MIAMI -- Starting pitching may be the Marlins' biggest offseason need, but when the Hot Stove season begins after the World Series ends, the organization likely will also be in the market for a shortstop.The position has come into question due to rookie JT Riddle and Miguel Rojas each missing
MIAMI -- Starting pitching may be the Marlins' biggest offseason need, but when the Hot Stove season begins after the World Series ends, the organization likely will also be in the market for a shortstop.
The position has come into question due to rookie JT Riddle and Miguel Rojas each missing substantial time because of injuries. Both should be healthy for Spring Training, but neither has a track record of handling the position for an entire year at the big league level.
The Marlins will begin formulating offseason plans at their organizational meetings, which are expected to take place next week. New chief executive officer Derek Jeter, and staff, at that time will set the direction for 2018.
When the Marlins traded Adeiny Hechavarria to the Rays in late June, they noted Riddle was ready to step in every day. A left-handed hitter with power potential and a solid defender, Riddle showed promise -- posting a slash line of .250/.282/.355 with three home runs and 31 RBIs in 70 games.
But an injured left shoulder bothered him for a couple of months, and Riddle's final game was July 19. He underwent surgery a couple of weeks later.
Rojas stepped in after Riddle's injury, but he also missed more than two months in the first half because of a broken right thumb. Even after the thumb healed, Rojas battled left shoulder issues that have bothered him for a couple of seasons.
A concern for the Marlins is both Riddle and Rojas felt at risk every time they dove for the ball.
The Marlins ended up using five different players at shortstop -- Rojas (77 games), Riddle (69), Hechavarria (19), Mike Aviles (15) and Dee Gordon (3). Gordon is a two-time All-Star second baseman, who stepped in a few times out of need.
Riddle and Rojas still may be called upon to handle the position in 2018, but the organization likely will weigh all their options.
In free agency, there are some candidates that could make sense. Zack Cozart of the Reds headlines the list, and he could be in high demand. Alcides Escobar of the Royals could be interesting, as the 31-year-old just concluded a six-year, $21.75 million contract, and would be more affordable.
Escobar isn't much of a statistical upgrade offensively over Riddle, but he has a history of durability, and was part of Kansas City's 2015 World Series title team. The 31-year-old had a slash line of .250/.272/.357 this year. More importantly, he stays on the field. Escobar has played in all 162 games in each of the past two seasons, doing so three out of the last four years.
If the Marlins decide to rebuild and make sweeping changes, they could target a young shortstop in a potential deal.
No matter the direction, Riddle and Rojas are expected to be part of the club's plans for 2018. Rojas is valuable because he plays so many positions. He might end up seeing time at second base and third base.
Riddle has upside, but you don't know exactly how a player will respond or recover from surgery.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.