Miami Marlins Rumors
The Marlins made a series of small moves as they wait for their young core to reach the Major League level and climb out of the NL East cellar.
Major League Signings
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C: Three years, $21MM.
- Garrett Jones, 1B/OF: Two years, $7.75MM.
- Jeff Baker, 1B/2B/OF: Two years, 3.7MM.
- Rafael Furcal, 2B: One year, $3MM.
- Carlos Marmol, RHP: One year, $1.25MM.
- Casey McGehee, 3B: One year, $1.1MM.
- Total Spend: $37.8MM.
Notable Minor League Signings
Trades and Claims
- Acquired RHP Carter Capps from the Mariners in exchange for 1B/OF Logan Morrison.
- Acquired OF Brian Bogusevic from the Cubs in exchange for OF Justin Ruggiano.
- Logan Morrison, Justin Ruggiano, Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, Chris Coghlan, Casey Kotchman, Chad Qualls, Ryan Webb
The Marlins' offseason began with a long-awaited shakeup that saw president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest dismissed, with assistant GM Dan Jennings being promoted to general manager and general manager Michael Hill assuming Beinfest's old role. The drama leading up to the decision was widely publicized, as Beinfest was long said to have clashed with owner Jeffrey Loria, who often went over Beinfest's head. One example was last summer's one-year extension for bench bat Greg Dobbs; the deal was said to be worked out by Loria and Dobbs' agent, with Beinfest not even being aware that the negotiations were taking place.
With the front-office shuffle out of the way, the Marlins set to work on supplementing their young core. While the Anibal Sanchez trade brought over young catcher Rob Brantly, who for a time looked to be the catcher of the future, Miami wasn't happy enough with Brantly's progress and elected to fill the void with their biggest signing of the offseason. Saltalamacchia (pictured) was brought in on a three-year, $21MM deal that proved to be far less expensive than most pundits had figured -- particularly after 35-year-old Carlos Ruiz signed a three-year, $26.5MM deal to remain with the Phillies.
While Saltalamacchia has his flaws -- he strikes out at a prolific rate and does not hit well from the right side of the dish -- the deal looks quite favorable when juxtaposed with the much older Ruiz's contract. Saltalamacchia's deal pays him for his age-29 to age-31 seasons. Beyond that, he's bound to be an improvement for a team that saw its catchers post a collective .192/.249/.280 batting line (no, that is not a typo) in 2013 -- good for the worst cumulative wRC+ (42) at that position in all of Major League Baseball.
Unhappy with the way former top prospect Morrison had turned out -- both on and off the field -- the Marlins traded the injury-plagued social media guru to the Mariners in exchange for a flamethrowing right-hander in the form of Capps. While Capps has a good deal of upside as a late-inning arm, it still seems a disappointing return for a player who once looked to be on his way to emerging as one of the National League's top young first basemen. Brash or not, LoMo twice ranked among Baseball America's Top 20 MLB prospects and slashed .259/.351/.460 in his age-22 to age-23 seasons before a pair of knee surgeries diminished his 2012-13 production.
The Marlins aimed big in their attempts to find an upgrade over Morrison, as they reportedly made a serious run at Cuban slugger Jose Abreu and were comfortable pursuing him even when it was learned that his price tag would exceed $50MM. Abreu ultimately signed with the White Sox on a six-year, $68MM contract, forcing Miami to look elsewhere.
It's no Abreu, but the Marlins were able to cobble together a cheap platoon that should be able to provide plenty of pop. The signings of Jones and Baker were met with little fanfare, but the duo could be an under-the-radar source of offense for the Fish. Baker pummelled lefties at a .314/.407/.667 clip with 10 homers in 123 PAs last season and has a career .298/.353/.522 line against southpaws. Likewise, the lefty-swinging Jones has a career .271/.337/.489 batting line against right-handed pitching. The pair may be defensively limited, but they could surprise at the plate.
Loria's issues with second base prospect Derek Dietrich were well-documented last year -- Loria wanted to hold Dietrich down in the minors due to the belief that he was one of the reasons hitting coach Tino Martinez resigned after players dubbed him abusive -- and the club sought to address that hole on the free agent market. Miami inked Furcal, a lifetime shortstop, to a one-year deal with the idea of him manning the keystone on an everyday basis.
Polanco provided veteran leadership but little else for the Marlins in 2013, and with retirement a likely outcome for Polanco, Miami plucked McGehee out of Nippon Professional Baseball on a cheap one-year deal. McGehee posted a monster season as Masahiro Tanaka's teammate with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, slashing .292/.376/.515 with 28 homers.
Losing Qualls was an undoubted hit to the bullpen, but Miami added Capps and took a reasonable gamble on Marmol's strikeouts. It's easy to chuckle at Marmol's struggles, but he's never whiffed fewer than 10.8 hitters per nine innings in a big league season. Even marginal improvement in his command could make him a weapon.
There's no doubt that Jose Fernandez is one of the best young pitchers in the game and the cornerstone of the Marlins' rotation; the $635K payday they gave him proves that, as the Marlins could've given him a mere $1K raise and not been alone in such a pre-arb payscale.
However, they neglected to add any veteran depth beyond re-signing Slowey to another minor league deal, and seem willing to proceed with Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez and Jacob Turner behind him in the rotation. Slowey, Tom Koehler, Brian Flynn, Andrew Heaney and others will compete for the fifth slot. The Marlins have depth, but a veteran arm on a one-year deal could've helped lessen the burden for their young stockpile of starters.
Likewise, they seem set to go with youth in the outfield alongside Giancarlo Stanton, as Jake Marisnick, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna battle for the other two slots. All three come with plenty of upside and have been Top 100 prospects, but each is also under the age of 24.
Turning toward the infield, there are question marks at all four spots. The aforementioned Baker/Jones platoon should hit, but neither has shown much defensive aptitude at first base. McGehee left for NPB due to a drastic decline at the plate. Adeiny Hechavarria's defense has impressed the Marlins, but he pulled off the rare feat of posting a sub-.300 average, OBP and slugging percentage in 2013 (.227/.267/.298). This year will be critical for him to show that his bat can trend closer to his Triple-A numbers (.327/.376/.446 in 606 PAs).
Furcal didn't play in 2013 as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, and at age 36, how much does he have left in the tank? He batted .264/.325/.346 in 2012 with the Cardinals and has appeared in just five games at second base since 2001. Can he really be an upgrade over Dietrich, who struggled offensively but showed plus pop with a .214/.275/.405 batting line? Among second basemen with 200+ PAs, only Robinson Cano and Jedd Gyorko bested Dietrich's .191 ISO. He did skip Triple-A, so perhaps some time at that level will improve his all-around game.
Of course, the biggest question with the Marlins on a year-to-year basis regards Stanton. Miami has said that the plan is to build around Stanton (and now Fernandez), but outside of Saltalamacchia and a failed push for Abreu, the Marlins did little this offseason to impress Stanton. Miami is counting on its young core to make large strides and form the basis of a winning team, but that could take until 2016, when Stanton has just one year of team control remaining. Stanton tweeted that he was "pissed off" following the Marlins' 2012-13 firesale in which they traded Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and others, effectively hitting the reset button just one year into a new stadium. Has the bridge been burned, or could those same players' inability to win with the Blue Jays (along with Miami's bounty of prospects) have quelled Stanton's anger?
Deal of Note
As stated above, the Morrison trade brought back a young arm with some upside, but was that the best possible return the team could have gotten? It's odd to think that Morrison wound up with the Mariners -- a team that already had Justin Smoak, Corey Hart, Jesus Montero and several other corner/DH type bats in house.
Fast forwarding to the present day, the Pirates and Brewers still lack a great deal of uncertainty at first base, and either team would likely consider Morrison an upgrade over its current in-house options. Capps has averaged 10.1 K/9 in his young career with decent control (3.6 BB/9) and an average fastball velocity of 96.5 mph. However, he's also yielded a .321/.414/.543 batting line to opposing lefties.
It's fair to wonder if a better deal for Morrison would have materialized had the Marlins exercised more patience.
The 2014 Marlins could be an improved team simply due to the fact that their young players have another year of big league experience under their belts. Adding Saltalamacchia should help to improve the team's production from behind the plate, but most of their other additions come with questions on defense, offense or both.
While the Marlins could win a few more games, their offseason dealings likely weren't enough to pull them out of last place in the NL East. They'll probably have another Top 5 to 10 selection in the 2015 draft after choosing second this year and sixth last year. However, the clock to extend Stanton is ticking, and an improved on-field product would likely help their cause. At some point, the results will need to show up on the field and in the standings, but for now, another Marlins rebuild continues.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Baseball prospect rankings are always fascinating, but often unsatisfying. Once all of the exciting projecting and future lineup construction has been completed, you are left to wait for the player to develop and reach the bigs. But youthful players more generally -- as distinguished from prospects -- can and often are a thing of the present. So, which teams have the best assemblage of young talent, prospects or otherwise? According to Jason Parks and the Baseball Prospectus staff, the Cardinals lead the way in a top five that belongs to the National League. The Pirates (#4) also land in that grouping, but the rest is occupied by National League East clubs: the Nationals (#2), Braves (#3), and Marlins (#5).
Here's more from the N.L. East:
- The Mets land at 12th on that list, led of course by a trio of young pitchers. One of those -- 21-year-old Mets hurler Noah Syndergaard -- has always wowed scouts with his stuff, but Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes that he has increasingly revealed a competitive personality as he's come out of his shell in New York. Mets brass is reportedly excited not only about Syndergaard's MLB-ready fastball, but also his attitude toward the role of being a starter. Of course, he does not figure to be much of a factor on the big league level this year, though scouts tell Martino that he could retire MLB batters at his current stage of development.
- Speaking of prospects, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America compiled a list of the players who received some consideration for inclusion in the outlet's Top 100. The two most notable names, perhaps, were A.J. Cole and Brian Goodwin of the Nationals, who appeared somewhere on every writer's list of the top 150 prospects and peaked at 49th and 51st, respectively. It is worth checking through the names for "just-missed" prospects from other teams.
- Freddy Garcia of the Braves is at quite the opposite side of his career at age 37. As MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports, Garcia has started the spring with a strong case for a rotation or pen slot, having now kept opponents off the basepaths entirely in his first five innings. If he ends up not receiving a big league spot, however, Garcia says that he will retire rather than spending time in the minors waiting for another shot.
Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies is highly motivated as he prepares for free agency, Matt Gelb of the Inquirer writes. Gelb points to Jason Vargas, Scott Feldman and Ricky Nolasco -- all of whom signed contracts worth at least $30MM -- as potential comparables for Kendrick. "When similar guys close to your numbers sign those deals, that's a good thing," says Kendrick. Kendrick has never pitched more than 182 innings in a season, so 200 innings in 2014 would likely go a long way toward helping him strike gold on the free-agent market. Here's more from the National League.
- The Diamondbacks' fate will be determined primarily by returning players like Paul Goldschmidt and Patrick Corbin, but their additions of Mark Trumbo, Bronson Arroyo and Addison Reed could be what finally gets them past .500, Nick Piecoro of AZCentral.com writes. The Diamondbacks are also likely to receive a contribution from top prospect Archie Bradley, although the addition of Arroyo should allow the team to give Bradley some extra minor-league time. Bradley, 21, pitched most of last season at Double-A Mobile.
- Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez tells the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer (via Twitter) that he will make $635K in 2014, a very significant raise for a pre-arbitration player. Earlier in the day, the Marlins announced that they had signed all of their 28 pre-arbitration-eligible players. Fernandez, of course, is following up a stellar first season in which he won the Rookie of the Year award and finished third in NL Cy Young voting.
Mets fans had a scare yesterday when projected Opening Day starter Jon Niese had to travel to New York to undergo an MRI after experiencing a dead arm. However, Mike Puma of the New York Post tweeted earlier today that the results of Niese's MRI were positive; doctors said his shoulder looked "perfect," and he will be able to resume throwing as soon as he returns to camp. Elsewhere in the NL East...
- CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury writes that 2014 could finally be the year that the Phillies trade Cliff Lee if they fall out of contention. Lee says that the concept of trade rumors don't matter to him: "I really don't care. There’s no sense really thinking about it. Honestly, it usually means a good thing. It means you’ve had success and other teams really want you." Lee's contract is guaranteed through the 2015 season and contains a vesting option for 2016.
- Rehabbing Phillies setup man Mike Adams threw his first bullpen of the spring today and said he felt great afterward, writes MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. Adams felt some discomfort when throwing from flat ground on monday, but the Phillies' head trainer assured him it was ok. Adams, set to earn $7MM in 2014 after missing most of 2013, said he threw at about 85 percent intensity today and could be in the Phillies' bullpen sometime in April.
- Christina De Nicola of FOX Sports Florida spoke to Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill about his wealth of pitching prospects. Beyond Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, and Jacob Turner, the Marlins also have minor leaguers Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, Anthony DeSclafani, Adam Conley, Brad Hand and Brian Flynn. "Those guys are all starting pitchers, which is an envious position to be in," Hill said. "We're proud of our depth, happy to have it and just hopeful that they all develop into what we think they can be."
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo calls recent trade acquisition Felipe Rivero a "huge-upside left-handed starter," writes James Wagner of the Washington Post. Wagner spoke with Rivero about his transition from the Rays organization to the Nationals.
Spoiler alert! Marlins president David Samson took on a very different role as a cast member in the current season of Survivor, but in tonight's premiere episode, Samson was the very first person voted out of the game by his tribemates. Another notable baseball personality, Jeff Kent, fared much better when he appeared on the long-running reality show in 2012, finishing 10th out of 18 contestants.
Here's the latest from around the division....
- Michael Hill, former Marlins GM and the club's newly-promoted president of baseball operations, speaks to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro about his philosophy in building a franchise, some of Miami's offseason moves and the development of creating a "Marlins Way" of aggressiveness throughout the organization.
- As of a week ago, the Nationals still had interest in free agent reliever Oliver Perez, a source tells MLB.com's Bill Ladson. Perez was reportedly choosing between four offers, and while Washington was linked to Perez earlier this month, it's unknown if the Nats were one of the clubs who offered the veteran southpaw a contract. Another source tells Ladson that the Nationals could pursue Perez as left-handed bullpen depth if Ross Detwiler keeps his spot in the starting rotation.
- Brock Peterson's 11-year odyssey in the minor leagues finally ended when he appeared in 23 games with the Cardinals last season. Peterson talks to MLB.com's Andrew Simon about his long career and his latest opportunity, as he chose to sign a minor league deal with the Nationals in the offseason.
- Mike Minor seems likely to be the next Braves player to receive a multiyear extension, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution predicts. O'Brien also thinks that while Kris Medlen is a bit older (28) than the other youngsters being locked up by the club, Medlen's performance is deserving of a long-term commitment from the team. Minor, 26, has three arbitration years remaining as a Super Two player and is eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. A Medlen extension would be more expensive for Atlanta, as Medlen is only under team control through the 2015 campaign.
Jimmy Rollins spoke with MLB.com's Todd Zolecki regarding the team's struggles last season and noted that 2013 was just one year, and he is looking forward to a new chapter. Rollins spoke about trade rumors that surrounded his name last summer, noting that he had no plans to waive his 10-and-5 rights if asked. Rollins, who is just 60 hits shy of becoming the franchise leader, said he doesn't plan on ever playing for another club: "I don't plan on putting on a different uniform," he said. More links pertaining to the Phillies and the NL East...
- Until the Phillies share their side of the Ben Wetzler controversy, the team will simply look vindictive, opines David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer. He adds that the Phillies clearly thought they'd be able to sign Wetzler, who instead returned to Oregon State for his senior season and is now unable to play after the Phillies notified the NCAA that they feel he violated the "no agent" rule. Murphy goes into detail on how the vast majority of draft prospects circumvent this rule.
- The only rationale that Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan can see for the Phillies' decisions regarding Wetzler and Jason Monda (who also declined to sign but has already been cleared by the NCAA) was to send a message to future draftees: "Sign or face, at the very least, an extended, attention-grabbing inconvenience." Like Murphy (and many baseball fans), Sullivan hopes to hear the Phillies' side of the story and their explanation behind making what he calls an "unambiguously bad decision" that seemingly benefited no one.
- Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post writes that Giancarlo Stanton is ok with the fact that the Marlins don't want to have extension talks until after the season. Stanton said that Freddie Freeman's recent eight-year, $135MM extension with the Braves won't be on his mind this season, though he did tip his hand a little in stating, "The contract would be similar, I guess."
- Mets ace Matt Harvey tells Adam Rubin of ESPN New York that he's been cleared to begin tossing a baseball in the next couple of days. Rubin writes that Harvey is not yet resigned to missing the entire 2014 season, but the Mets have stated in the past that Harvey will not pitch in 2014. "I'd always love to pitch and get back out there, but I don't make those decisions," said Harvey.
- Newsday's Marc Carig writes that despite his elite defense in center field, Juan Lagares isn't a lock to be an everyday player for the Mets in 2014. Carig talked with an official from another club whose background is in analytics, with that official noting that a key factor in defensive metrics is a need to factor in regression due to the volatile year-to-year nature of defensive numbers.
The latest on the 2013 World Series champs...
- David Ortiz told John Tomase of the Boston Herald that he's sick of the negative public response when he discusses his desire for a new contract (though he did so with far more colorful language, as Tomase notes). As far as how long he wants to continue his career, Big Papi offered the following: "When you put up numbers like I’m putting up, who’s thinking about retiring, know what I’m saying? People keep on asking me, how long do you want to play? When are you going to retire? Dude, look at my numbers. I ain’t planning on retiring right now. When I slow down, then I’ll retire."
- Ortiz told WEEI.com's Alex Speier (Twitter link) that if no deal is done prior to his next venture into free agency following this season: "...then we'll be talking about a real contract."
- Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe outlines many of the reasons that make it logical for the Red Sox to be interested in re-signing Stephen Drew, and then explains why, in spite of those reasons, they should let him walk. Abraham opines that Xander Bogaerts needs to be given a chance to maximize his value at shortstop, that Will Middlebrooks' 2012 and late 2013 flashes of excellence make him worthy of another chance, and that the value of an additional draft pick when Drew signs elsewhere outweigh the benefit of bringing Drew back to Boston.
- Francisco Cordero had interest from both the Orioles and Marlins, but he chose the Red Sox after admiring their 2013 World Series run while watching at home in the Dominican Republic, Speier writes. Cordero, who says he dropped 30 pounds this offseason, doesn't have an opt-out clause in his deal, but Speier writes that he and the team have an understanding where Cordero will be allowed out of his contract if he's not going to make Boston's roster and has an opportunity with another team. Cordero said he felt like a kid again when he put on his Red Sox jersey and feels that he didn't join a team, he joined a family.
6:20pm: The Red Sox are also talking with Capuano, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Boston recently learned that rotation option Ryan Dempster would take the year off, reducing the team's depth but also relieving it of the obligation to pay him.
Of course, the Red Sox are likely not in a position to promise Capuano a regular turn in the rotation. As Rosenthal tweets, the team is interested in a "swing type" pitcher that is capable of throwing both as a starter and in relief.
9:19am: MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets that the Marlins and White Sox have also been in touch with Capuano this winter.
7:40am: The Mariners are showing "decent interest" in southpaw Chris Capuano, and talks between the two sides are ongoing, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Heyman writes that Capuano has been seeking a two-year deal, though it's not clear if that is still his goal or if his price has come down.
Capuano, 35, battled calf and lat injuries in 2013, and he also was relegated to the bullpen for a portion of the season as a result of the Dodgers' starting pitching depth. The result was a total of just 105 2/3 innings -- 92 2/3 fewer than he threw in 2012. In his two years with L.A., Capuano posted a 3.91 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 304 innings of work. His 46.4 percent ground-ball rate in 2013 was his best mark since 2003 when he threw just 33 innings, though it wasn't reflected in his ERA due to struggles in stranding baserunners (68.9 percent) and an abnormally high .334 BABIP.
Heyman writes that the Mariners also had discussions with Ubaldo Jimenez prior to his four-year, $50MM deal with the Orioles, and they've been in talks with Ervin Santana as well. However, signing Capuano to augment their rotation instead of Santana would leave additional funds to add another bat, such as Kendrys Morales or Nelson Cruz.
Here are today's minor moves from around baseball.
- The Giants have agreed to terms on a minor-league deal with 3B/OF Mark Teahen, MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo tweets. The deal does not include an invite to Major-League spring training. Teahen spent most of the 2013 season with the independent York Revolution, but he also played short stints with Triple-A Reno (Diamondbacks) and Round Rock (Rangers). He last appeared in the big leagues in 2011.
- The Marlins have outrighted pitcher Chris Hatcher to the minors, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro tweets. MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo previously noted that Hatcher had cleared waivers. The righty spend most of last season with Triple-A New Orleans, where he posted a 3.61 ERA with 8.7 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 67 1/3 innings. He also made seven appearances in the big leagues, allowing 13 runs. The Marlins designated Hatcher for assignment when they added Carlos Marmol.
Paredes played parts of the 2011 through 2013 seasons for the Astros, where he hit .234/.274/.311 in 396 total plate appearances. He also hit .287/.345/.462 in 358 plate appearances at Triple-A Oklahoma City last year, playing shortstop, third base and second base as well as outfield. The Marlins claimed him from the Astros in November.