- The potential price tag in a sale of the Marlins could dip further below the reported $1.3 billion mark that both the Derek Jeter/Jeb Bush and Tom Glavine/Tagg Romney groups were said to be willing to exceed, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman. Heyman spoke to one person with knowledge of the Bush-Jeter group in particular and said that group is still short of the necessary capital to formally make such a bid. He adds that some potential suitors for the Marlins have backed away after looking “under the hood,” so to speak, which gels with previous reports that the team’s lack of revenue and long-term payroll commitments could be negatively impacting the sale process.
- Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich is confident that he can avoid the disabled list after suffering what now looks to be a minor hip flexor injury, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Perhaps of greater consequence in the long term, Frisaro adds that there’s yet to be any discussion of Tommy John surgery for Marlins southpaw Wei-Yin Chen. Dr. Neal ElAttrache examined Chen’s left elbow recently and recommended rest as the best option for the ailing lefty. “Everybody hears ’tear’ and fears the worse, but a sprain is technically a tear,” said Marlins president of baseball ops Mike Hill. “Like, with anything, if there is an injury, you try to maintain it and give it the rest that it needs to be effective.”
- Things obviously haven’t gone as hoped thus far for the Marlins, though that doesn’t mean president of baseball operations Mike Hill is giving up just yet, as Tim Healey of the Sun-Sentinel reports. Time may be running short to engineer a turnaround, but “there’s no panic” in the organization, says Hill. With lapses cropping up all over the roster, says the veteran executive, “it makes it even harder” to find a solution. For the time being, then, it seems there’s little the club can do but continue to press on.
- Outfielder Christian Yelich is among the Marlins players who has not quite performed to expectations thus far. Now, he’s dealing with a new injury, as Healey reports. Yelich left last night’s game after his right hip flexor tightened up. The club is waiting to see how Yelich feels today before determining the next steps.
- Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters today that left-hander Wei-Yin Chen has undergone another platelet-rich plasma injection in his ailing left elbow (Twitter link via the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Tim Healey). Chen had a PRP in that same elbow last summer and was able to return after an absence of about two months. At this point, however, the Marlins still don’t have any idea when the southpaw will be cleared to rejoin the rotation. As I noted yesterday when running down the various opt-out decisions that will impact the upcoming class of free agents, Chen’s injury makes it nearly impossible to fathom a scenario where he opts out of the remaining three years on his five-year, $80MM contract.
Recently, I took a quick look at all of the players with vesting options for the 2018 season, noting that many of the outcomes within will have significant ramifications for both the upcoming free-agent market and the future of those players’ respective teams. The implications are even greater for the eight players that have opt-out provisions of some type at the end of the current season. In some cases, the opt-out in question could either liberate that player’s team from more than $80MM in future commitments or saddle them with that same burdensome amount. (And, in most cases, if the player isn’t opting out, the remaining salary is indeed a burden, as the player either performed too poorly to opt out and/or got hurt.)
Here’s a look at the opt-out decisions that are looming at season’s end…
- Justin Upton, Tigers: The disastrous start to Upton’s six-year, $132.5MM contract now looks like a distant memory. After struggling to a .228/.286/.369 batting line through his first three months in the Motor City, Upton has surged with a .255/.342/.535 slash and 31 home runs over his past 471 big league plate appearances. Strikeouts are still an issue for Upton, but he’s also walking more than ever (15 percent in 2017). He’s on pace to finish the season right around the 30-homer mark, and if he can do so with an OBP in the mid-.300s and respectable marks in left field — he’s currently at +4 DRS and +3.4 UZR — then the remaining four years and $88.5MM on his contract will pose an interesting decision for Upton, who is currently playing out his age-29 season.
- Johnny Cueto, Giants: Cueto looked like an ace in his first year with San Francisco but has stumbled to a 4.50 ERA through his first 58 innings with the Giants in 2017. He’s still averaging better than eight punchouts per nine innings to go along with solid (but diminished) control. However, he’s seen his ground-ball rate plummet from 50 percent to 39 percent, and paired with the increase in walk rate (1.8 BB/9 to 2.5 BB/9), that has led to some issues. There’s still plenty of time for Cueto to get back on track, but the remaining four years and $84MM on his contract doesn’t look quite as easy to walk away from as it did just seven weeks ago. He’ll be 32 next season.
- Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees: Cueto’s slow start looks Cy Young-worthy when juxtaposed with Tanaka, who has logged a ghastly 6.56 ERA through 48 innings in 2017. Like Cueto, Tanaka has seen his control take a step back, though his strikeout and ground-ball rates are consistent, and his velocity is fine. Tanaka’s average on balls in play is up, however, and his homer-to-flyball rate has skyrocketed from 12 percent to 24.5 percent. Given his age (29 in November), Tanaka would be a virtual lock to opt out of the remaining three years and $67MM on his contract with a good season. If he can’t overcome his home-run woes, however, he may instead opt for the substantial amount of guaranteed cash remaining on his deal.
- Wei-Yin Chen, Marlins: Chen’s opt-out is perhaps the easiest to determine of any player on this list. Unfortunately for the Marlins, that’s due to the fact that he’s currently sidelined indefinitely due to arm troubles. Chen is on the disabled list with arm fatigue, though it’s been reported previously that he’d been pitching through a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, which was sustained in 2016. Chen hasn’t pitched well as a Marlin even when healthy, and at this point it would take a quick recovery and a dominant finish for him to even consider opting out of the remaining three years and $52MM on his contract.
- Ian Kennedy, Royals: Kennedy has logged a solid 3.74 ERA in 233 1/3 innings since signing a five-year deal with Kansas City, but he’s already in his age-32 season. His strikeout rate and control have taken a step back in 2017 as well, and he’s remained homer-prone despite pitching half his games at the spacious Kauffman Stadium. Kennedy turned in a very strong final four months in his last contract season — which helped him land this surprising contract in the first place — but it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll opt out of the remaining three years and $49MM on his current contract.
- Greg Holland, Rockies: To be clear, Holland cannot technically opt out of his contract just yet. The one-year, $7MM contract that he signed with the Rox contained a $10MM mutual option that can vest as a $15MM player option if Holland finishes 30 games. At this juncture, though, it seems as if an injury is all that can stop Holland’s player option from vesting. He’s already finished 20 of the 30 games he needs, and he’s currently boasting a preposterous 0.96 ERA with a 26-to-6 K/BB ratio through 18 2/3 innings. Apparently, pitching at Coors Field suits Holland just fine, though if he keeps this up, it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll turn down the one year and $15MM he’d receive for a second season at Coors and hit the market in search of a lucrative three- or four-year contract.
- Matt Wieters, Nationals: The stagnant offseason market for Wieters’ services culminated in a two-year, $21MM contract with the Nats that offers Wieters the opportunity to test free agency once again next winter, if he wishes. To this point, it’s looking likely that Wieters will pass on that player option. His walks, hard-hit rate and BABIP are up, none of which has come at the expense of his strikeout rate. Wieters is hitting a solid .283/.358/.442 with four homers on the year. His caught-stealing rate is down (23 percent), and his framing remains questionable, but the improved offense makes it seem likely that, even if Wieters again struggles to find the strong multi-year deal he craves, a contract comparable to the one year and $10.5MM he can opt out of will once again be available on the open market.
- Welington Castillo, Orioles: Castillo’s two-year, $13MM contract with the Orioles was a pleasant surprise for a player who had previously been locked into arbitration in Arizona before surprisingly being non-tendered. He’s off to a torrid .348/.375/.543 start to the season with four homers and six doubles through 96 plate appearances. There’s a fair bit of luck involved in that production, as evidenced by the 30-year-old’s .418 BABIP. But his strikeouts are down this season, and he’s thrown out a career-best 41 percent of attempted base thieves. His framing marks, while still below average, have improved on a per-pitch basis as well. His glove may prevent him from fully cashing in, but Castillo’s bat could make the remaining one year and $7MM on his contract easy enough to walk away from, assuming he’s healthy.
- The Marlins announced that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Vance Worley, who will start their game against the Dodgers on Sunday. Worley hadn’t cracked the majors this year until now, having spent the first month-plus at Triple-A after inking a minor league deal in early April. The 29-year-old Worley hasn’t been great at that level, with a 4.43 ERA, 4.43 K/9 and 2.22 BB/9 in 44 2/3 innings. The well-traveled swingman has prevented runs at a respectable clip in the majors, though, evidenced by a 3.75 ERA over 595 1/3 career frames.
- The Marlins outrighted Mike Aviles to Triple-A yesterday, as per a team announcement. Aviles was signed to a minor league deal less than two weeks ago and was already promoted for a brief stint in the bigs due to Miami’s lack of infield depth, though Aviles was designated for assignment after Christian Colon was claimed off waivers.
- “The Marlins would surely part with” Dee Gordon if they could find a trade partner at the deadline. Miami was reportedly ready to deal Gordon for pitching help over the offseason, though no trade or even any significant rumors even materialized. Gordon has hit just .263/.308/.326 over 522 PA since the start of the 2016 season, a year that saw the second baseman miss 80 games after testing positive for PEDs. He is also owed $38MM from 2018-20 as per the terms of his five-year, $50MM extension signed in the 2015-16 offseason, further hampering the Marlins’ chances of finding a trade fit.
- The Marlins have announced that infielder Steve Lombardozzi cleared waivers and was sent outright to their Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans. The veteran could have rejected the outright assignment in favor of free agency but accepted and will continue on in New Orleans in hopes of earning another big league look. The 28-year-old Lombardozzi appeared in just two games with the Marlins and went hitless in eight at-bats. He’s a career .260/.292/.333 hitter in parts of six Major League seasons (this year included).
May 19: The Marlins announced that Koehler’s optional assignment has been voided due to the fact that he has been diagnosed with bursitis in his right shoulder. Rather than being optioned to the minors, he’s instead been placed on the Major League 10-day disabled list (retroactive to May 17).
Teams aren’t allowed to option a player to the minor leagues when he is injured, and Miami assuredly would’ve faced a grievance had Koehler been placed on the minor league DL rather than the Major League DL. He’ll now continue to accrue service time as he works back from his shoulder troubles, though there’s yet to be any indication as to how long he might be on the shelf.
May 16: The Marlins announced following tonight’s game that right-hander Tom Koehler has been optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. That’s a fairly surprising development not because of Koehler’s performance but simply due to the fact that the 30-year-old has been a mainstay in the Miami rotation since 2013. In fact, Koehler hasn’t thrown a single pitch in the minors since that 2013 campaign.
Over the winter, Koehler and the Marlins avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal that guarantees the right-hander a $5.75MM salary. Between that salary and the fact that Koehler has more than four years of Major League service time, he’s hardly the type of player that is typically optioned to the minors.
Of course, one would be hard-pressed to argue that Koehler didn’t pitch his way off the 2017 staff. The righty was tagged for eight runs on seven hits and four walks through just three innings tonight, causing his already unsightly ERA to balloon from 5.60 to 7.04. Koehler has already surrendered 10 home runs this year in just 38 1/3 innings, which has been the primary reason for his painful numbers.
The downturn in production for Koehler was rapid; prior to this season, he’d been a durable, albeit somewhat unspectacular rotation cog for Miami on a yearly basis. From 2013-16, Koehler worked to a 4.14 ERA with 6.8 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 and averaged 30 starts and 175 innings per year. While his velocity and his K/9, BB/9 and ground-ball rates in 2017 have all remained similar to their 2016 levels, though, Koehler’s homer-to-flyball ratio has soared from 12.1 percent to 21.7 percent. While there’s likely at least some randomness at play there, his efforts can’t be aided by the fact that he’s seen a dramatic decrease in his first-pitch strike rate and his opponents’ chase rate.
Koehler will join fellow Opening Day rotation-mate Adam Conley in New Orleans, leaving Miami with a starting corps that consists of Edinson Volquez, Dan Straily, Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena. Left-handers Wei-Yin Chen and Jeff Locke are currently on the disabled list — there’s no timetable for Chen’s return — and the team is thin on options to replace Koehler. Conley could conceivably be a candidate, but he was only just optioned himself and didn’t pitch well in his first outing with New Orleans. Veterans Vance Worley and Odrisamer Despaigne are both with the Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate (Despaigne is on the 40-man roster; Worley is not) and could merit a look.
From a service time vantage point, the demotion could have serious implications for Koehler, who entered the year with four years, 16 days (4.016) days of Major League service time. He’d need to accrue a fairly substantial 156 days of MLB service in 2017 to reach five years of MLB service and position himself to be eligible for free agency following the 2018 campaign, so if Koehler spends even a month in the Majors it’d push his free agency back by a year. Then again, if he can’t right the ship, his production to date would likely result in a non-tender following the year anyhow.