Deals with Yuli Gurriel, Iglesias fortify Marlins' infield depth

March 11th, 2023

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins added to their infield depth, announcing Minor League deals with veterans and on Friday afternoon.

The pair wasted no time arriving at camp, taking batting practice and participating in infield drills with their new teammates at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex. Because Spring Training games have been going for two weeks, manager Skip Schumaker would like Gurriel and Iglesias to receive Minor League at-bats first -- perhaps as soon as Saturday -- to ease into action and avoid injury.

"Two more good players that are going to compete for spots at camp, and we're excited that they're here, and two professionals that have done it before," Schumaker said. "A Gold Glover, a batting title, guys that know what winning looks like, so really excited to have them part of the camp."

Gurriel and Iglesias admitted they were surprised it took so long to latch onto clubs, but they're happy where they've landed. Both reside in South Florida, and Iglesias' 12-year-old son plays for a Marlins youth team.

"I've been ready, I've been training, I've been hitting, I've been fielding, just waiting for that call," Iglesias said. "And that's why I'm here today. I had a great day today getting to know everyone. A lot of familiar faces for me. So I'm very excited. I'm very excited to wear this uniform."

Miami's interest in Gurriel dates back to the offseason. All-Star Garrett Cooper is the only natural first baseman on the 40-man roster, and he has not played that position more than 73 times in a season. No. 10 prospect Jordan Groshans and Jerar Encarnacion have been learning first base this spring but have limited Major League experience.

Adding Gurriel, who will turn 39 in June, into the mix gives Miami a two-time World Series champion with the Astros and the 2021 American League Gold Glove Award winner. Though Gurriel was a fixture at first base for Houston's six straight AL Championship Series appearances, Schumaker said Gurriel could possibly see reps at second and third, too.

"It's something that I was grateful the past seven years, playing for a team that was constantly on that level, and to win you need to have talent, right?" Gurriel said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. "And this team is not far from that. It's a lot of talent out here. There's something to get to the second level, you've got to continue working and putting that talent together and get to work."

Both Gurriel and Iglesias have contact-oriented profiles similar to offseason acquisitions Luis Arraez and Jean Segura. Gurriel's 48 consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout in the 2022 postseason tied for the fourth-longest stretch in AL/NL history. Before sitting out World Series Game 6 with right knee discomfort, he went 17-for-49 (.347) with two homers during the Astros' run.

"I'm feeling 100 percent," Gurriel said. "Mostly it was inflammation that I had in my knee, and actually, the day after, I tried to run, and it got even worse. So it was a lot of pain, a lot of inflammation that I had to take care of, but I feel 100 percent now."

Gurriel, who was a free agent for the first time since he defected from Cuba and signed a five-year, $47.5 million deal with the Astros in 2016, has slashed .284/.328/.448 with 206 doubles, five triples and 94 homers across seven big league seasons. After becoming the oldest batting champion (.319, 37 years old) since Barry Bonds in '02, the Cuban-born infielder had a down year in '22 by hitting .242 with eight homers and a .647 OPS over 146 games.

Iglesias, 33, has spent parts of 11 seasons with the Red Sox, Tigers, Reds, Orioles, Angels and Rockies. Known for his glove, he hit .292/.328/.380 in 118 games for Colorado in 2022. Iglesias would provide a right-handed-hitting complement to the lefty-hitting , who is projected to be the club's primary shortstop -- a role he will undertake for the first time in his seven-year career.

Utility player and non-roster invitee are backup options already in camp. So is No. 9 prospect Jacob Amaya, who could still use development in the Minors before making his MLB debut.

"A very reliable guy, you know what he's going to bring to the table on a daily basis is 100 percent," Iglesias said, when asked to provide his scouting report. "I'm a healthy player, I put the ball in play, I compete. I care about this game, and I'm a loyal guy."

Miami can free up four 40-man roster spots by transferring Max Meyer (Tommy John), Anthony Bender (Tommy John), Nic Enright (Hodgkin's lymphoma) and Sixto Sánchez (right shoulder) to the 60-day injured list. That would create space, assuming Gurriel and Iglesias make the club out of spring camp.