Jorge Alfaro’s time with the Marlins looks to be about up, as Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of The Miami Herald report that the club is planning to part ways with the catcher this winter and look for a new starter behind the plate. Alfaro earned $2.05MM this season in his first year of arbitration eligibility, and the Marlins could simply non-tender him prior to the arb deadline or seek out a trade.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Miami was able to find a partner for an Alfaro trade, as it wasn’t long ago that he was one of the more highly-regarded prospects in all of baseball. This potential has already led to Alfaro’s inclusion in two major trades. Originally a member of the Rangers organization, Alfaro was part of the six-player package Texas sent to the Phillies for Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman at the 2015 trade deadline. The Phils then sent Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez, and minor league lefty Will Stewart to Miami for J.T. Realmuto in February 2019, with the Marlins looking at Alfaro as a natural replacement for Realmuto behind the plate.
Alfaro also isn’t far removed from some decent production in the 2017-19 seasons, as a big performance in 2017 largely fueled his overall .269/.322/.429 slash line in 956 plate appearances for the Phillies and Marlins in those three years. After slightly below-average production in 2018 and 2019, however, Alfaro’s bat has since cratered.
The catcher has hit only .224/.274/.329 in his last 296 plate appearances, striking out 101 times and posting the ninth-highest strikeout rate (34.1%) of any player with at least 250 PA since the start of the 2020 season. Beyond the bat, Alfaro’s defense has been enough of a question mark that the Marlins turned to the light-hitting Chad Wallach down the stretch last year and into the playoffs.
Alfaro was one of the players sidelined during the Marlins’ COVID-19 outbreak last summer, and he also missed about a month earlier this year with a hamstring injury. Still, Miami was already showing signs of looking beyond Alfaro last offseason when the team engaged in trade talks with the Cubs about Willson Contreras — Jackson and Mish recently reported that Alfaro would likely have been sent to Chicago as part of a Contreras deal.
Since the Cubs now appear to be in a rebuild mode, it stands to reason that Miami will probably check in on Contreras again this winter, if the Fish didn’t already do so prior to the trade deadline. Jackson/Mish also believe that the Pirates’ Jacob Stallings is likely to be a trade target. Contreras is under control through only the 2022 season, while Stallings is a Super Two player who isn’t eligible for free agency until the 2024-25 offseason.
Miami has enough pitching depth to explore trades for any number of other catchers on opposing rosters, and the club could also explore the free agent market if it decides on a shorter-term veteran addition. The Marlins may already have their catcher of the future in 31st overall pick Joe Mack, and prospect Will Banfield is also on the radar as at least a defense-oriented backup type. Looking at other internal options, Alex Jackson and Payton Henry were both acquired in deadline trades and Miami will consider both as candidates for a backup role in 2022.