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Miami Marlins Rumors
The Marlins‘ top two extension priorities over the offseason are middle infielders Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports. It remains to be seen whether Miami will be able to gain traction in talks with the pair, which it already controls through the 2018 campaign. But, per Frisaro, the club is more concerned with striking new deals with Gordon and/or Hechavarria than it is with acquiring any particular player on the open market. A deal with Jose Fernandez still seems unlikely, he writes, and the same holds true of Marcell Ozuna.
More from Miami and the rest of the NL East:
- While it remains unclear whether Fernandez will make it back to the Marlins this year, slugger Giancarlo Stanton appears to be on track to return to action at some point, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). Stanton began hitting yesterday, though his precise timetable remains unclear. The club will surely be cautious given its place in the standings and massive commitment to the 25-year-old.
- Nationals ownership is “unhappy” with the team’s performance this year, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. It would be hard to imagine any other general reaction to a club that suddenly finds itself below the .500 mark despite a big payroll and high expectations, of course, and it’s not at all clear whether that sentiment will manifest itself in any modification in the decisionmaking structure. Rosenthal goes on to discuss the team’s front office situation, but it all seems to boil down to one key point: change is unlikely unless the Lerner family no longer wishes to place its trust in GM and president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo. (For what it’s worth, from my perspective, it seems difficult to blame him for the sudden fall-off of numerous key contributors, and the organization appears well-prepared for a coming offseason that will feature roster turnover at multiple key positions.)
- The insurance policy on Matt Harrison‘s contract — which was acquired by the Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal — could still pay out to Philadelphia, Rosenthal suggests, though there is plenty of uncertainty. As he notes, too, the Phils would need to use at least some of any savings to fill in innings that might otherwise be occupied by the veteran lefty.
- The future for the Phillies, of course, will depend less on freeing some extra cash than it will on the development of the team’s best young players. Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News profiles one if the organization’s most important assets: 20-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford.
- Braves reliever Chris Withrow, who was acquired along with Juan Uribe earlier this year, is progressing but likely won’t pitch this year, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets. Withrow is still working back from Tommy John and back surgeries. Meanwhile, another Atlanta upside grab — Rule 5 pick Daniel Winkler — is on track to take the bump in fall or winter league action, O’Brien adds on Twitter. Once activated from the DL, Winkler will need to stick on the active roster next year for the club to retain his rights.
A year ago, Marcell Ozuna was hitting .255/.312/421 with 16 homers on the season, and a strong finish to the 2014 campaign would boost those numbers to .269/.317/.455. Paired with above-average center field defense, that production made the then-23-year-old Ozuna look like a core piece in a dynamic young Marlins outfield that could be controlled for the next five seasons.
The 2015 season, though, hasn’t been kind to Ozuna. Through his first 79 contests this season, Ozuna batted .249/.301/.337, including a staggering 1-for-36 slump that saw him strike out 14 times in 37 plate appearances. At that point, the Marlins felt it best for Ozuna to collect himself in the minors and sent him to Triple-A.
Ozuna was excellent in his minor league stint — .317/.379/.558, five homers in 21 games — but he didn’t sound overly thrilled with the fairly lengthy nature of his stay. Ozuna recently returned from that 33-day stint at Triple-A and likened his demotion to a jail sentence. Previously, agent Scott Boras had accused the Marlins of holding Ozuna down in the minor leagues in order to limit his service time and prevent him from reaching arbitration. Additionally, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported early in the year that there was some frustration over a dip in Ozuna’s speed, leading some in the organization to question his conditioning.
Ozuna’s name crept up in trade rumors prior to the non-waiver deadline, with the Indians surfacing as one team with particular interest. And, just yesterday, Jackson reported that “at least one prominent Marlins person” is open to dangling Ozuna in trades this winter, though there are others in the front office who are more inclined to hang onto him.
Trading Ozuna would be selling low on a player that could certainly blossom into a premium talent, but that same upside would probably be enough to net the Marlins an enticing return. The Marlins are expected to seek two starting pitchers this winter, and for a team with a limited budget, using Ozuna as a trade chip could help to add a cost-controlled young arm to a rotation that will be fronted by a (hopefully) healthy Jose Fernandez.
Because he spent 33 days in the minor leagues this season, Ozuna will accrue 150 days of Major League service time, placing him at two years, 131 days of service. The early projection for Super Two eligibility this season was two years, 140 days, making it easy to see why Boras was upset with the demotion (though questioning the motives for the demotion and the length of stay in the minors would carry more weight if Ozuna hadn’t been playing so poorly prior to being sent down). Ozuna has a chance to be arbitration eligible this winter but could very well fall just shy, meaning any team that acquires him could get one season near the league minimum plus three arbitration years before Ozuna qualifies for free agency after the 2019 season.
The upside of those four years is significant; Ozuna was worth roughly four wins above replacement last season as a 23-year-old, and there hasn’t been an enormous change in his approach this season with the exception of a dip in power. Ozuna’s strikeout rate has actually improved, and his line-drive rate has increased while his walk rate has remained a steady, if unspectacular 6.4 percent. The loss of power is a concern, but if a team feels the decline to be mechanical in nature or feels that its hitting instructors can restore the lost pop, Ozuna could be a well above-average player for a team for at least the next four seasons.
Miami could conceivably trade him to address part of its need in the rotation and either continue using Christian Yelich in center field (perhaps with Derek Dietrich manning left field) or seek a different center field acquisition. The Indians still make sense as a team to revisit talks, while the Mariners, Giants, Brewers and Padres are just a few clubs that could have a need for a long-term center field option this winter (speculatively speaking, of course).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Marcell Ozuna‘s 33-game stint in Triple-A was “like a jail” to the outfielder, as he tells Adam Zuvanich of the Miami Herald. The Marlins demoted Ozuna in July ostensibly due to his early-season struggles, though agent Scott Boras believed the Fish were keeping Ozuna in the minors to deny his client MLB service time and prevent his arbitration eligibility. “I know what happened when they sent me down. I knew that’s coming,” Ozuna said. “I don’t go there for work, because they know me. I don’t need the work. One for 36, 1 for 100, every big-league player has it. I have it and everybody has it.” Ozuna rejoined the Marlins this weekend after Christian Yelich went on the disabled list.
Here’s more from Miami and elsewhere around the NL East…
- Some in the Marlins front office want to keep Ozuna rather than explore trades for him this offseason, the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reports, though “at least one prominent Marlins person is open” to moving the outfielder. Ozuna drew trade interest from several teams (including the Indians) prior to the deadline.
- Also from Jackson’s column, he writes that the Marlins want to wait until after the season to make their intended managerial change so that they know the full pool of candidates before making a decision. This will allow the team to include any current managers in their search should those skippers be fired; Jackson cites the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly as an example. Jackson adds that there’s no front-runner for the job, though previous managing experience will be an important criteria.
- Mets manager Terry Collins isn’t concerned about his contract status, telling Newsday’s Steven Marcus that he has “no idea” if the club will discuss an extension with him while the season is still going. “I’m telling you, I don’t think about it. I think about playing golf in November. That’s the only thing on my mind right now,” Collins said. Collins’ deal expires at the end of the season though the Mets hold an option on his services for 2016. A team spokesman tells Marcus that the Mets will “address [a possible extension] at the proper time,” which I would presume refers to after the season is over.
- Assuming the Mets make the postseason or fall just short, Matthew Cerrone of Metsblog.com suspects the team will exercise their 2016 option on Collins and extend his deal through the 2017 season. It would “border on disrespectful,” Cerrone feels, if the Mets didn’t have Collins extended before next Spring Training given how the skipper has exceeded expectations since being hired as somewhat of a transitional manager.
- The Mets need to acquire yet another bullpen arm to address their still-struggling relief corps, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines.
- Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin admitted that it’s difficult to find playing time for trade candidate Chase Utley, as Andrew Gruman of MLB.com writes. “I mean, yeah, we like ‘Ut’. It is an issue for me, because I have to try to play everybody, and the guys that deserve to play, like [Cesar] Hernandez and so forth, I want them to play. But I want Utley to play, too. It is not an easy task for me, but we’ll do what we can,” Mackanin said.
- Nationals assistant GM Doug Harris is profiled by James Wagner of the Washington Post. Harris oversees the club’s farm system and manages the Nats’ pro scouting department in addition to other duties, and is seen as a potential future general manager by many around baseball; just earlier today, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo tabbed Harris as a contender to be the Brewers’ next GM.
The Marlins’ Dan Jennings is one of many managers throughout the game who might not remain in their current jobs by the start of next season, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes. The Marlins have continued to struggle since replacing Mike Redmond with their GM, and Rosenthal notes that the Jennings is likely to head back to a front-office role. Fellow interim managers Pat Murphy (Padres) and Pete Mackanin (Phillies) will also likely be replaced, and other candidates to depart include Brad Ausmus (Tigers), Lloyd McClendon (Mariners) and others. Here are more notes on the Marlins.
- Marlins righty Kyle Barraclough was surprised to be traded for Steve Cishek, and surprised that his new team promoted him to the big leagues last week, Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes. “It was just shocking to me,” says Barraclough. “I had read reports that the Cardinals were interested in Cishek, but I never thought it would be me that was going. They’ve got a good minor league system and I thought there’s tons of guys that they’re going to want except for me.” Barraclough had been struggling with Double-A Springfield in the Cardinals’ system, walking 20 batters in 24 2/3 innings there, but he thrived in a brief stint at Double-A Jacksonville, striking out nine batters and walking only one in four innings. He has yet to allow a run in three outings in the big leagues.
- Counting his statistics in Japan, Ichiro Suzuki‘s single against the Cardinals yesterday gave him 4,191 career hits, tying Ty Cobb for second all-time. Ichiro now has 2,913 hits in the Majors, and with another season, he might reach 3,000. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro suggests the Marlins ought to retain Ichiro so that he can reach that milestone in a Marlins uniform. He isn’t likely to cost much, and he won’t be blocking anyone as he continues in a bench outfielder role. There is, of course, the matter of his declining performance — Ichiro will be 42 in October, and his 2015 batting average (.253) and slugging percentage (.308) are the lowest in his career since he came to the US.
The Marlins are expected to ramp up their use of analytics, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes, explaining that the organization may look to build out a full department for that purpose. Miami has been relying more on individual employees to provide statistical input, says Frisaro, but will seemingly aim for a more systematic approach.
More from the NL:
- Miami has several needs to fill this offseason, especially in the pitching staff, Frisaro adds. But it’s not likely to go after big-name free agents. Instead, per the report, the Fish will probably aim for buy-low arms on the open market.
- While he has yet to appear at first in a game, Pirates veteran Aramis Ramirez recently began working out at the unfamiliar position. As Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains, Pittsburgh has little to lose and plenty to gain from opening the possibility of utilizing Ramirez at first. With Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer nearing a return, the team would have a highly versatile array of infielders.
- Outgoing Brewers GM Doug Melvin says he’s not yet sure what role he will play in the team’s search for his replacement, as Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports. Meanwhile, current assistant GM Gord Ash says he’s hopeful of staying with the organization as well, though he is waiting to see what role he might have moving forward.
Though the non-waiver trade deadline came and passed with Martin Prado remaining in a Marlins uniform, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that the Miami front office is still “certainly open” to trading Prado. However, Miami’s price tag on the veteran appears to remain exorbitant, as Frisaro notes that interested teams would have to overpay in order to acquire him.
Miami clearly places a huge value on Prado’s leadership and clubhouse presence, as the common refrain for a long time leading up to the non-waiver deadline was that the Marlins weren’t interested in trading him at all. Shortly before the deadline, it was reported that the Fish would be open to dealing Prado for a “big return,” and that’s apparently still the case (despite his lackluster offense since that report).
While Prado is a solid player, to be sure, it’s ambitious to seek a significant return. At 31 years old (32 in October), he’s on the wrong side of his prime. He’s also not particularly cheap, nor has he been all that productive in 2015. Prado is earning $11MM this season and next, although the Yankees are paying $3MM of that sum each year as part of the offseason trade that sent Prado to Miami and Nathan Eovaldi to New York.
Prado is hitting .270/.315/.353 on the season, and while some of the poor power numbers can be attributed to his Yellowstone-esque home environment(only AT&T Park and Kauffman Stadium have suppressed right-handed home runs more than Marlins Park), his park-adjusted batting line is still about 15 percent below the league average, per metrics like OPS+ and wRC+. An elite shortstop with that bat might warrant a fairly sizable return, but third base and even second base typically contribute more offensive output than Prado has in 2015.
It’s unclear whether or not Prado has already been run through waivers, but if he’s claimed on waivers, that would seem to further reduce the chances of a team striking a deal for him, as the Marlins would lose the benefit of competition in their trade efforts. Frisaro speculatively lists the Yankees as a fit for Prado, and while the fit makes sense, Hal Steinbrenner said yesterday that he was against trading the organization’s top prospects, and that would seemingly be the price to acquire Prado.
There’s no doubt that Prado would improve a large number of contending teams; he has a history of solid, albeit unspectacular offense to go along with defensive versatility and an excellent reputation as a teammate. All of these components make him a desirable piece to other teams, but not necessarily one for which an opposing club will pay a premium in a trade. If the Marlins weren’t overwhelmed by an offer prior to July 31, it’s tough to envision that scenario playing out in August.
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio outlined a composed and orderly search for his organization’s next general manager, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reports. Attanasio says that he won’t be in a rush to make a decision, and will pursue a “corporate”-style process, though he hopes to install a new GM before the Winter Meetings. “The process needs to be exhaustive, so as a result, there is no timetable for the process,” he explained. Per Attanasio, the organization is likely to go with a “younger person” as its chief baseball decisionmaker, and he’ll consider candidates from inside and outside not only the organization but also the game of baseball. (He called it “unlikely, but possible” that the team would ultimately go with an “outside the box” choice.) The owner added that he is open minded about what kind of contention timeline the organization will pursue, saying he would “like to see it more in the two to three years” range but noting that “we don’t want to do something halfway.”
- Giants GM Bobby Evans talked about the team’s second base questions, as Carl Seward of the Bay Area News Group reports (links to Twitter). Joe Panik is at least a week away from beginning baseball activity, increasing the urgency of an addition. While Evans confirmed interest in Chase Utley of the Phillies, he indicated that the asking price remains above his comfort level. San Francisco is looking at multiple options to add depth up the middle, per the GM.
- The Cubs will utilize Addison Russell as the team’s primary shortstop, manager Joe Maddon told the press today, including Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter links). Starlin Castro appears ticketed for more of a utility role and could line up at second against lefties. Looking ahead, Maddon said that Russell is “absolutely” the shortstop of the future. Of course, the 25-year-old Castro is under team control through 2020 (the final year through an option), and he’s lined up to be the subject of immense offseason trade speculation.
- The Marlins feel good about the health of young ace Jose Fernandez, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. The diagnosis of a biceps strain was “great news,” said Fernandez, who added that he has felt no pain since. He added that he has every hope and intention of returning to pitch again this season.
The Giants, Yankees and Cubs — three potential Chase Utley suitors — all had scouts in attendance at last night’s Phillies game, reports CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury. According to Salisbury, that’s the fourth straight game in which the Giants have kept tabs on Utley, who was in the game at first base as a possible means of showcasing him to trade partners. He also lists the Dodgers as a potential trade partner in the wake of Howie Kendrick‘s injury, although L.A. has called up top prospect Jose Peraza for the time being. Salisbury also notes that Utley has been hitting leadoff since returning to the lineup, possibly as a means to maximize his plate appearances in front of interested scouts.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- The Miami Herald’s Greg Cote urges the Marlins to end the Dan Jennings experiment in the dugout and allow the former GM to return to the front office role for which he is better suited. Cote opines that if the goal is to bring in an experienced manager to command respect in the clubhouse and signal a commitment to winning — as others have written — then the Marlins should act now rather than wait until the offseason, when other teams are offering competition for such types. If the Marlins are to hire someone like Ron Gardenhire or Bud Black, doing so now would allow the new manager time to assess his team and what he feels is needed this winter while also affording Jennings more time to prepare for the offseason alongside president of baseball ops Michael Hill.
- The Mets opted to keep Michael Conforto on the 25-man roster upon Michael Cuddyer‘s return from the DL (Eric Campbell was instead optioned to Triple-A), and as ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin writes, GM Sandy Alderson foreshadowed that decision to some extent in stressing the team’s current win-at-all-costs mentality. “Our mindset is we want the best 25 players we can put on the field,” said Alderson prior to the official announcement of the Conforto/Campbell decision. “Issues of development, etc., are secondary to whether anybody can help us now. That’s all relative based on who’s doing what and comparisons among players.”
- GammonsDaily.com’s David Golebiewski breaks down the reasons for Doug Fister‘s ill-timed and rapid decline. As Golebiweski notes, Fister’s gone from one of the game’s most underrated starting pitchers to a long reliever in short order and isn’t likely to receive another chance to start this season unless the Nationals incur an injury in the rotation. The timing couldn’t be worse, of course, as he’s now a few short months from free agency. Fister’s robust ground-ball rate has fallen below the league average, he’s throwing significantly slower and getting crushed up in the zone as a result of it, and his command of his secondary pitches has deteriorated, Golebiewski points out.
The Marlins are looking hard at the upcoming pitching market, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Miami has already penciled in three names to its 2016 staff — Jose Fernandez, Tom Koehler, and Jarred Cosart — but feels like it needs two additional arms. While the club is said to have some interest in Johnny Cueto, it’s far from clear as yet whether he’ll actually be a reasonable target. As Jackson notes, though, it’s shaping up to be a deep market.
- Jackson also addresses the Marlins‘ managerial situation, noting that the team will likely look to add an experienced skipper if Dan Jennings moves back to the front office as now seems to be expected. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro also hears that experience will be a key desire, with a “no-nonsense” personality such as Jim Riggleman possibly making sense.
- The Mets are hopeful that lefty Steven Matz can work back to the major league rotation by the start of September, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo tweets. Matz impressed in his first two starts before going down with a partial lat tear, but could begin a rehab assignment this weekend. His return is particularly important for the streaking Mets, as they’ll need to manage innings for several starters down the stretch.
- While they’ve done plenty of roster maneuvering in recent weeks, the Blue Jays are still looking at outfield and starting pitching additions in the August market, GM Alex Anthopoulos told Sportsnet 590 The FAN (via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca). The Toronto GM said that he sees an outfield acquisition as the far likelier outcome of his search. “We have had some discussions, taking a look at fourth outfielder candidates,” Anthopoulos said. “That’s something that we’re currently working on right now and if we can upgrade in the rotation, we’d like to do that as well. But this time of year … very few guys clear [trade waivers] and the ones that do probably have massive contracts which pose their own problems.”
Baseball America’s Matt Eddy has rounded up all the most recent minor moves. Among the notable ones that have not yet appeared on MLBTR …
- Righty Chin-hui Tsao has been outrighted by the Dodgers, per Eddy. The 34-year-old pitched briefly for the Dodgers in 2015 in his first big-league action since 2007 and probably didn’t help his case by allowing three homers in seven innings. He did, however, get fairly good results in the upper levels of the Dodgers’ minor league system this season, posting a 3.93 ERA, 11.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 34 1/3 innings of relief.
- The Marlins signed right-hander Erik Cordier and released infielder Jordany Valdespin, per the report. The 29-year-old Cordier has only appeared in one big-league season (with the Giants, in 2014), but he’s frequently attracted interest from teams looking to fill out their Triple-A clubs, since he throws in the upper 90s and generates strikeouts. As one might expect from a Triple-A reliever with such a profile, though, he has control issues, walking 5.1 batters per nine innings in his minor league career. The Marlins outrighted Valdespin last month. He’s spent most of the season with Triple-A New Orleans, where he’s hit .293/.348/.387 while playing second base and all three outfield positions.
- The Brewers released several minor leaguers, including lefty Michael Kirkman and infielder Donnie Murphy, Eddy adds. The 28-year-old Kirkman pitched parts of five seasons with the Rangers from 2010 through 2014, but he has only appeared in the minors in 2015, pitching 32 innings with the Brewers’ Triple-A team in Colorado Springs. He’s posted a 2.81 ERA with 9.6 K/9 but with a very high 7.9 BB/9. Murphy has hit .257/.352/.371 in 162 plate appearances with Colorado Springs, playing all four infield positions. He has appeared in parts of nine big-league seasons with the Royals, Athletics, Marlins, Cubs and Rangers, although he hasn’t played in the big leagues this year.
- Also, the Red Sox have signed lefty Rich Hill out of the Atlantic League, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation tweets. Hill, 35, pitched at Triple-A for the Nationals earlier in the season and posted a 2.91 ERA and 32 strikeouts over 21 2/3 innings, although he also walked 21 batters. The Nationals released him in June, and he made one start for the Long Island Ducks. Hill appeared in 16 games with the Angels and Yankees in 2014.
- Pirates righty Vance Worley has accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Indianapolis, Cotillo adds on Twitter. Worley recently lost his roster spot when Pittsburgh added Joe Blanton. He’d have foregone the remainder of his $2.45MM salary by electing free agency. Worley has been fairly effective this season while pitching mostly in a swingman role (3.78 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9), so he could return to the Pirates when rosters expand in September.