The Marlins’ attempts to fill out a lineup under the constraints of baseball’s lowest payroll has led them to a former American League Championship Series MVP who experienced back problems and declining production last season.
The Marlins signed Placido Polanco to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Thursday, with the hope he will not have a recurrence of the back problems that limited him to 17 games and 40 at-bats for the Phillies after the All-Star break last season.
The Marlins had concerns about Polanco’s back, but he passed a physical this week.
Polanco, 37, went on the disabled list with lower-back inflammation on Sept. 7 and finished the season there. He closed the year with a .257 average, two homers and 19 RBI in 90 games.
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The Marlins hope they’re getting closer to the player who hit .277 with five homers and 50 RBI in 2011 and .298 with six homers and 52 RBI in 2010.
But his number of games has diminished since 2009, from 153 to 132 to 122 to 90.
Polanco has won three Gold Gloves, at second base in 2007 and 2009 and at third base in 2011, when he committed eight errors and became only the second player to win the award at more than one position, joining Daren Erstad. He had only two errors in 80 games at third base last season.
Polanco, who resides in Miami during the offseason and attended Miami-Dade Community College, was voted a starter in the All-Star Game in 2007 and 2011, won the 2007 American League Silver Slugger award for second basemen and was the 2006 ALCS MVP.
Overall, Polanco has hit .299 with 103 homers and 700 RBI in 15 seasons, with St. Louis, Detroit and Philadelphia. He passed the 2000 hit threshold last May.
The Phillies declined his $5.5 million option in October, opting to pay him a $1 million buyout instead.
Among third basemen, Greg Dobbs and journeyman Kevin Kouzmanoff also will be in camp for the Marlins, who prefer to use Dobbs as a fill-in player and pinch hitter.
Polanco’s signing firms up the Marlins lineup, unless they make any more trades.
Miami likely will go with Logan Morrison at first base, Donovan Solano at second, Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop, Polanco at third, Juan Pierre in left field, Justin Ruggiano in center, Giancarlo Stanton in right and Rob Brantly catching.
Ricky Nolasco presumably will be the Opening Day starting pitcher unless he’s traded, with Jacob Turner, Henderson Alvarez, Nate Eovaldi and perhaps Wade LeBlanc or Brad Hand or Alex Sanabia filling out the rotation.
Right-handed pitcher Jose Fernandez topped Baseball America’s annual list of the top 10 Marlins prospects. Fernandez is followed by outfielder Christian Yelich; left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney; outfielder Jake Marisnick; outfielder Marcell Ozuna; left-hander pitcher Justin Nicolino; Hechavarria; right-handed pitcher Jose Urena; catcher J.T. Realmuto; and left-hander Adam Conley.
Marisnick, Nicolino and Hechavarria were acquired last month in the trade that sent Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes to Toronto.