- Though Marlins president of baseball ops Michael Hill recently suggested that adding a right-handed platoon option for Justin Bour at first base isn’t a priority, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes that the team is still likely to add such a player. Miami isn’t closed off to the idea of re-signing Chris Johnson despite the veteran’s struggles in 2016, he notes. They’ve also checked in on some bigger fish (terrible pun intended — my apologies) like Mike Napoli, but that type of move isn’t considered likely, and Miami is not pursuing Napoli at this time. (Napoli is instead reportedly working on a two-year deal with the Rangers.) Bour will get some more looks against lefties this year, but he hasn’t hit them at all in his brief MLB chances (110 plate appearances, .221/.273/.291 slash, zero homers). Jackson notes that J.T. Realmuto will see some time at first base in 2017 on days when A.J. Ellis starts behind the plate (presumably against lefties). From my vantage point, both Adam Rosales and Trevor Plouffe make quite a bit of sense for the Marlins in that capacity.
- The Marlins have given signals that they believe the bulk of their offseason work is already complete, as Tim Healey of the Miami Sun-Sentinel recently reported. Miami doesn’t feel that it must have a southpaw in its bullpen, as the organization believes its existing righties can succeed against opposing lefties, and already feels that there’s plenty of pen competition in the existing mix. While it seemingly makes sense for the team to pursue a righty bench bat to pair with Justin Bour at first, meanwhile, president of baseball operations Mike Hill says that’s “not a priority.” It seems that the organization is interested in giving Bour greater opportunity against left-handed pitching in 2017. He has taken just 110 plate appearances against southpaws in his career, producing an anemic .223/.273/.291 batting line. With catcher J.T. Realmuto potentially available to spend some time at first, presumably reducing his wear and tear while opening some chances for reserve backstop A.J. Ellis, the Marlins do not appear inclined to dedicate a roster spot to a defensively limited hitter, though Hill said the team will continue to “monitor” the market.
- The Marlins had some interest in Doug Fister earlier this winter, though MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes that the club “doesn’t appear to be high on” the veteran righty’s services. It looks as if Miami is only looking to add another starter on a low-cost depth deal, unless the price tag on someone like Jason Hammel (another reported Marlins target) drops.
- Also from Frisaro, he hasn’t heard Trevor Plouffe being mentioned as a possible Marlins addition, though he could fit as both a right-handed hitting complement to Justin Bour at first base and as a third base backup for Martin Prado. Frisaro thinks the Fish could turn more attention on position players adds as we get close to Spring Training, as much of the club’s winter focus has been on pitching.
With their signings of Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa now complete, the Marlins could be done making significant moves this offseason. Here’s the latest from out of Miami, courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel’s Tim Healey:
- The Ziegler and Tazawa signings, and the subsequent DFA of Elvis Araujo when the Ziegler deal became official, leave the Marlins’ bullpen heavily right-handed, with Hunter Cervenka as the only lefty reliever remaining on the team’s 40-man. But president of baseball operations Michael Hill doesn’t sound concerned about that. “Handedness didn’t come into play as much as finding the highest quality [reliever],” Hill says. Even Cervenka is not guaranteed a spot in the bullpen, with Hill saying Cervenka will compete for a spot in camp. Teams typically carry at least one lefty reliever, although not carrying any is hardly unprecedented, since many righties can be effective against opposite-handed batters — the 2004 Angels, for example, had perhaps baseball’s best bullpen that year despite receiving just two total innings of lefty relief. And Tazawa, for example, has been quite effective against lefties in his career.
- The bullpen has become increasingly crowded, and the Marlins have discussed whether to go with a seven-man bullpen or expand it to eight.
- The Marlins also are not overly concerned about finding a platoon partner for lefty-hitting first baseman Justin Bour, Hill says. “There’s not that clear-cut complement at first base, but I think in the growth and maturation of Justin Bour,” Hill says. “[Manager Don Mattingly has] talked about trying to challenge him more and expose him more to left-handed pitching.” The 28-year-old Bour has hit .223/.273/.291 in 103 career plate appearances against southpaws. The team could, however, give righty-hitting catcher J.T. Realmuto occasional plate appearances at first, potentially giving the Marlins the chance to sit Bour against some lefties. “If there is a way to deepen our bench, we’ll look at it,” says Hill. “But I think as we sit right now, we would be comfortable as we are currently situated.”
The 27-year-old Ogando only has 18 MLB appearances to his credit, but has shown an average fastball that sits right at 95 mph. He has also generated grounders at an impressive 57.6% clip and owns a solid 3.66 ERA in his 19 2/3 frames.
Of course, that’s not all there is to the story. Ogando has also recorded as many walks as strikeouts (ten apiece) in his limited big-league time. And he has never fully capitalized on his big heater in the minors, where he compiled pedestrian whiff rates and often exhibited a lack of command. Over two seasons and 52 2/3 frames of action at Triple-A, Ogando owns a 3.08 ERA with 7.0 K/9 against 3.9 BB/9.
In order to take a shot on Ogando’s arm, Pittsburgh will open the possibility of losing Rogers. The 28-year-old had shown some hitting ability with the Brewers, but largely struggled in his first year with the Pirates organization after coming over in a trade last winter.
Rogers struggled in brief action in the majors in 2016, receiving just 33 plate appearances over 25 games of action. He spent most of the year at Triple-A, slashing .263/.338/.371 with just four home runs over 420 plate appearances. That represented a rather significant fall-off in power output (and overall productivity at the plate) as against his prior work in the minors.
The Marlins have designated lefty Elvis Araujo for assignment, per a club announcement. He’ll play in 2017 for Japan’s Chunichi Dragons, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald tweets. Araujo’s roster spot will go to veteran reliever Brad Ziegler, whose two-year contract was also announced.
Araujo was claimed off waivers from the Phillies earlier in the offseason, and had been perhaps second to Hunter Cervenka on the team’s depth chart among southpaw relievers. It seems increasingly plausible to expect that Miami won’t put too great an emphasis on ensuring that its bullpen features at least one lefty; Jason Martinez of MLBTR and Roster Resource currently projects an all-righty relief corps.
The 6’7 Araujo threw 62 total major frames over the past two seasons. He produced largely equivalent K/BB numbers — which average out to 9.1 K/9 and 5.2 BB/9 — but suffered much worse batted-ball fortunes in 2016. All told, he owns a 4.35 ERA in the big leagues, which is just about what ERA estimators expect based upon his peripherals.
Araujo did show improved control when pitching at Triple-A last year, where he carried a 2.18 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and just 2.6 BB/9 over 20 2/3 frames. Notably, he debuted there after he reached the majors — which came after he had made only 25 total appearances at Double-A — so there’s perhaps added reason to believe that Araujo could still undergo some refinement.
6:56pm: Cleveland, Texas, and Oakland appear to be the three most likely destinations at present, Bowden adds. On the N.L. side, the Rockies are said still to be “monitoring” the developments while the Marlins aren’t involved.
6:13pm: In addition to the Indians and Blue Jays, the Rangers, Astros, and Athletics have all made offers to Encarnacion, according to ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (who cites team sources for each organization). As noted below, there’s apparently at least one other organization that has dangled a proposal as well.
Each of those five clubs have put multiple years on the table, per Bowden, who notes that some of the offers include opt-outs following the 2017 campaign. Two suitors, in particular, are said to be engaged in negotiations “at a rapid pace” with Encarnacion’s reps. It’s not known which of the five organizations are pushing hardest at present.
2:35pm: The Indians are “pulling out all the stops” to land Encarnacion, although they might ultimately not be able to afford him, a source tells Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman. Kinzer tells Heyman that two teams have been especially enthusiastic in their pursuit of Encarnacion, although he doesn’t say who.
- Kinzer says he is surprised Encarnacion isn’t yet signed. He acknowledges the “glut” of power hitters remaining on the free agent market (presumably including players like Mark Trumbo, Mike Napoli, Jose Bautista and Chris Carter) but says he felt Encarnacion and Yoenis Cespedes stood above that group.
- Encarnacion has gotten three- to four-year offers from six teams, Kinzer says. Most of those offers were for three years. National League teams have been involved in Encarnacion’s market as well as American League teams.
- Encarnacion’s priority, though, has been to return to the Blue Jays. The Jays, of course, made a significant offer to Encarnacion, but that offer came right around the opening of free agency, and Kinzer says the timing wasn’t quite right for Encarnacion, who wanted to assess other teams’ interest. After the Jays signed Kendrys Morales and then Steve Pearce, Kinzer and Encarnacion felt it wasn’t likely Encarnacion would return to Toronto. “We never had any idea that the Blue Jays were going to move that fast,” Kinzer says. He acknowledges the two sides have spoken recently, but says Encarnacion is coming to grips with the fact that he probably won’t be a Blue Jay next season.
- Kinzer says he expected significant offers from teams like the Red Sox and Yankees early in free agency. Those apparently didn’t materialize, and Kinzer says he believes the threat of a lost draft pick had an impact on Encarnacion’s market. The absence of a new CBA early in the offseason was a factor as well, he adds.
- Kinzer feels it wasn’t a mistake that Encarnacion didn’t discuss an extension with the Jays once the 2016 season started. He says that when he negotiated Starlin Castro’s extension with the Cubs, it was a significant distraction for Castro, affecting his eating and sleeping habits. Encarnacion, meanwhile, was very productive in his final year before free agency.
- The Marlins have assembled their bullpen based on talent, fit and availability, without any specific regard to balance between left-handers and right-handers. As a result, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro notes, Miami could head into 2017 with an entirely right-handed relief corps. Hunter Cervenka and Elvis Araujo are the only southpaw relievers on the Marlins’ 40-man roster and either could potentially win a job in Spring Training, though both pitchers are way down depth chart at this point.
- The Marlins have signed righty Javy Guerra to a minor league deal, tweets MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. The 31-year-old Guerra pitched briefly for the Angels in 2016 but spent most of the year with Triple-A Salt Lake, where he posted a 4.35 ERA, 9.9 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 in 51 2/3 innings. As that line suggests, Guerra has struggled with his control, and his 4.3 career MLB BB/9 has probably been his biggest impediment to sustained success (although he’s also had injury issues, and he missed 50 games in 2015 due to a drug suspension). Nonetheless, he has had strong seasons with the Dodgers and White Sox in parts of six years in the big leagues, and his experience could be valuable to the Marlins as they continue to address their bullpen.
- Outfielder Brandon Barnes is headed to the Marlins on a minors pact, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. The deal includes a Spring Training invite. Barnes, 30, figures to function as a depth piece after seeing time in the majors over parts of the last five seasons. He struggled to a .220/.250/.320 batting line in just 109 MLB plate appearances last year.
- The Tigers added third baseman Zack Cox on a minor-league arrangement, the indy ball Wichita Wingnuts announced. Once a highly regarded prospect, Cox never earned a major league call-up during his time in the Cardinals and Marlins systems, but hit .290/.348/.452 last year in 460 plate appearances for Wichita.