Matt Dominguez, Trade CandidateBy
Sunday night, the Marlins finally created the big splash they had been expected to make all off-season by signing Jose Reyes to a 6-year deal worth $106 million. As new details continue to emerge, it seems that an option for a 7th year is part of the agreement as well. Fans who had been waiting nervously (and for some, skeptically) to see if the team was serious about increasing payroll could breath a sigh of relief.
While most of Miami couldn’t be happier with the news of the Reyes signing, Matt Dominguez, the Marlins third baseman of the future, is the odd-man out in all of the madness. He is almost assuredly not thrilled with the Marlins most recent move. Reyes and Hanley Ramirez are now primed to man the left side of the infield until at least 2016, and Dominguez appears to be without a role or a future with the Marlins.
For those who are unfamiliar with Dominguez, he spent the last four years in the Marlins minor league system playing third-base before getting called up late in the year when rosters expanded in September. The 2007 first round draft pick has been arguably the team’s top infield prospect, and he could be ready to move into the big leagues permanently sometime soon.
The main concern with the 23-year old Dominguez going forward is his hitting. Although he was never regarded as a great hitter, less than stellar performances in the minor leagues has led to some questioning whether he will ever be able to produce at the plate in the majors. He hit a combined .255/.325/.418 in the minors so far, while only a paltry .244/.292/.333 in his brief tenure with the Marlins.
Luckily for Dominguez, because of his impressive fielding at third base, he wouldn’t necessarily need to hit at an astounding rate to be valuable to his team. The always-great John Sickels gave his perspective on Dominguez earlier this year:
“If Dominguez can be even adequate with the bat, he’ll have a long career: his glove is excellent. He has a strong and accurate throwing arm, soft hands, and (although his outward athleticism isn’t exceptional) superior range. He anticipates with the best, and seems to come out of nowhere to make plays other third basemen don’t reach. Unlike many young infielders with flashy defensive skills, Dominguez is also reliable on routine plays and commits few mental mistakes. He is capable of winning Gold Gloves once he settles in.”
(The link will take you to his full breakdown of Dominguez, which is worth reading.)
Even if he doesn’t win Gold Gloves, his fielding at third would still be very valuable. A top tier defender like Dominguez is expected to be could save a team as many as 15 runs each season in comparison to a replacement level defender at third.
Although it is possible that Hanley makes the positional change to second base or centerfield, third base seems the most likely and logical destination for him, given the lack of depth at the position and his well below average defense at shortstop. However, whether he will embrace this new role and make the transition smoothly remains to be seen.*
In the case that Hanley were to refuse to move away from shortstop, Dominguez could be given the opportunity to win playing time out of spring training this season, or possibly next year after one more season of development in the Minor Leagues. But, realistically, the shortstop situation is going to be resolved one way or another (my gut feeling is that Hanley will resist the move initially, then make way for Reyes a few days later after fully considering the situation) and Dominguez will be left in the cold.
With his primary position on the Marlins already locked up for at least the next 6+ years, Dominguez makes for an interesting potential trade candidate. Having him spend the peak of his career in the Minor Leagues would be a waste. And while it’s unclear what kind of return the team could get for him, or if the team is even willing to deal him at this point, it would be in the Marlins best interest to seriously consider parting with Dominguez.
*No official word has been given yet from Hanley or his agent, but ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported Sunday night that Hanley has already agreed to shift to third base to make room for Reyes. Then again, Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post indicated Monday that Ramirez is “distraught” over the idea of changing positions, which would contradict Stark’s earlier report. At this point, neither rumor has been confirmed, and we are left only to speculate.