- The Marlins are still in the mix to retain left-hander Mike Dunn, according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, but the recent four-year, $30.5MM contract that the Cardinals gave to Brett Cecil may have skewed the market for left-handed relief help. Dunn’s representatives could push for an annual value north of $5MM, which may be more than Miami was hoping to spend. Like Cecil, Dunn has had some success against right-handed hitters in his career and may not be deployed as a pure lefty specialist by the team that ultimately signs him. However, Dunn is 14 months older than Cecil and also battled a forearm strain this season. Beyond that, he simply hasn’t been as good as Cecil in recent years; Cecil owned a 2.90 ERA with 11.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 50.2 percent ground-ball rate from 2013-16. Dunn, meanwhile, had a 3.38 ERA with 9.9 K/9, 3.7 BB/9 and a 35.4 percent ground-ball rate in that same time.
GM John Mozeliak spoke with the press about the team’s decision to sign southpaw Brett Cecil to a four-year deal, as the Associated Press reports (via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). That article also provides a breakdown of the contract, which provides Cecil a $1MM signing bonus along with three years of $7.5MM salaries and a $7MM payout for the 2020 campaign.
- Cecil’s contract was a fair bit larger than most were expecting, but Mozeliak explained that the market dictated the deal. “Brett was the one person we thought if we were going to make a splash in the bullpen, he was the one we identified,” the veteran executive said. “There was a lot of demand for him and it was moving.” As ever, the presence of multiple bidders is a recipe for success in free agency.
- Clearly, there was plenty of interest, and more than one team that believed the 30-year-old was in an upper tier of relief pitchers. As Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs explains, the $30.5MM guarantee really shouldn’t be seen as much of a surprise. (Mea culpa: we at MLBTR predicted a three-year, $18MM deal.) Cecil has been rather dominant when healthy, with the peripherals to match. And he is not only reasonably youthful, but has the kind of arsenal that gives reason to think he can keep it up. Sullivan argues that the pact fits comfortably in with precedential contracts such as Darren O’Day’s four-year, $31MM payday last winter.
- One of the major reasons that Cecil’s contract rated as a surprise is the fact that he registered only a 3.93 ERA and managed just 36 2/3 innings in his platform season. St. Louis (and others) were willing to look past that, and Cecil suggested in his comments that he was already rounding back into form late in the year (as his strong late-season performance suggests). His torn lat muscle plagued him in the middle of 2016, as he balanced the need for healing with the urge to get back to the mound. “We tried to rest, tried to let it heal. It wasn’t working,” Cecil explained. “I was sidelined for six weeks. I almost had to start spring training over again in the middle of the season. It took me a little bit to get going, and there in August and toward the end of the season and in the playoffs, I was beginning to feel like my old self again.”
- Shoring up the bullpen was a major need for the Cards, especially once Zach Duke was lost for the year due to Tommy John surgery. But perhaps the single greatest opening for the organization is in the outfield, with the team giving indications that it prefers to add a center fielder — preferably, one with defensive chops. Still, there’s also a need to replace some of the pop that the club has lost with Brandon Moss and Matt Holliday heading to free agency, Mark Saxon of ESPN.com notes. He suggests that Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna is a “name to keep an eye on” for the Cardinals. Ozuna has rated well with the glove in the past, though his metrics dipped last year, but he also brings a power bat. (In 2016, Ozuna hit 23 home runs for the second time in his career while posting a personal-best .187 isolated slugging mark.) Of course, he’s also going to cost quite a bit in trade value since he’s only projected to earn $4.5MM in his first of three seasons of arbitration eligibility. That being said, the Cardinals look to be a strong possible match with the Marlins, at least on paper, given their relative abundance of MLB-level starting pitching — a major focus of Miami’s offseason.
- After designating catcher Brayan Pena for assignment today, the Cardinals seem like a possible suitor for a backup catcher to spell Yadier Molina. As their updated depth chart shows, the club’s top in-house options (assuming Pena takes free agency) are youngsters Carson Kelly and Jesse Jenner along with journeyman Alberto Rosario. It may be the right time for the organization to give Kelly an extended look, as Molina is only controlled through 2018 (via club option) and is already 34 years of age — though the lauded veteran proved again in 2016 that he’s still capable not only of carrying the bulk of the load, but playing at a high level. At the very least, though, it seems reasonable to expect St. Louis to make a depth addition. While the free agent crop of catchers may not quite be up to the demand for everyday pieces, it does have quite a few experienced backstops who’d make for solid reserve options.
The Marlins hadn’t made an offer to free agent righty Edinson Volquez as of the middle of last week, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reports. Volquez makes sense as a target for the Fish — an innings-eating veteran with a fairly solid recent track record, yet whose price tag may be limited thanks to a rough 2016 season. Volquez posted a 5.37 ERA, 6.61 K/9 and 51.2% grounder rate over 189 1/3 innings with the Royals last year, with ERA indicators showing that his ERA was at least somewhat inflated by a .319 BABIP and only a 65.7% strand rate. Jackson notes that the Marlins have been “linked” to Volquez, so it seems like there could still be a chance of something more substantive happening between the two sides.
Here’s more on Miami’s search for arms in another piece from Jackson…
- Travis Wood is drawing interest from the Marlins, who see him as a starting pitcher. The lefty pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the Cubs in 2016, though Wood has a previous history as a durable starter, even cracking 200 innings with Chicago in 2013. Wood posted a 2.95 ERA last year but was helped by a .215 BABIP and an above-average strand rate; ERA indicators such as FIP (4.54), xFIP (4.83) and SIERA (4.46) were less impressed by his performance.
- Miami had some interest in Charlie Morton before the free agent signed a two-year deal with Houston earlier this week.
- “Discussions are ongoing” between the Marlins and Mike Dunn about a reunion. The veteran southpaw has posted solid numbers over six years in Miami’s bullpen, though he did miss time with a forearm strain last season and saw both his fastball velocity and strikeout rate drop. That said, Dunn also posted the lowest walk rate of his career and he held left-handed hitters to a .702 OPS.
- The Marlins haven’t been pursuing another of their free agent relievers, Bryan Morris. The righty is coming off a rough 2016 season that saw him limited to just 24 games due to back surgery and outrighted off of Miami’s 40-man roster in late September.
- The Marlins have already been rumored to have interest in Kenley Jansen as the team looks to focus on the back end of its bullpen, though Aroldis Chapman (the other top-tier closer on the market) doesn’t look like an option. An associate of Chapman tells Jackson that it would be “highly unlikely” if the closer signed with Miami.
- Jeff Mathis has received interest from several clubs but the Marlins aren’t yet one of them. Jackson feels the Fish may yet still look to bring back the veteran catcher, noting that the team didn’t re-sign him until mid-December last offseason.
We’ll use this post to keep track of the players being added to their teams’ respective 40-man rosters today, which is the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft. Players must be added to the big league roster within either four years (if they were 19 or older at the time of their original signing) or five years (if 18 or younger) of their signing year in order to be shielded from selection.
MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo took a look at some of the biggest names who face roster decisions, though most of those won’t be much in question. At the fringes, teams must also consider the major league readiness of the player, since that factors heavily into whether they’ll be taken and kept. Any drafting team, of course, must keep a player on its active MLB roster for the full season (with certain exceptions relating to the DL) in order for their control rights to vest. Adding a player to the 40-man too early can have its own risks, because it limits flexibility and could require a team to expose that player to waivers if a need arises. With 26-man rosters reportedly under consideration, the Rule 5 draft could be quite intriguing this year, and that may bleed into today’s decisions as well.
Below is a division-by-division rundown of the names that were added to each team’s 40-man roster (plus the various waiver claims that spawned from teams trying to outright players to protect Rule 5-eligible prospects). We won’t delve into each player’s background, but if you’re looking to a little more about the names that were added, I’d highly recommend this tremendous, in-depth examination of each team’s additions by Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper. If you want to see how the moves look in the context of a team’s roster, head over to Roster Resource for your club’s depth chart.
Onto the moves…
American League West
- Angels: Nate Smith (LHP), Keynan Middleton (RHP), Austin Adams (RHP) and Eduardo Paredes (RHP)
- Astros: None today
- Athletics: Paul Blackburn (RHP), Bobby Wahl (RHP), Franklin Barreto (SS), Yairo Munoz (INF) and Jaycob Brugman (OF)
- Mariners: Paul Fry (LHP), D.J. Peterson (1B/3B) and Thyago Vieira (RHP); Also acquired LHP James Pazos (link), 1B/OF Richie Shaffer and INF/OF Taylor Motter (link)
- Rangers: Ronald Guzman (1B); Also claimed RHP Tyler Wagner
American League Central
- Indians: Francisco Mejia (C); Also claimed LHPs Tim Cooney (link) and Edwin Escobar (link)
- Royals: Andrew Edwards (RHP), Jake Junis (RHP), Cam Gallagher (C), Samir Duenez (1B)
- Tigers: Sandy Baez (RHP)
- Twins: Felix Jorge (RHP), Fernando Romero (RHP), Zach Granite (OF), Daniel Palka (OF), Mitch Garver (C), Engelb Vielma (SS)
- White Sox: Brad Goldberg (RHP), Adam Engel (OF), Jacob May (OF)
American League East
- Blue Jays: Anthony Alford (OF), Ryan Borucki (LHP), Richard Urena (INF); Also claimed RHPs Dominic Leone (link) and Leonel Campos (link)
- Orioles: Joe Gunkel (RHP) and Jesus Liranzo (RHP)
- Rays: Chih-Wei Hu (RHP), Hunter Wood (RHP), Ryne Stanek (RHP), Austin Pruitt (RHP), Jaime Schultz (RHP), Willy Adames (INF), Daniel Robertson (INF) and Jose Alvarado (LHP)
- Red Sox: Kyle Martin (RHP) and Luis Ysla (LHP)
- Yankees: Miguel Andujar (INF), Dietrich Enns (LHP), Jorge Mateo (SS), Giovanny Gallegos (RHP), Ronald Herrera (RHP) and Yefrey Ramirez (RHP)
National League West
- Diamondbacks: Anthony Banda (LHP), Jimmie Sherfy (RHP), Dawel Lugo (SS), Jack Reinheimer (INF) and Ildemaro Vargas (2B)
- Dodgers: Chase De Jong (RHP), Jacob Rhame (RHP) and Kyle Farmer (C)
- Giants: Orlando Calixte (SS), Miguel Gomez (3B), Reyes Moronta (RHP), Dan Slania (RHP), Chase Johnson (RHP)
- Padres: Franchy Cordero (OF),Javier Guerra (SS), Walker Lockett (RHP), Jose Ruiz (C)
- Rockies: Yency Almonte (RHP), Shane Carle (RHP), Rayan Gonzalez (RHP), Zach Jemiola (RHP) and Sam Moll (LHP)
National League Central
- Brewers: Josh Hader (LHP), Taylor Williams (RHP), Lewis Brinson (OF), Ryan Cordell (OF) and Brett Phillips (OF); Also claimed 1B/OF Adam Walker
- Cardinals: Magneuris Sierra (OF), Eliezer Alvarez (INF), Edmundo Sosa (INF) and Rowan Wick (RHP)
- Cubs: Victor Caratini (C), Duane Underwood (RHP), Jacob Hannemann (OF) and Jack Leathersich (LHP); Also claimed LHP David Rollins
- Pirates: Clay Holmes (RHP)
- Reds: Barrett Astin (RHP), Keury Mella (RHP), Jackson Stephens (RHP), Nick Travieso (RHP), Aristides Aquino (OF), Phil Ervin (OF) and Jesse Winker (OF)
National League East
- Braves: Max Fried (LHP), Lucas Sims (RHP), Johan Carmago (INF); Also claimed C Tuffy Gosewisch
- Marlins: Luis Castillo (RHP), Drew Steckenrider (RHP), Austin Nola (INF), J.T. Riddle (INF); Also claimed LHP Elvis Araujo
- Mets: Amed Rosario (SS), Wuilmer Becerra (OF), Chris Flexen (RHP), Marcos Molina (RHP), and Tomas Nido (C)
- Nationals: Austin Voth (RHP), Rafael Bautista (OF), Raudy Read (C), Matt Skole (1B/3B) and Jose Marmolejos (1B/OF)
- Phillies: Drew Anderson (RHP), Mark Appel (RHP), Ricardo Pinto (RHP), Nick Pivetta (RHP), Alberto Tirado (RHP), Ben Lively (RHP), Dylan Cozens (OF), Nick Williams (OF), Andrew Knapp (C), Elniery Garcia (LHP) and Jesmuel Valentin (2B)
The Marlins have claimed southpaw Elvis Araujo off waivers from the Phillies, the teams announced. He’ll stay in the division but change sides, bringing plenty of cheap control with him to Miami.
Araujo, 25, is a towering lefty with a low-nineties heater to go with a slider and infrequently-used change. He has averaged better than a strikeout per inning in his 62 major league frames, but has also walked 5.2 batters per nine in that span. He was more effective in 2015 than 2016, but still largely dominated at Triple-A upon being demoted.
Miami has always taken chances on powerful relievers, even with shaky control, and this seems to be an interesting opportunity for the club. The Fish were looking for southpaw relievers with only one (Hunter Cervenka) currently penciled into the pen.
The Marlins have added a trio of left-handed relievers to their depth chart by agreeing to minor league pacts with Kyle Lobstein, Caleb Thielbar and Frank Garces, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Miami has also picked up outfielder Moises Sierra and catcher Carlos Paulino on minors pacts. Each of the three lefties will come to Spring Training with the opportunity to join Hunter Cervenka and Jarlin Garcia as southpaw options on the 40-man roster.
[Related: Miami Marlins Depth Chart]
Lobstein, 27, spent the bulk of the 2016 season in the Pirates organization and totaled 25 innings with the Bucs across 14 relief appearances, pitching to a 3.96 ERA with a 15-to-12 K/BB ratio. Prior to this past season, he’d been up and down with the Tigers, providing rotation depth in the form of 17 starts between the 2014-15 seasons. Lobstein is a quintessential soft-tosser, having averaged just 87.2 mph on his heater in the Majors. That’s led to plenty of struggles against right-handed hitters, who have clobbered him at a .305/.363/.484 pace in the Majors. However, lefties have been continually befuddled by Lobstein, hitting just .209/.295/.284 against the former second-rounder (Rays, 2008).
Thielbar, meanwhile, joins the Fish out of the independent league St. Paul Saints. The 29-year-old (30 in January) Minnesota native pitched not only on the indy ball circuit in his home state but also spent parts of three seasons in the Twins’ bullpen. Thielbar had a brilliant rookie season back in 2013 when he posted a 1.76 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 across 46 innings. An extreme fly-ball pitcher, Thielbar took a step back in 2014 (3.40 ERA, 6.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 in 47 2/3 innings) and had a short-lived stint with Minnesota in 2015, tossing five innings and surrendering three runs. Thielbar’s averaged just a but over 89.3 mph on his fastball in his career and had success against both righties and lefties in his fairly limited time in the Majors.
Garces, 27 in January, last appeared in the Majors with the 2015 Padres. He has a 4.60 ERA in 47 big league innings and has averaged 7.7 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 with a 34.5 percent ground-ball rate. He spent 2016 with San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate and logged a 4.41 ERA in 114 1/3 innings, making 18 starts and 19 relief appearances.
The 28-year-old Sierra spent parts of three seasons in the Majors with the Blue Jays and White Sox, hitting .243/.296/.383 with nine homers across 489 plate appearances. He spent the 2016 campaign with Miami’s Double-A affiliate and batted a robust .336/.414/.519 in 307 plate appearances, although he was obviously facing younger, less experienced competition for the most part.
Paulino, 27, returns to the organization that originally signed him out of the Dominican Republic. He’s spent time with the Pirates and Twins organizations since departing the Marlins and is a career .242/.305/.290 hitter in parts of four seasons at Triple-A.
The Marlins’ top target in free agency is not a starting pitcher, but rather right-hander Kenley Jansen, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Recognizing the difficulty they’ll face in building out a rotation that is still reeling from the shocking death of Jose Fernandez — there are few options in free agency and Miami’s woeful farm system makes trades difficult — Miami could instead look to build out a “super pen” to help shorten games and prevent leads from escaping when their starters provide them. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wrote earlier this week that with few rotation options available to them, the Marlins could look to upgrade the back of the bullpen instead.
Obviously, the Marlins aren’t exactly frequent shoppers at the very top of the free-agent market, and the team’s perennially low payroll is a significant strike against their chances at landing Jansen this winter. However, Miami did spend $80MM to add left-hander Wei-Yin Chen last offseason, and while the results of that deal (in year one, anyway) weren’t what the team had hoped, their willingness to spend at that level was a departure from their most recent free-agent ventures. Jansen could very well match or exceed that $80MM sum — we at MLBTR pegged him for a five-year, $85MM deal this winter — but with Miami only one year removed from spending that type of money and forfeiting a draft pick to do so, it’s tough to definitively rule out an earnest pursuit.
Jansen, as Heyman notes, is plenty familiar with Miami skipper Don Mattingly from the pair’s days together in Los Angeles, and Miami’s proximity to his native Curacao could be another minor point in the Marlins’ favor. There’s probably some allure based on those factors, though it seems unlikely that Jansen would concede any type of significant discount based on familiarity or geography.
Miami already has a the makings of a terrific bullpen in 2017, with right-handers A.J. Ramos, Kyle Barraclough and David Phelps all having contributed ERAs of 2.85 or better to go along with impressive K/9 rates (14.0 for Barraclough, 11.8 for Phelps and 10.3 for Ramos). Phelps, of course, could conceivably move back into the rotation out of necessity, though the Marlins’ plans for him are seemingly undetermined at this point. Adding Jansen and his lifetime 2.20 ERA and 13.9 K/9 to that group, with or without Phelps, would make for an imposing group to finish out games for the Marlins, though it remains to be seen whether they’ll be comfortable spending at the assuredly record rate it’ll take to land Jansen.
- Though the Marlins are exploring the trade market for rotation help, they’re not willing to part with either Christian Yelich or J.T. Realmuto, per MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. There have also been no indications that they’d consider moving Giancarlo Stanton, Frisaro continues, although with a full no-trade clause and the largest contract in history, that could potentially be a moot point anyhow. Marcell Ozuna and Adeiny Hechavarria are the most oft-mentioned names the Fish could look to move, though Hechavarria’s anemic bat offsets a great deal of his defensive talent.
- The Marlins’ key offseason focus is pitching, though as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro notes, the team also wants to improve its roster depth, both on the Major League bench and within the farm system. Jeff Mathis, Jeff Francoeur and Chris Johnson could all return in backup roles, though Frisaro suggests Miami could also look to reunions with ex-Marlins like Emilio Bonifacio, Chris Coghlan or Alejandro De Aza. A higher-level upgrade would be a player like Steve Pearce, who Frisaro notes the Marlins have shown interest in acquiring in previous seasons.
The Giants met this week with representatives of top free agent relievers Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon, Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter) and Jon Morosi of MLB Network (Twitter link) report. Finding a solution for the ninth inning is perhaps the top priority for Giants GM Bobby Evans, so it’s not surprising to hear that he’s looking into the three best options on the open market. It’s far from clear at this point whether the Giants are particularly interested in any of these pitchers. It will certainly be interesting to see the strategic approaches of the players and teams in the market for premium closers. There are plenty of suitors circling, but they’ll surely be somewhat cautious in doling out potentially record-setting contracts.
- We took a look yesterday at the latest on Greg Holland, who’s a risky but intriguing alternative to the three major options just noted, but there’s more ground to cover today. The Cubs are among many organizations that have real interest in Holland, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. They certainly aren’t alone, as Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports that clubs including the Rays, Indians, and Mariners — in addition to the many others who were reportedly on hand for his recent showcase — could still be involved.
- While the Marlins’ priority is in the rotation, the club may consider bolstering its relief corps as an alternative, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. President of baseball operations Michael Hill suggests that the team will allow the market to “dictate the direction” that’s ultimately taken, at least to some extent, and that the Fish will explore all free agent and trade possibilities. But if the price for a worthwhile rotation addition proves too steep, the organization may perhaps pivot a bit. “You see the trends now, and the analytics, and they may say you don’t want to face guys a third time through the lineup,” Hill said. “It puts more of an emphasis to have a stronger bullpen. A lot of our success this year was because of our strong bullpen.” Frisaro notes that the Marlins have long been interested in Chapman, though it would seemingly be a big surprise were the club to enter his market in earnest.