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Jeff Baker Rumors
The Marlins announced that they have released veteran infielder Jeff Baker. The 34-year-old is in the second season of a two-year, $3.7MM deal signed with Miami.
Baker has long been a weapon against left-handed pitching, but his numbers against southpaws dipped overall this year. He batted .208/.288/.375 in 80 plate appearances this season. Baker has been in the Majors for parts of 11 seasons and is a lifetime .296/.350/.509 hitter versus left-handed pitching.
The Marlins are telling teams that they are prepared to field offers for a variety of short-term assets, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. Specifically, Miami is prepared to find deals for pitchers Mat Latos, Dan Haren, and Brad Hand as well as utilityman Jeff Baker.
Each of the players listed above, with the exception of Hand, is set to hit the open market after the season. With the Marlins sitting behind every team in baseball except for the woeful Phillies, Spencer says the organization has “reached the jumping-off point” for acting as a seller.
Latos and Haren obviously have the most potential appeal of the players listed. The starters have had rather different seasons thus far, Latos underperforming generally promising peripherals (4.90 ERA, 3.84 SIERA) and Haren doing just the opposite (3.34 ERA, 4.11 SIERA). The 27-year-old Latos is said to have shown a promising velocity uptick in recent starts, though he’s owed the balance of a $9.4 salary this year and has an unsettling injury history. Haren, 34, continues to see his average fastball drop towards the mid-80s and has benefited from a low BABIP and high strand rate, but he still doesn’t walk anyone and the Dodgers are on the hook for all of his salary.
While Miami might hope to achieve some real value for those pitchers, it is not clear that there’s much to get back for Hand or Baker. Working mostly as a reliever, the out-of-options Hand has scuffled to a 5.80 ERA over 40 1/3 innings, though he has suffered from the exact opposite BABIP/LOB rates that have aided Haren. As for Baker, the 34-year-old rates at or below replacement level for the last several years. He’s not very highly regarded for his glove, and is mostly useful against lefties, but has not really even hit them all that well this year.
One other player that Spencer notes could be moved is former closer Steve Cishek. He’s been much better since returning to the big leagues, but still looks like a non-tender candidate after the season and is hardly the most certain relief asset a contender could find on the market. Cishek is playing on a $6.65MM salary this year, so Miami will likely need to pay a good chunk of that to find a taker.
As others have noted today, the news that Giancarlo Stanton will miss four to six weeks with a broken hamate bone increases the likelihood that the Marlins will reach a conclusion that they might have reached anyway: 2015 doesn’t appear to be their year. Under owner Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins have never been shy about change — they’ve traded players, replaced managers and changed organizational directions far more rapidly than other franchises might. Their 31-45 start already seemed likely to lead them to sell, even before Stanton’s injury.
In fact, this year’s Marlins team bears certain similarities to their 2012 club. The 2012 team headed into the offseason intending to make a splash. Instead, they flopped, and in July, they dealt Carlos Lee, Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, Hanley Ramirez, Randy Choate, Edward Mujica and Gaby Sanchez.
What do the 2015 Marlins have to sell, though? This year’s team doesn’t appear to be primed for a complete rebuild, and thus it doesn’t have many top-quality trade chips like Ramirez or Anibal Sanchez. The Marlins still have Stanton and Christian Yelich signed to long-term deals, and Jose Fernandez is cost-controlled and is clearly an elite pitcher when healthy. The Marlins seem highly likely to keep those players, even though Yelich is having a disappointing season and Fernandez is only on the verge of returning from Tommy John surgery. Here’s a look at who the Marlins could consider trading.
- Dan Haren and Mat Latos are eligible for free agency after the season, so they seem like obvious trade candidates. The question is what the Marlins will be able to get back. Haren is having a solid season, but he seemed mostly unwanted as of last winter, and his age (34) and stuff (Haren’s admirably self-effacing “Ithrow88″ Twitter handle isn’t even accurate anymore, since his fastball has averaged 86 MPH this season) suggest he won’t fetch much now, either. Still, useful starting pitching is useful starting pitching, and the Marlins might try convincing a team in a homer-suppressing ballpark to give up a prospect or two for Haren. The Phillies got two fairly good lottery tickets in Victor Arano and Jesmuel Valentin for Roberto Hernandez last year — that might provide a good template, even though the stock of both players has slipped in 2015. The Marlins might also have to convince Haren to play for the team they trade him to if it’s not a West Coast team, given that he considered retiring last offseason rather than heading to Miami.
- Latos currently has a 5.49 ERA and missed time due to a knee injury, so his trade value would appear very limited. Since he would only be a rental, there would be little point in a contending team taking him on as a project, even though his peripherals suggest he should be somewhat better than that ERA. The curse of struggling teams trying to become deadline sellers is that they typically mostly have disappointing players to sell, and Latos is a case in point. It’s not impossible, though, that Latos could raise his trade value by pitching well over the next month.
- As the New York Post’s Joel Sherman pointed out today, Martin Prado‘s versatility could make him an interesting trade chip next month, since he can play third base, second base and both outfield corners. First, though, he’ll have to show he’s healthy — he’s currently on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. He’s owed $11MM both this year and next, although the Yankees are paying $3MM in each of those years.
- Pitchers Tom Koehler and Brad Hand were both recently the subject of rumors. Koehler missed a start last week with neck and back pain, but his successful return today should help the Marlins’ cause if they choose to trade him. The problem is that neither Koehler nor Hand are the kinds of difference-makers most appealing to contenders — a contending team likely wouldn’t want either one of them starting a playoff game. And since they’re also cheap and capable of eating innings, they could have value to the Marlins as they retool. David Phelps, who has been solid but not outstanding in his first season in Miami, falls into the same category.
- Mike Dunn isn’t having a good season by traditional measures, with a 4.68 ERA, but his strikeout rate (9.0 K/9 in 2015) and velocity remain intact, so a contender might view him as a sneaky way to upgrade the left side of its bullpen, especially since his contract is reasonable. He’s signed through next season, though, so the Marlins could also decide the better route might be to keep him around for another year and hope he rebounds.
- Like Dunn, Steve Cishek has a poor ERA this year. Unlike Dunn, though, Cishek isn’t cheap, at $6.65MM, and his control issues are a key reason for his downturn in performance. It would likely be hard for the Marlins to deal Cishek without taking on salary, despite his closer pedigree.
- Infielder Jeff Baker is a career .297/.352/.513 hitter against lefties, so he could conceivably help a contender in need of a right-handed bat. He’s mostly limited to first base at this point, however, so his utility is limited.
Other Marlins veterans, like Michael Morse and Ichiro Suzuki, probably have even less trade value than most of the players mentioned above. The Marlins could, of course, make outside-the-box trades involving some of their better, younger players (Dee Gordon, Adeiny Hechavarria, Marcell Ozuna), and given the Marlins’ history, it would be unwise to discount that possibility. (Relievers A.J. Ramos and Carter Capps would make very interesting trade pieces if the Marlins were to make them available.) Unlike the 2012 team, though, the 2015 Marlins don’t have many veteran trade candidates who appear likely to command a significant return.
1:35pm: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets that Baker will earn $1.6MM in 2014 and $2.1MM in 2015.
1:16pm: The Marlins and Jeff Baker have agreed to a two-year deal, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter). The New York Post's Joel Sherman tweets that Baker is guaranteed $3.7MM and has an additional $500K of incentives built into each year of the deal. Baker's agent, Scott Boras, said last night that he was nearing agreements for four of his clients, including Baker.
The 32-year-old Baker slashed .279/.360/.545 in 2013 thanks in large part to his Herculean numbers against left-handed pitching. Baker has never been one to handle same-handed pitching well, and he showed that last season with a .204/.250/.286 line against righties in just 52 plate appearances. However, in his 123 PAs against southpaws, Baker mashed at a .314/.407/.667 clip. In his career, he's a .298/.353/.522 hitter against lefties.
Baker's splits make him a natural platoon partner at first base for Garrett Jones, who the Marlins also signed to a two-year deal earlier this offseason. Baker also comes with experience at second base, third base and both outfield corners, making him a valuable bench piece whose versatility should serve sophomore manager Mike Remond well.
Baker also drew interest from the Giants, Nationals and Rangers at varying points this offseason. The Marlins' willingness to guarantee a second year seems likely to have pushed them to the front of the pack, though that's just my speculation.
A series of significant, albeit not top-shelf, free agents could soon be coming off the board, according to a report from Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Agent Scott Boras tells Morosi that he is "very close" to inking contracts for four of his clients: Oliver Perez, Jeff Baker, Francisco Rodriguez, and Suk-min Yoon.
Each of these names could represent an interesting opportunity to obtain a significant impact for a relatively limited investment. Rumors have been picking up steam of late on both Baker and Yoon. Baker, a 32-year-old lefty masher, has been said to be nearing a deal and could prove an important bench piece. The South Korean Yoon, meanwhile, has reportedly drawn a good bit of interest; Boras says that six or seven clubs are still involved. While he may not offer massive upside in the sense of becoming a dominating MLB pitcher, Yoon could end up delivering good value if he can stick at the back of a rotation, especially given his young age (27).
Then, there are the two enigmatic relivers: Perez and Rodriguez. Their long MLB tenures (each tasted the bigs at age 20) leave one surprised to learn of their relative youth (both are just 32). Despite flashes of brilliance as a starter, Perez utimately had to reinvent himself as a reliever. And after a stretch as one of the most dominating late-inning men in the game, Rodriguez was forced to settle for a minor league deal last season. Yet the numbers show that both offer very real upside. In the last two seasons, the southpaw Perez has thrown 82 2/3 innings of 3.16 ERA ball (with 10.7 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9). And Rodriguez registered a 2.70 ERA last year in 46 2/3 innings while striking out 10.4 per nine and walking a career-low 2.7 per nine.
1:07pm: Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweets that Baker is close to signing with a team, and the Nationals are still in the mix.
11:39am: The Marlins and Nationals are among the teams showing interest in Jeff Baker, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter), who also notes that the Orioles are a possibly interested team.
Despite huge numbers against left-handed pitching — Baker slashed .314/.407/.667 with 10 homers in 123 plate appearances against southpaws last season — it's been a relatively quiet offseason for the 32-year-old. The Rangers are known to have interest in re-signing Baker, and the Giants had talks with him a couple months back, though that was shortly before they elected to sign Mike Morse. The Morse signing would seem to indicate that Baker is no longer a consideration for San Francisco.
Baker has just a .647 OPS against right-handed pitching in his career, but he has an .875 OPS against lefties to go along with experience at second base, third base, first base and both outfield corners.
The 32-year-old Baker thrived in his first season with the Rangers in 2013, batting .279/.360/.545 primarily in a platoon role. A thumb injury in June sidelined Baker for more than a month, and his OPS upon returning was nearly 400 points lower than it was prior to the injury, suggesting that he may never have fully recovered.
Baker doesn't hit right-handed pitching much, but the righty swinger absolutely mashes against left-handed pitching. He hit southpaws at a huge .314/.407/.667 clip with 10 of his 11 homers in 2013, and his career line against lefties is a strong .298/.353/.522. He has big league experience at second base, third base, first base and the outfield corners, and while he's not considered an elite defender at any of the positions, his versatility and big numbers against lefties make him a valuable bench piece. Baker has also been connected to the Yankees and the Giants so far this offseason.
Earlier today, the Yankees reached agreements with both Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton.They're likely to continue adding pieces, however. A source confirmed to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter link) that the Yanks have spoken to Mark Reynolds' agent, though nothing is close on that front. Here's the latest on Reynolds, the Yankees and the Mets…
- The Yankees are in on Reynolds, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but they'll face competition from the Twins, Angels and others in their attempt to land him.
- Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have also expressed interest in Jeff Baker as a potential right-handed bat to get some time at second base and third base (Twitter link). Baker mashed against lefties in 2013, posting a .314/.407/.667 batting line with 10 homers.
- Daniel Murphy has seen his name in trade rumors this offseason, but he says his agents came away from the Winter Meetings with the impression that he'll be with the Mets in 2014, writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Sources tell Rubin that the Mets continue to listen on Murphy, but the asking price is high.
- Mets GM Sandy Alderson says that two to three teams are potential trade partners at shortstop, although the chances of Ruben Tejada starting Opening Day at the position are much better than at the end of the season, Rubin writes. "Well, I think it is more likely certainly than it was a couple of months ago, let's say," the GM said. "But we've improved the team at other positions. And so giving Ruben a chance to reestablish himself as an everyday player isn't such a bad thing. But we'll continue to monitor what's there from the trade market and conceivably free agency, although there really isn't much left there. There are two or three teams that are possibilities."
- Alderson also suggested he would be looking for an equivalent return to what others have received for trading first basemen. The Marlins got 23-year-old Carter Capps from the Mariners for Logan Morrison last week.
- The Mets GM expects a fifth-starter candidate to be signed on a minor-league deal. That would allow Jenrry Mejia, Jacob deGrom, and Rafael Montero to compete for a spot out of spring training and help ensure that top prospect Noah Syndergaard would not be blocked from a summer promotion.
- While it's not a huge surprise, Alderson downplayed the Mets' odds of landing Masahiro Tanaka.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
News from the AL and NL West..
- Agent Scott Boras says he'll talk to the Angels about signing Kendrys Morales, writes the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin. The Angels say they are not interested, however, because they need to rebuild a depleted minor league system and they would have to forfeit their first-round draft choice to sign Morales. "We're much more comfortable with the idea of maintaining our first-round pick and continuing to build the organization in a much more positive way," General Manager Jerry Dipoto said.
- In an interview on MLB Network (Twitter link), Dodgers GM Ned Colletti attemped to throw water on Matt Kemp trade rumors, saying that L.A. is higher on the outfielder than anyone.
- Pablo Sandoval's brother, Michael, has recently been certified as an agent and will join his current agent, Gustavo Vazquez, in representing him, writes Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. If the Giants want to discuss an extension, Michael says that his team will listen. Yesterday, GM Brian Sabean indicated that they'd be open to a new deal if he comes to spring training in shape.
- The Giants say they haven't talked to Jeff Baker's agent in a little over a week, tweets Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com.
- Giants vice president Bobby Evans tells Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com (on Twitter) that the club would like to sign a left fielder tonight. Baggarly hears that they like Franklin Gutierrez.
- Rockies manager Walt Weiss says that they have talked to Carlos Gonzalez about possibly playing center field and they think he might be able to manage it, according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post (via Sulia).
The Giants are in negotiations with Jeff Baker, according to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area (on Twitter). Baggarly tweeted earlier that the Giants have "developed a couple pivot points" to add a left fielder, possibly as soon as today. As Baggarly notes, Baker could form a nice platoon with Gregor Blanco.
Baker had a strong .279/.360/.545 slash line in a small sample size of 175 plate appearances in 2013. The 32-year-old, who also has experience in the outfield, has a career slash line of .267/.321/.440 over parts of nine big league seasons. The Rangers designated Baker for assignment in October.
Zach Links contributed to this post.