Carlos Santana in a Marlins uniform? Surprising at it may seem, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) reports that Miami was in talks with the Mariners about the veteran first baseman before Seattle flipped Santana to the Indians as part of a three-team deal with the Rays. It’s been a quiet offseason for the Marlins as they continue their rebuild and weigh J.T. Realmuto trade offers, though since their past fire-sale moves have cleared a lot of future payroll space, there have been indications that the Fish could use this room to potentially to add future trade chips. The Marlins had interest in free agent D.J. LeMahieu, and Santana is owed $35MM over the next two seasons.
Between the Marlins’ flexibility and Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto’s creativity in swinging deals, any number of scenarios could have been floated. The most obvious offer could have been a “buying a prospect” type of trade, where the Marlins absorb a big chunk of Santana’s salary if the Mariners added some minor leaguers along in the deal. If not a prospect, perhaps the M’s could have included a Major League player along with Santana in a package to Miami, potentially a needed reliever or a left-handed bat. Whatever was discussed, Seattle ended up preferring the return from the three-team deal (a Competitive Balance Round draft pick and $10MM in salary relief), though the Marlins are certainly emerging as a possible trade partner for teams trying to unload an ill-fitting contract.
Here’s more from Rosenthal’s latest set of notes from around baseball…
- The Reds were willing to offer J.A. Happ a three-year contract and give him more in guaranteed money than the $34MM he received from the Yankees in a two-year deal (with a $17MM vesting option for 2021). New York’s offer, however, included a higher average annual value than Cincinnati’s offer. Rosenthal speculates that Happ could have based on his decision on a desire to return to a contender, or perhaps the fact that pitchers are generally wary of the hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark.
- The Happ situation could be a reason the Reds are looking to work out an extension with Sonny Gray before acquiring him from the Yankees, a tactic that Rosenthal says has surprised some rival agents and executives. While Gray’s success outside of Yankee Stadium has made him a popular bounce-back candidate on another team, Rosenthal wonders if the right-hander might want to lock in a multi-year payday now in the wake of his 2018 struggles. Gray might welcome a chance to avoid a free agent market that has become less friendly to veterans, and Cincinnati offers him a familiar face in pitching coach Derek Johnson (Gray’s former coach at Vanderbilt).
- Rosenthal’s piece also offers a broader overview of the Reds’ offseason, which has seen the club try to make significant upgrades even while still looking like postseason longshots in the competitive NL Central. Cincinnati has been willing to trade some second-tier prospects to add established Major League players, while resisting moving any of its top minor league talents (such as Nick Senzel or Taylor Trammell).
- The Astros and Mariners both had interest in left-hander Martin Perez before Perez agreed to join the Twins yesterday. Perez picked Minnesota since he wanted to be a starting pitcher next season, which likely gave the Twins the edge over the Mets, though the other suitors might have had more room in their rotation. The Astros are thin on pitching, though since Houston plans to contend next season, it might have been a taller order to assign a starting spot to a pitcher who struggled as Perez did in 2018. The Mariners have a full rotation plus Justus Sheffield waiting in the wings at Triple-A, though more room could have made for Perez — Felix Hernandez’s health and future as a starting pitcher is questionable, and Mike Leake has been the subject of trade rumors this winter.
- Scott Boras has been vocal about what he sees as a lack of competitiveness around baseball, and has made several suggestions (though not yet officially to the league or players’ union) about ways to better motivate teams to win games — and, of course, have more incentive to spend money on Boras clients in free agency. The list includes such concepts as extra playoff teams, cash bonuses to teams that reach the postseason, and draft pick compensation for teams that sign a veteran free agent or win a draft lottery for passing various wins thresholds. Boras also proposes an anti-tanking rule that would prevent teams from receiving a top-five draft pick if they win 68 or fewer games. “Our system is like a restaurant saying, ’If I can’t be an elite, fine-dining restaurant, I am no longer going to make a good hamburger. I’m just going to give poor meat to my clientele,’ ” Boras said. “Which results in fewer patrons, a downturn in (overall major-league) attendance three years running.”