- The Marlins received limited trade interest in Starlin Castro at last summer’s trade deadline, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, but they’ll likely have more motivation to make a deal involving him this time around. Infield prospect Isan Diaz, acquired from the Brewers in last year’s Christian Yelich trade, reached Triple-A as a 22-year-old last season, and while he struggled there against older competition, he’ll have another several months to inch closer to MLB readiness. Diaz ranked 104th among MLB prospects on Fangraphs’ 2019 rankings and is slotted in seventh among Miami farmhands on MLB.com’s rankings (in addition to being their No. 10 overall second base prospect). Castro, meanwhile, is set to earn $12MM in his contract’s final guaranteed season ($11MM salary, $1MM buyout on next year’s $16MM team option). At that price, he’s not exactly a bargain but he isn’t grossly overpaid, either, considering last year’s .278/.329/.400 slash (101 wRC+, 107 OPS+). Fangraphs valued Castro at 2.3 wins above replacement, while Baseball-Reference was more bullish at 3.3 WAR.
- When Atlanta was pursuing catcher J.T. Realmuto, whom Miami has since traded to Philadelphia, Braves infielder Johan Camargo drew the Marlins’ interest, Heyman reports. The Braves continue to view Camargo as a key piece, however, despite the one-year, $23MM deal they struck with third baseman Josh Donaldson earlier this offseason. Camargo is coming off a terrific 2018, which he spent at third and posted 3.3 fWAR with a .272/.349/.457 line and 19 home runs in 524 plate appearances. Though Camargo doesn’t have a set position heading into the new season, the 25-year-old should see plenty of action nonetheless. Adding to his appeal, Camargo’s controllable for the next half-decade, including one more pre-arbitration season.
Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes provided an update on his efforts to return from surgeries to both heels. As Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News writes, Cespedes expressed confidence that he will be able to make it back to the MLB field, but says it’s unlikely to occur before the middle of the coming season. Cespedes does say that he’s now pain-free, which seems promising, though it remains to be seen how things will progress once his rehab is able to ramp up toward full speed.
- In other recent Mets news, ace Jacob deGrom discussed his contract situation with reporters including Tim Healey of Newsday. Generally, deGrom reiterated what is already known to be the case: he expects to discuss an extension in the coming weeks but has yet to receive an offer and won’t negotiate past the start of the season. The star righty largely demurred when asked about the oft-floated concept that he might operate under self-imposed workload limitations if he doesn’t have a long-term deal, though he did not rule out such an approach.
- Speaking of possible blockbuster extensions, Rockies star third baseman Nolan Arenado will not follow deGrom’s lead in placing timing restrictions on his talks with the club, as MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports. Arenado said he does expect there to be a “silent deadline” once “serious games start,” though generally it sounds as if he’s open to chat just about any time. It certainly seems as if there are plenty of good vibes between player and team, though hammering out an appropriate contract will still come with challenges. Arenado, 27, already agreed to a record-setting $26MM salary for the 2019 campaign, after which he’ll hit the open market.
- While the Marlins were said to have some interest in Carlos Gonzalez, it seems the organization doesn’t intend to make any further additions at the outset of camp. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports that the club presently intends to give a chance to Peter O’Brien to stake out a claim to time in right field. That means that Brian Anderson is shifting back to third base, leaving the club with a rather unexpected combination of Neil Walker and Martin Prado slated to share the action at first bse (and other areas in the infield). President of baseball operations Michael Hill says the team will still keep an eye on market opportunities, but is “extremely happy” with the “current group of players.”
- Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett has been through a gauntlet of terrible arm injuries, but he’s still plugging away at a comeback effort. As Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes, the 31-year-old righty is showing some signs of real potential while enjoying an opportunity to pitch in MLB camp, though he has a ways to go before he’ll truly be considered for a big league opportunity. Barrett once featured intriguing swing-and-miss stuff, but has made only twenty low-A appearances over the past three seasons.
Feb. 15: The Marlins have formally announced the signing. To make room on the 40-man roster, young right-hander Julian Fernandez, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, was placed on the 60-day injured list.
Feb. 12: The Marlins are in agreement on a one-year contract with veteran reliever Sergio Romo, pending a physical, reports Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (via Twitter). Romo will be guaranteed $2.5MM and can earn additional money on top of that via incentives. Talks between Miami and the veteran righty were reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Jon Heyman of MLB Network earlier this afternoon. Romo is represented by Meister Sports.
Set to turn 36 early next month, Romo will give the Marlins a veteran anchor to pair with younger less-experienced arms such as Drew Steckenrider, Adam Conley and Tayron Guerrero late in games. While he helped the Rays to pioneer the “opener” strategy last season, Romo’s best work with Tampa Bay came in his more familiar role as a reliever and closer. When pitching out of the ’pen for the Rays, Romo turned in a solid 3.88 ERA with 9.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 34.3 percent ground-ball rate.
Home runs were somewhat of an issue for Romo, an extreme fly-ball pitcher, as he served them up at an average of 1.47 per nine innings pitched. However, he also maintained a 13 percent swinging-strike rate and generated a swing on a third of the out-of-zone pitches he threw to opponents — both strong marks that create some optimism about his ability to continue missing bats. A move to the National League — specifically to the cavernous Marlins Park — should help to curtail some of the troubles he had with the long ball last year.
While the Marlins could yet leave the ninth inning open for competition between Romo, Steckenrider and Guerrero in camp, it’s fair to call the veteran Romo the favorite to close games in Miami. He tallied 25 saves for Tampa Bay a year ago and has compiled 109 saves across an 11-year Major League career.
If he can once again thrive in a ninth-inning capacity for the Marlins, his tenure with the organization could prove to be a short one. While Romo’s market was oddly tepid in free agency — the Twins and Rangers were reportedly willing to offer him a minor league deal, while the Blue Jays were interested at the MLB level — the demand for affordable bullpen help is always at its greatest leading up to the non-waiver trade deadline. Given that the Marlins are the clear cellar dwellers in a stacked NL East division, Miami seems likely to make Romo available to other clubs in need of relievers this summer.
- The Marlins are open to signing another veteran position player, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, who calls longtime Rockies outfielder and South Florida resident Carlos Gonzalez a “possible pick-up” for the team. The 33-year-old Gonzalez has seen his offensive numbers drop in recent seasons; while his combined .269/.334/.445 slash and 30 homers over his past 1038 plate appearances are solid at first glance, park-adjusted metrics like OPS+ and wRC+ feel his bat has been a bit below the league average when factoring in the positive effect of Coors Field. CarGo was an NL All-Star as recently as 2016 and ripped 40 homers for the Rockies in 2015. Lewis Brinson, Brian Anderson, Magneuris Sierra and Austin Dean are among Miami’s current outfield options on the 40-man roster, and the Marlins also recently inked Curtis Granderson to a minor league contract.
The Marlins are “expected” to hire long-time MLB catcher Jorge Posada as a special adviser to the club’s baseball operations department, according to Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (Twitter link). Posada’s precise duties aren’t yet known.
Posada obviously has deep ties with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter. The pair starred together for years with the Yankees, forming half of the legendary “core four” that helped lead the New York organization to five World Series titles.
A resident of the Miami area, Posada has already established something of a presence around Marlins Park. He’ll now have a direct tie to the organization, though it remains to be seen how significant his role will be.
Posada hung up his spikes after the 2011 campaign, wrapping up an excellent 17-year career. Since then, however, Posada has kept a relatively low profile in terms of his involvement with Major League Baseball.
The Marlins are on the hunt for a veteran addition to their largely inexperienced bullpen, writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Miami president of baseball operations Michael Hill tells Frisaro plainly that his club is “exploring” the addition of an experienced reliever to help work with younger arms like Drew Steckenrider, Adam Conley and Tayron Guerrero at the back of the Marlins’ bullpen.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal tweets that Sergio Romo is among the names the Marlins are considering, which makes for the fourth team tied to Romo in the past two days. (Toronto, Minnesota and Texas were all tied to Romo recently, though the latter two are said to prefer a minor league deal for the veteran righty.) MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that Romo is a “strong possibility” for Miami, noting that while the team has talked to other names, Romo appears to be the team’s focus at present.
Frisaro, meanwhile, lists right-handers Nick Vincent and Adam Warren as possibilities for the Fish, noting that new Marlins pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. is quite familiar with Vincent from the pair’s time together with the Mariners.
There’s a fair bit of uncertainty surrounding the complexion of Miami’s relief corps at present, with few locks to make the big league roster beyond the aforementioned trio of Steckenrider, Conley and Guerrero. Steckenrider was the team’s best reliever in 2018, and while Guerrero had his share of struggles, he boasts a triple-digit fastball and, more importantly, is out of minor league options (as is Conley).
Righty Austin Brice, recently claimed off waivers, is another out-of-options arm who could quite likely factor into the fold. Hill spoke with Frisaro at length about how Brice would give the team a ground-ball-oriented reliever it lacked last season following the trade of Brad Ziegler. However, while Hill termed Brice a “severe sinkerball pitcher,” it’s worth noting that Brice’s 51.2 percent ground-ball rate, while above the league average, is still a ways from elite territory.
In hearing Hill talk about his desire to have a reliever who can get crucial grounders when needed, it’s worth noting that none of Romo, Vincent or Warren is much of a ground-ball pitcher. Warren was earlier in his career but saw his grounder rate dip below 40 percent last season, while Romo and Vincent have been fly-ball arms throughout their careers. That’s not to say that the Marlins couldn’t add one of that bunch, of course; however, if that’s a goal for the Miami front office, then perhaps the addition of someone such as Romo won’t be the last new arm brought into the mix. There are a few other free-agent relievers still on the market, and Spring Training will present further opportunities for the Marlins to add arms of that nature as they become available via waivers or as veteran relievers opt out of minor league deals with other organizations throughout March.
- “Every trade, we’re trying to get back international money,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters, including Barry Jackson and Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald. It’s clear that the international market is a cornerstone of Miami’s rebuilding process, and the club has been successful in landing extra money for their int’l draft pool in recent trades with the Astros, Reds, Nationals, and (as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade package) Phillies. These extra funds have already paid dividends, as the Marlins signed highly-touted Cuban brothers Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr. last October.
- The Marlins have outrighted outfielder Isaac Galloway to Triple-A New Orleans after he cleared waivers, Wells Dusenbury of the Sun Sentinel tweets. Galloway will attend major league spring training as a non-roster invitee, the team announced. The Marlins designated Galloway for assignment this past Monday to make room for the addition of right-hander Austin Brice, whom they claimed off waivers from the Orioles. A member of the Marlins since they selected him in the eighth round of the 2008 draft, the 29-year-old Galloway finally debuted in the majors last season, when he totaled 74 plate appearances and slashed .203/.301/.391 with three home runs. Galloway has posted nearly identical numbers at the Triple-A level, where he has hit .256/.304/.393 in 1,395 PAs, though he is coming off a 20-stolen base season in the minors.
After several months of nonstop rumors centering on J.T. Realmuto, the Marlins finally found an offer to their liking for the superstar catcher Thursday, when they dealt him to the NL East rival Phillies. Entering the offseason, it seemed inevitable the rebuilding Marlins would part with Realmuto, who made it clear on multiple occasions going back to last winter that he was uninterested in signing an extension with the club.
At times this offseason, Realmuto drew interest from nearly half the league (14 teams), and with such a vast market for his services, Miami spent the past few months holding out for a Godfather offer from one of those clubs. In the end, the Marlins accepted a three-player return consisting of major league catcher Jorge Alfaro, who will immediately replace Realmuto in their starting lineup, two pitching prospects (right-hander Sixto Sanchez and lefty Will Stewart) and $250K in international slot money.
For the Phillies, the Realmuto acquisition is the latest win-now move in an offseason packed with them. Coming off their seventh straight non-playoff season and sixth consecutive sub-.500 campaign, the Phillies are aiming to push for a playoff spot in 2019 with newcomers Realmuto, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson and possibly Bryce Harper or Manny Machado helping lead the way. And Realmuto – who was the undisputed premier catcher in the game last year – will help their cause beyond the upcoming campaign, as he’s controllable through 2020.
For the Marlins, the Realmuto trade is the latest win-later move dating back to last winter, when the low-budget club traded Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon for futures. In Alfaro, they received a player who showed a penchant for striking out and little ability to walk from 2017-18, his first two seasons of extensive major league action. But Alfaro was nonetheless respectable at the plate during that span, and the cannon-armed 25-year-old is fresh off a season in which he earned raves from defensive metrics. To this point, then, Alfaro has been a satisfactory pro. However, whether Alfaro will continue to serve as an acceptable starter or fall backward could hinge on improving his high-strikeout, low-walk ways, especially considering he won’t keep running a career .405 batting average on balls in play.
While Alfaro’s the only current major leaguer Miami got for Realmuto, Sanchez looks like the biggest prize. Despite the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder’s diminutive stature, each of FanGraphs, Baseball America, MLB.com and ESPN’s Keith Law rank Sanchez between fifth and 35th on their list of the majors’ top prospects. All of those outlets and individuals agree the flamethrowing Sanchez has the upside of a front-line rotation piece, and at 20 years old, he’ll breathe new life into the Marlins’ farm system. Although Sanchez hasn’t pitched above the High-A level yet, once he gets to Miami, he could emerge as its best starter since the Jose Fernandez era came to a tragic conclusion in 2016.
Stewart, 21, is far less intriguing than Sanchez, with MLB.com ranking him as the Marlins’ No. 25 prospect. Whereas Sanchez is a potential No. 1 starter who possesses electrifying velocity, MLB.com regards Stewart as a possible back-end type whose velocity is “average.” To Stewart’s credit, though, he did post tremendous results last year at the Single-A level, where he logged a 2.06 ERA with 7.13 K/9, 1.66 BB/9 and a 62.1 percent groundball rate, mimicking the best version of Dallas Keuchel in that regard.
With Alfaro, Sanchez, Stewart and a bit more international spending room in tow, there’s plenty for Miami to dream on going forward. The Phillies, meanwhile, made a substantial near-term upgrade behind the plate, albeit one that cost them their previous No. 1 prospect and another promising hurler. In your estimation, how did the two teams fare in this swap? Cast your votes below…