Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria has a passion for shoes.
Not like double-play partner Dee Gordon, who has his own collection of pricey Air Jordans. Hechavarria spends hundreds ‒ sometimes thousands ‒ on the best designer dress shoes. He collects Gucci, Louis Vuitton and his new favorite, Louboutin, after former teammate Rafael Furcal got him hooked on the brand last season.
“Since I didn’t have shoes in Cuba that was more of what I bought when I got here,” said Hechavarria, who says he now owns more than 100 pairs of expensive dress shoes since fleeing Cuba and signing his first pro contract with Toronto for four years, $10 million in April 2010.
“You have to understand in Cuba I used to have one pair, these rubber shoes that would cost $3 or $4 and would last me two years if that,” he continued. “There were times when I played in games barefoot. Sometimes teammates would lend me their old spikes with holes in them and I would wear them until they were completely broken. I didn’t have my own glove ‒ one I took home ‒ until I was 17 and playing on Cuba’s junior national team. I didn’t have my own spikes until then either. When I say people from [my hometown] Santiago were poor, they were poor.”
Hechavarria, 26, hasn’t forgotten his friends and family in Cuba. Although he was able to bring his parents over three years ago, his older brother Alien, a 33-year-old former amateur boxer, still lives in Cuba. Hechavarria said he sends shoes to his brother and friends in Cuba all the time.
Soon, he probably will be able to afford much more. Although the Marlins offered Hechavarria a four-year deal in the range of $24 million to $27 million this spring to lock him up through his arbitration seasons of 2016-2018, he left it on the table, gambling that an even better season at the plate in 2015 would net more.
So far he’s off to his best season in the majors.
Offensively, among all major league shortstops, Hechavarria ranks second in batting average (.305) and sixth in OPS (.740) and RBI (22). A year ago he was fifth in batting average (.276), 14th in OPS (.664) and tied for 24th in RBI (34).
Defensively, the 2014 Gold Glove Award finalist has gotten even better. He has made only three errors in 216 chances and ranks fourth among all shortstops in fielding percentage (.986). His 33 double plays turned rank fifth.
Even sabermetric analysts, whose data once suggested Hechavarria was awful, say Hechavarria has improved. He is tied for sixth in defensive runs saved (4) and his total zone rating is plus-4, tied for second-best among all shortstops. A year ago, Hechavarria had a defensive runs saved rating of minus-3 and a total zone rating of minus-13, among the worst at his position.
“He’s close,” Marlins infield coach Perry Hill responded Wednesday when asked if Hechavarria has finally become the complete player Hill envisioned when the Marlins acquired him from Toronto in a 12-player mega-trade in 2012.
“He’s improved year by year, but the difference this year ‒ the coup de grace ‒ is he has learned the hitters more and he’s moving with situations and counts now, which puts him in a position to field more balls comfortably. He’d never done anything like that before.”
The Marlins, who open a three-game series Friday in Colorado at 22-32, haven’t gotten as much production as they expected from several players this season, but Hechavarria is among a handful who have delivered better than expected.
And although he’s not in the top five in voting for the All-Star Game at shortstop, there is a consensus around baseball Hechavarria is having an All-Star-caliber season.
“I think people are now recognizing this guy is very special at what he does,” manager Dan Jennings said. “His numbers, hitting-wise, hitting in the eighth hole, he’s performed very well. And, defensively he’s a gold-glover.”
Said Hechavarria: “The season is long. I’ve had two good months. All I have in my mind right now is to keep working hard and the rest will take care of itself.”
Friday: Marlins RHP Tom Koehler (3-3, 4.01 ERA) at Rockies RHP Eddie Butler (3-5, 4.22), 8:40 p.m.
Saturday: Marlins RHP David Phelps (2-2, 3.50) at Rockies RHP Kyle Kendrick (2-7, 6.55), 4:10 p.m.