, is a career .284 hitter with a .776 on-base-plus-slugging mark, 94 home runs, 435 RBI and 400 runs scored. In addition to a Gold Glove, he won the American League batting title in 2021.
Ng said Gurriel will spell Cooper at first base at times, can make occasional starts at designated hitter and be a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement off the bench.
“He puts together a pretty professional at-bat,” Ng said. “If we need the ball in play, he’s gonna be a pretty good guy you can call on.”
His at-bats have improved during spring training as well, with the 38-year-old recording four hits over the past three games and making plenty of hard contact on balls that ultimately ended up being outs.
“It feels like he’s locked in,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said after Saturday’s 3-2 spring training loss to the Cardinals. “The first couple of games, he kind of cut off his swing a little bit to right field and then you could just see that his timing was getting a little bit better and better and better. Now, it’s like it’s barreled balls the other way and pullside doubles. That’s who he is.”
As for his defense?
“That defense is real,” Schumaker said. “I don’t care what any metric says. He can play third. He can play second. He can play first. He’s that type of athlete. He’s been needed to play first in Houston, but if you watch him take ground balls, he can play multiple positions. He’s a baseball player. That’s just who he is. He’s a winning baseball player.”
Iglesias’ path to a spot on the roster wasn’t as guaranteed although it made sense/would have made sense on paper. As a right-handed hitter, the possibility presented itself for Iglesias to platoon at shortstop with left-handed hitter Joey Wendle, who has been a utility player throughout his career up to this point.
Iglesias, who turned 33 in January, is a career .279 hitter with a .701 OPS, 47 home runs, 366 RBI and 438 runs scored. His .292 average last season was the third-highest of his career of the seasons in which he played 100 games. The .708 OPS was fourth. He has made 973 of his 1,024 career MLB starts at shortstop.
“One of the messages to him was ‘We’d just like to see you more,’” Ng said. “You talk about guys coming in and working themselves into shape and getting their timing and all those types of things. This just gives us more leeway and gives him more runway to get those things in order.”
With Iglesias not being added, the Marlins will look to superutility player Jon Berti to be the primary backup at shortstop.
The Marlins will have to make a corresponding move to add Gurriel to the 40-man roster. That move has not been announced yet.
Injury updates and roster moves
▪ Relief pitchers Steven Okert (left adductor soreness) and Tommy Nance (right shoulder stiffness) are staying back in Jupiter after camp breaks. Schumaker said Okert is likely a couple weeks away from returning to the roster, while Nance is about two weeks away from throwing at all.
▪ Relief pitcher Nic Enright, whose spring training was delayed due to treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, threw his fifth bullpen of camp on Sunday and is expected to start facing live hitters soon.
▪ Center fielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. did not play in Grapefruit League games the final days of camp due to right arm cramps. The Marlins said this is precautionary. He worked out with the team on Sunday.
▪ Miami on Sunday optioned infielder Jordan Groshans and utility player Garrett Hampson to Triple A Jacksonville.