- The Marlins are taking a look at a notable arm of their own, as Craig Mish of Sirius XM tweets that righty Dan Straily has been diagnosed with a “slight elbow strain.” In a subsequent announcement, the team called it “mild right forearm inflammation” and said Straily won’t throw for five or six days. (H/t MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, via Twitter.) That said, Straily — who the Marlins held onto despite moving other veteran assets over the winter — may not be ready to open the season, which would leave a big hole in an already-patchworked Miami rotation. The Fish also announced today that young righty Sandy Alcantara has been optioned, so he’s evidently not in the plans for the early-season rotation. Roster Resource now predicts that Jacob Turner will claim a roster spot out of camp.
We’ll keep track of the day’s minor moves here…
- The Marlins’ media info account tweeted that the team has acquired third baseman Eric Jagielo from the Reds in exchange for cash considerations. Jagielo was selected by the Yankees in the first round of the 2013 draft. After an excellent 2015 season with the club’s Double-A affiliate, Jagielo was a key piece in the trade that sent Aroldis Chapman to the New York Yankees. Since then, however, his power has mysteriously disappeared, and he’s struggled to be productive in the upper levels of the Reds’ farm system. After a midseason promotion to Triple-A last year, Jagielo struggled to a .161/.283/.195 slash line across 139 plate appearances.
- The Marlins have added left-hander Sean Burnett on a minor-league pact, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports. He’ll start off in extended spring training. Now 35, Burnett has 378 1/3 career innings under his belt, almost entirely as a reliever. Though he appeared in the majors as recently as 2016 (with the Nationals), the southpaw hasn’t pitched more than ten innings in a season since a very successful 2012 campaign. In that season, he managed an impressive 2.38 ERA across 70 appearances out of the bullpen for the Nats, striking out 9.05 batters per nine while walking just 1.91.
This is the latest entry in MLBTR’s 2017-18 Offseason In Review series. Click here to read the other completed reviews from around the league.
It’s a new era in Miami, but there are sure to be growing pains after a winter of upheaval.
Major League Signings
- Cameron Maybin, OF: One year, $3.25MM
Trades And Claims
- Acquired OF Lewis Brinson, OF Monte Harrison, IF Isan Diaz, RHP Jordan Yamamoto from Brewers in exchange for OF Christian Yelich
- Acquired RHP Sandy Alcantara, OF Magneuris Sierra, RHP Zac Gallen & LHP Daniel Castano from Cardinals in exchange for OF Marcell Ozuna
- Acquired 2B Starlin Castro, RHP Jorge Guzman, IF Jose Devers from Yankees in exchange for OF Giancarlo Stanton
- Acquired RHP Nick Neidert, RHP Robert Dugger & IF Christopher Torres from Mariners in exchange for 2B/CF Dee Gordon
- Acquired 1B Garrett Cooper & LHP Caleb Smith from Yankees in exchange for RHP Michael King & $250K international pool money
- Claimed C Chad Wallach off waivers from Reds
- Selected RHP Elieser Hernandez from Astros in Rule 5 Draft
- Selected RHP Brett Graves from Athletics in Rule 5 Draft
Notable Minor League Signings
- Cristhian Adames, Eric Campbell, Tyler Cloyd, Jumbo Diaz, Johnny Giavotella, Bryan Holaday, Javy Guerra, Rafael Ortega, Yadiel Rivera, J.B. Shuck, Jacob Turner, Scott Van Slyke
- Stanton, Ozuna, Yelich, Gordon, Suzuki, A.J. Ellis, Dustin McGowan, Tyler Moore, Edinson Volquez, Vance Worley
The sale of the Marlins to a group led by control person Bruce Sherman was not formally consummated until the end of the 2017 season, so the ensuing winter represented the launching of an entire new era in Marlins baseball. Though the Fish retained baseball operations president Michael Hill and skipper Don Mattingly, the entire organization is now marching to the beat of rookie CEO Derek Jeter.
Even as Jeter launched a series of new initiatives on the business side, he and Hill oversaw a major sell-off of MLB assets. That decision drew plenty of indignation, to be sure, but certainly was understandable in many ways. Miami had finished the prior season with just 77 wins and was clearly a few good arms away from being a plausible challenger in a top-loaded National League. The new ownership group’s business plan, meanwhile, required a significant drop in payroll. Skeptics would point out that the spending cut was necessitated by the hefty purchase price, which chiefly benefited much-reviled former owner Jeffrey Loria.
No matter one’s perspective, the bottom line was plain as could be: the Marlins had to strike multiple trades involving key veterans. With no prospect of saving money on a slate of underperforming contracts to players such as Wei-Yin Chen, Martin Prado, Edinson Volquez, Brad Ziegler, and Junichi Tazawa, attention turned to a superstar slate of outfielders that made up the core of the team.
The focus, from the get-go, was on superhuman slugger — and reigning NL MVP — Giancarlo Stanton. But the first outfielder the Marlins traded didn’t even play that position in Miami. Second bagger Dee Gordon was shipped to the Mariners to become their new center fielder. As had been expected, Gordon’s fairly significant contract did not allow the Marlins to reap a significant haul in talent.
While not a pure salary dump, the Gordon trade made it clear beyond any question that the team was open for business and ready to move dollars. A steady progression of trade talks ensued.
The Stanton sweepstakes occupied headlines for the first portion of the offseason — so much so that (at the time, at least) many believed his ongoing availability was slowing the rest of the winter business. A no-trade clause left significant power in Stanton’s court and surely didn’t make things easy for Hill. He had lined up deals with the Giants and Cardinals, but meetings between Stanton and those organizations did not facilitate swaps. The Yankees stepped into that void, sending Starlin Castro to fill in for Gordon and help offset a portion of Stanton’s monster contract. While the two prospects in the deal aren’t household names, they’re considered intriguing talents and are certainly known well to Marlins exec Gary Denbo, who came over from the Yankees only months earlier as Jeter’s hand-picked addition to the baseball ops department.
It came as little surprise when, a few days later, the Fish wound up completing a deal with the Cards. Having already talked over quite a few prospects, the teams quickly came together on Marcell Ozuna, who isn’t Stanton’s equal as a player but had a breakout 2017 season and appealing contract situation. With two years of arbitration left, it was clear he’d have to be cashed in now.
It’s no accident that those three players went first. The Marlins’ methodical march down the line was designed to bring some order to the process of auctioning players. It started with those who most clearly needed to be moved to get the salary back in line.
The remainder of the team’s trade chips, though, were not in such black-and-white circumstances. As the calendar flipped to 2018, there were still quite a few trade candidates — some of whom expressed their consternation with the team’s direction publicly. Eventually, in one last major move, the Marlins completed the dismantling of their once-great outfield by sending Christian Yelich to the Brewers — a deal we’ll cover in full below.
The above-described trades, which delivered Castro and a variety of young outfielders at or near major-league readiness, filled some of the gaps they created. Otherwise, Miami has utilized the means familiar to all rebuilding teams to fill out its roster.
The Marlins have thus far completed just one MLB signing, a modest one-year pact with veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin. Given the payroll plan, it’s not surprising that the organization has not been interested in spending on one-year veterans who could prop things up and turn into trade chips. Other than Maybin, the Fish have been content competing jobs among untested rookies and the players who were added through low-risk means over the offseason. As things stand, the Opening Day roster could conceivably include three or four position players who were picked up in minor trades or on minor-league deals, especially with infielders Martin Prado and J.T. Riddle both nursing injuries.
Frankly, the Marlins’ future likely won’t be impacted much by the final roster decisions they make coming out of camp. Even if they perform, players like Scott Van Slyke and Jacob Turner are unlikely to be around for very long. At the same time, they won’t be allowed to stand in the way of the development of young talent (or, perhaps, the opportunity to pick up any interesting players who shake loose from other organizations late in camp). We’ll focus here, then, on the longer-term matters that will be impacted by the season to come.
Drastic though the changes have been, the cuts could’ve gone deeper. And they may yet. It’s still a bit surprising that catcher J.T. Realmuto has not been traded with just three years of control remaining (particularly after he requested he be dealt). If he continues to perform, he could be a hotly pursued talent at the trade deadline or next winter. Likewise, righty Dan Straily is a solid and affordable rotation piece who could make quite a lot of sense for other organizations. And though his contract is an obstacle, Castro is a productive and still-youthful player. The latter two players are also both controlled for three campaigns.
True, dealing either of those players would mean opening a rather significant hole on the roster. At the right price, though, the Marlins have to be willing to make a move. Odds are, after all, that the rebuilding process will still be ongoing as these three quality performers are nearing the open market.
Those aren’t the only trade candidates whose performances will be watched in 2018. First baseman Justin Bour could hold appeal, though there’s also not much reason to think demand will be robust given the collapse of the market for similar sluggers. Brad Ziegler will function as the closer in Miami and will be a clear trade candidate if he can engineer a bounceback campaign. Reliever Junichi Tazawa is also seeking to make good in the second year of his free-agent deal. Veteran infielder Martin Prado and lefty Wei-Yin Chen are owed far more than their market value at present, though perhaps the Fish could save some future salary obligations if things break right.
Of course, money isn’t the only factor in the rebuild. The young talent brought back in the team’s various winter swaps will also be looked upon to develop a new core that can generate fan excitement and ultimately spur a return to contention. In some cases, perhaps, the organization will be able to see the future right from the get-go. Righty Sandy Alcantara and outfielder Magneuris Sierra, both acquired in the Ozuna deal, could well contribute in 2018. But most eyes will be on the players recouped in the club’s most interesting winter trade …
Deal of Note
Sure, the Stanton deal created the most intrigue. But it was nearly inevitable that his huge contract would be moved when the organization determined it couldn’t support a payroll increase to build around the existing core. Failed signings that had been intended to build around the team’s three exciting young outfielders largely sealed the fate of Stanton and Ozuna.
But Yelich’s situation was somewhat different. Unlike Ozuna, he accepted an early-career extension. And it worked out swimmingly. The 26-year-old Yelich has been steadily productive and has even shown some promise of improving further. And the price, of course, is quite appealing — so much so that he did not necessarily have to be traded. Yelich is owed just $7MM for the coming season, with future salaries that never top $15MM through 2022 (the last year via option).
Those same factors also made Yelich plenty marketable, though, and the Marlins were obviously able to generate enough interest to pull the trigger on a move. Giving up five affordable seasons of a quality young regular is a tough thing to do. This trade, more than the others, has the potential to sting if the players acquired don’t live up to expectations.
The Marlins no doubt hope that Lewis Brinson will be an exciting, high-value performer right out of the gates. He’s likely to step right into Yelich’s shoes in center. After all, Brinson has nothing more to prove at Triple-A and has enjoyed a productive spring thus far. While he’s expected to be a productive defender, though, there are divergent views on his likely outcome as a hitter, so there’s still some risk here.
If the Fish really hit it big, they’ll end up with two new outfielders out of this deal, as they were also able to pry Monte Harrison from the Brewers. The 22-year-old ripped up High-A pitching last year and may not be too far from the big leagues if he can show similarly in the upper minors. Like Brinson, Harrison has tools aplenty, though he has more developmental hurdles still left to clear.
Both of the other players acquired in this deal, infielder Isan Diaz and righty Jordan Yamamoto, are graded among the Marlins’ top 25 or so prospects. They’re joined by a host of other players who came to the organization in this winter’s trading frenzy.
By and large, the coming season will be focused on development and weighing transactional opportunities — including both trades of existing veterans and perhaps also keeping an eye out for talented players who can be had for a low acquisition cost from other teams. The Marlins will be evaluating players such as Brian Anderson, J.T. Riddle, and Justin Nicolino, in addition to some of those listed above, while hoping that righty Jose Urena can show that his solid 2017 results weren’t a fluke.
While the new ownership group has already taken the brunt of fan frustration over the selloff, though, that doesn’t mean it’s time to coast. The baseball ops department still has some very tough potential decisions ahead of it on talented and popular players.
How would you grade the Marlins’ efforts this winter? (Link for app users.)
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Marlins third baseman Martin Prado has suffered a setback in his recovery from right knee surgery and will open the 2018 season on the disabled list, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. In his place, the Marlins will turn to one of their top organizational prospects, Brian Anderson, to man the hot corner early in the year.
Manager Don Mattingly tells Frisaro that while Prado was already borderline for Opening Day, the team had initially hoped he could join them by an April 9 home series against the Mets. The latest news on his knee, however, will push Prado’s return date further back. While there’s not yet a set timetable on his availability, it seems likely that Prado, who = hasn’t played in a spring game yet, will be out until at least mid-April.
Prado is still owed a total of $28.5MM over the next two seasons, and while the rebuilding Marlins would undoubtedly love to shed that contract — or at least a notable portion of it — the ongoing knee troubles all but entirely remove that possibility at present.
As for the 24-year-old Anderson, he’s fresh off an impressive .275/.361/.492 slash with 22 homers, 21 doubles and three triples through 498 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017. Anderson struck out at a 19.7 percent clip in that time against a solid 9.6 percent walk rate as he rose through the minors, and he also held his own (.265/.337/.369) in a brief 95-PA sample with the big league club. MLB.com ranks him ninth among Miami farmhands, noting that his hands, range and plus arm make him a fit at third base.
- The only sure bets to crack the Marlins’ season-opening rotation are Dan Straily and Jose Urena, leaving 10 candidates for three spots, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald writes. “It could go down to the wire,” manager Don Mattingly said of the crowded race. Spencer goes on to highlight all 10 candidates, including prospect Sandy Alcantara – whom the Marlins acquired in their Marcell Ozuna trade with the Cardinals over the winter.
- In other news that’s largely of historical interest, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag provided some notes on the Padres’ offseason efforts. The team was able to land Eric Hosmer after Kansas City was unable to earn ownership authorization for its initially reported, seven-year offer, Heyman reports. That seemingly helps explain why subsequent reports indicated that K.C. never went that high in the bidding. San Diego also “made a big play” for outfielder Christian Yelich before he was shipped from the Marlins to the Brewers, Heyman notes in his leaguewide rundown of information. Notably, the Pads effectively ended up adding an outfielder when they inked Hosmer, thus pushing Wil Myers back onto the grass.
- Some of the above information suggests, to an extent, that some players missed chances at bigger earnings, though perhaps it might only mean that others would have ended up enduring rough trips through free agency. And the reported offers are hardly overwhelming numbers for those players. Those interested in the broader subject of labor relations will certainly want to read this recent piece from Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston, who takes a long look at what the union could do to begin fighting back against some of the problems that have arisen from the players’ perspective under the current CBA. Meanwhile, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America also tackles the subject, arguing that the owners will need to be careful not to press their advantage too strongly. And union chief Tony Clark discussed some of the qualms with the Marlins, who are one of the teams facing a grievance from the MLBPA, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports.
- Lefty Hunter Cervenka has been released by the Marlins, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). Cervenka, who recently turned 28, was outrighted off of the 40-man roster over the winter. He has 48 MLB innings under his belt but has not yet shown an ability to stay in the zone, with 6.8 BB/9 in that span. Cervenka spent the bulk of 2017 at Triple-A, where he worked to a 4.58 ERA with 8.9 K/9 and 5.9 BB/9 over 39 1/3 innings.
- Marlins right-hander Brett Graves is also dealing with an oblique issue of undetermined severity, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. He’ll be shut down from throwing “for at least a few more days” as the team further evaluates. Graves’ status is of particular note given that he’s with the Marlins after being selected out of the Athletics organization in the Rule 5 Draft. While the rebuilding Marlins are clearly in a better position than most to carry a Rule 5 pick for a whole season, even a short absence would truncate the team’s ability to evaluate him first-hand this spring. Graves, 25, pitched to a 4.47 ERA between Class-A Advanced and Double-A last season, logging 56 1/3 innings with 9.1 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9. He’s allowed five runs on four hits and four walks with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings this spring. Frisaro also notes that righty Brian Ellington won’t throw for a few days due to tendinitis in his right biceps. Ellington is vying for a big league bullpen job after whiffing 48 hitters in 44 2/3 MLB frames last year. Those strikeouts, however, came with a sky-high 7.25 ERA.
- The Marlins aren’t yet certain if veteran infielder Martin Prado will be healthy enough to take the field come Opening Day, writes Andre C. Fernandez of the Miami Herald. The team’s hope is that Prado will be able to play in some Grapefruit League games by the middle of this month, but there’s still no set timeline for when he’ll get into the lineup. If Prado isn’t ready for the opneer, it could pave the way for prospect Brian Anderson, who made his MLB debut late in the 2017 season, to get a look at the hot corner and prove that he’s capable of sticking at the big league level. The Marlins won’t push Anderson into that role if they don’t feel he’s ready, though skipper Don Mattingly had plenty of praise for Anderson’s work at third, his swing and his overall work ethic.
- Major League Baseball recently held a showcase for some of the top international prospects who will become available when the 2018-19 international signing window opens on July 2. In a subscription-only piece, Baseball America’s Ben Badler (two links) has the breakdown of some of the pitchers who made a particular impression, with some of these young arms already linked to such teams as the Cubs, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Phillies.