- The Marlins are missing an important opportunity to try to convince a team to overpay for right-hander Dan Straily, opines Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Teams like the Cubs, Twins, Brewers and Mariners are all on the hunt for controllable arms, and Straily is controlled through 2020 with very solid numbers dating back to Opening Day 2016. The paucity of quality arms available could allow the Fish to accelerate their rebuild by cashing in on Straily, but the Marlins are instead shopping only their relievers and “perhaps Dee Gordon,” according to Sherman.
- Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill stated two weeks ago that his team wasn’t looking to move any core names like Giancarlo Stanton, J.T. Realmuto, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Justin Bour and Dan Straily at the deadline, and Hill reiterated that stance today. “It’s not stopping calls from coming in,” Hill tells Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. “It’s been fairly consistent, with people checking in to see where we’re at to see if we may be open to expanding the players we’re talking about. But we haven’t put any of those guys in play.” Hill did note that the team is open to discussing its relievers in trade talks, as evidenced by their trade of David Phelps to the Mariners earlier this week and the significant buzz around closer A.J. Ramos.
- In an open letter to Jeffrey Loria, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal (via his Facebook page) asks the Marlins owner to “free Giancarlo Stanton” by trading him before the team is sold. Such a trade, Rosenthal reasons, would help all parties involved — the Marlins would get some quality prospects, the new owners would get Stanton’s enormous contract off the books, Stanton himself would get to join a contender, and baseball itself would see one of its biggest young stars in a most positive environment.
- Given that the Marlins’ ownership situation is in limbo, their baseball department isn’t in proper position to weigh offers for outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, according to Olney. Moving either could make the Marlins more appealing to potential bidders because their contracts factor into the franchise’s heavy debt, though Olney notes that trading a superstar like Stanton might sabotage the rebranding effort of the next owner. And if Jeffrey Loria’s successor signs off on a Stanton trade, the team’s fan base could see it as a typical Marlins cost-cutting maneuver.
- It’s a buyers’ market this year as the deadline approaches, so a successful return for sellers could depend more on how much salary they shed than the quality of prospects they acquire, per Olney. As an example, Olney points to the trade Miami and Seattle made this week. The Marlins received four prospects for reliever David Phelps and got rid of his $4.6MM salary in the process, but only one of those minor leaguers (outfielder Brayan Hernandez) looks particularly promising. The quantity of prospects the Marlins picked up isn’t impressing rival evaluators, as some of them believe landing four players was done to make the package look better than it actually is.
Representatives from both the Yankees and Marlins told Jim Bowden of Sirius XM that New York has not inquired about Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton, which conflicts with a previous report. Bowden received a text message from a Marlins executive who declared that “all the buzz is false” on a potential Stanton-Yankees union (Twitter links). Regardless of whether the Yankees have checked in on Stanton, it’s an extreme long shot that he’d end up with them.
- The Wayne Rothbaum-Jeb Bush-Tom Glavine group bidding for the Marlins lost Tagg Romney this week, and now Dave Stewart and Al Leiter have left the faction, reports Robert Murray of FanRag. Thanks to their accomplished careers as major league pitchers, Stewart and Leiter brought name value to the table for a potential ownership team (as Glavine does), but neither would have had a large role in terms of putting up money to acquire the Marlins. So, even with Stewart and Leiter gone, Rothbaum & Co. remain in the mix to purchase the franchise, per Murray.
The Yankees have contacted the Marlins about right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag. Don’t go penciling Stanton and Aaron Judge into the same lineup yet, though, as it seems this was just a case of due diligence on the Yankees’ part. They called the Marlins about Stanton “weeks ago” and haven’t picked up talks since, per Heyman, who reported Friday that the Fish probably won’t seriously market the slugger this summer. As has been pointed out on many occasions, the $295MM left on Stanton’s contract after this season, an opt-out at the conclusion of the 2020 campaign and his ability to block a trade to the majors’ other 29 teams are all notable impediments in the way of a potential deal anywhere.
- Tagg Romney has left the Jeb Bush / Wayne Rothbaum group currently bidding to buy the Marlins, FanRag’s Jon Heyman writes. The group’s chances of landing the Marlins are now unclear — Romney’s financial commitment to the project was limited, but he had ties to a number of those involved in the group, including former players Tom Glavine, Dave Stewart and Al Leiter.
The Diamondbacks, Rockies, Rays, Red Sox, Cubs, Brewers and others all have interest in Marlins closer AJ Ramos, FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick and others tweeted earlier this week that the Marlins were taking calls on Ramos.
The Marlins, of course, recently traded reliever David Phelps to Seattle for a package including outfield prospect Brayan Hernandez, and Ramos could potentially be an even more desirable trade target. The 30-year-old has a 4.08 ERA and 4.8 BB/9 this season, but with a strong 11.5 K/9. He also has 89 career saves and a long history of success in the ninth inning, making him a strong late-inning option for a contender. (Of course, many clubs on Heyman’s list of interested teams, including the Rockies, Red Sox, Cubs and Brewers, appear set at closer, but that wouldn’t preclude them from having interest in another good late-inning arm.) Ramos can be controlled through 2018 via the arbitration process.
With Phelps gone, the Marlins are expected to lean harder on Junichi Tazawa, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro recently explained. Tazawa has pitched nine scoreless innings this month. The team also has Kyle Barraclough, Nick Wittgren and Dustin McGowan to pitch in the late innings. It’s not yet clear, however, who would take over the closer role should Ramos depart.
- Marlins closer A.J. Ramos is drawing interest from as many as eight to ten teams, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets. With momentum perhaps building toward a deal, Ramos tells MLB.com’s Jeremy Vernon that he hears the rumors, but is trying to stay focused on his current job. “It’s good, but also it’s a little bit bittersweet,” he said of the fact other teams are looking to deal for him.
- A handful of clubs have reached out to the Marlins about high-priced slugger Giancarlo Stanton, Jon Heyman of Fan Rag reports, but the expectation remains that he will not be seriously marketed this summer. Still, the club is keeping Stanton “apprised of every contact” it receives, which evidently was a commitment made to the star. With full no-trade protection, he can control his destiny.
With David Phelps now officially a Seattle Mariner, the Marlins could look to make AJ Ramos the next piece they deal. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that while the Fish had about 10 teams express interest in Phelps, they currently have three teams expressing serious interest in Ramos. One of those clubs appears to be the Rays, as FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that Tampa Bay is among the clubs with interest in the Miami closer. Ramos has also been linked to the Rockies, and was previously linked to the Yankees and Nationals before each of those clubs acquired two relievers in a single trade. (Though the New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweets that the Yankees never had any interest in him.)
12:02pm: The trade is now official, as the Marlins and Mariners have announced the swap.
10:40am: The Mariners and Marlins have reportedly agreed to a trade that will send right-handed setup man David Phelps from Miami to Seattle in exchange for a package of four prospects. Center field prospect Brayan Hernandez is the headliner, while the other names in the deal reportedly include right-handers Brandon Miller, Pablo Lopez and Lukas Schiraldi.
Seattle has been playing well of late, getting back to the .500 mark and drawing within 1.5 games of an American League Wild Card spot. However, the Mariners are also 15.5 games back from the Astros in the AL West, which has reportedly led them to look for assets that can be controlled beyond the current season, as their best playoff hope in 2017 is a one-game playoff.
The 30-year-old Phelps fits the bill, in that sense, as he’s controlled through the 2018 campaign via arbitration. He’s earning $4.6MM in 2017, with about $1.86MM of that sum yet owed to him through season’s end.
The former Yankee initially went to Miami alongside Martin Prado as part of the trade that sent Nathan Eovaldi to New York. After spending much of his career as a starter and long reliever, Phelps’ career took off with a 2016 move to a late-inning role. The righty’s velocity ticked from the low 90s to an average in the 93-94 mph range, and he’s dramatically upped his strikeout rate while pitching in a setup capacity.
Dating back to Opening Day 2016, Phelps has worked to a 2.69 ERA with 11.1 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 46.4 percent ground-ball rate through 133 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate is “down” in 2017, but he’s still averaging 9.8 punchouts per nine innings pitched. His arm will be a boost to a Mariners relief corps that currently ranks 13th in baseball with a 4.05 ERA but carries more troubling marks in both FIP (4.44) and xFIP (4.45). Those ERA alternatives come in at 25th and 21st in baseball, respectively, indicating that the Mariners are perhaps fortunate to have gotten the results they have out of their bullpen to date. (Then again, Seattle boasts a superlative defense, particularly in the outfield, so perhaps it should be expected that their pitchers would outperform fielding-independent metrics.)
The Seattle ’pen is currently anchored by sophomore closer Edwin Diaz, who has been inconsistent in 2017 but can overpower opposing lineups with a triple-digit fastball and one of baseball’s best strikeout rates. Nick Vincent has also been brilliant in Seattle, working to a 2.04 ERA in 39 2/3 innings, while southpaw James Pazos has averaged nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings en route to a 3.68 ERA. Former Mariners closer Steve Cishek represents another right-handed option, but health has been an issue for him in recent years as his numbers have declined.
Beyond that, Seattle has seen some of its anticipated setup men, particularly right-hander Dan Altavilla, take a step back in 2017. Phelps figures to pick up some of that slack and will join Diaz, Vincent, Pazos, Cishek, Tony Zych and Marc Rzepczynski in the Mariner bullpen.
Hernandez is the big get for the Marlins in the deal. The 19-year-old ranked as one of the 10 best international free agents in the 2014-15 crop and inked a $1.85MM bonus with Seattle at the time. Hernandez split the 2016 season between the Dominican Summer League and the Rookie-level Arizona League, hitting a combined .278/.325/.425, and he’s off to a .252/.306/.408 start with the Mariners’ short-season Class-A affiliate.
Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com rank Hernandez as Seattle’ No. 6 prospect, noting that he flashes all five tools but is still projection over performance at the moment. He received 60 grades on his speed and arm from Callis and Mayo with a 55 on his glove, and their report notes that his overall offensive development will determine if he can reach his ceiling as an everyday center fielder. Baseball America rated him 16th among Seattle farmhands this past winter, agreeing that the defensive tools are impressive and praising his “solid, consistent contact” but also questioning his ability to generate power now or in the future.
The 22-year-old Miller has spent the season with the Mariners’ Class-A affiliate in the Midwest League, working to a 3.65 ERA with 8.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 46.8 percent ground-ball rat in 101 innings/18 starts at that level. Callis and Mayo list his heater at 90-93 mph with good command of the pitch and give him credit for a plus slider, though reports indicate that he lacks an average third offering and could be destined for a bullpen role. He ranked 16th among Mariners prospects, per MLB.com, while BA pegged him 25th among Seattle prospects this offseason. Both reports tout his fastball’s exceptional spin rate. If all breaks right, Miller could pan out as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Lopez is a 21-year-old starter that has spent the year in Class-A Advanced. While his 5.02 ERA through 100 innings doesn’t look appealing, he’s posted an excellent 89-to-13 K/BB ratio with a 49 percent ground-ball rate, creating some optimism that he’s been hit with some poor luck. (A .341 BABIP lends further credence to that notion.) MLB.com placed him 22nd in Seattle’s system and gave him three average offerings (fastball, curveball, changeup) but no plus pitch. He was 31st on BA’s offseason rankings, and their report notes that he has a 2014 Tommy John surgery in his history but is a “supreme strike-thrower” with impressive ground-ball tendencies.
Schiraldi comes from good baseball genes, as his father, Calvin, played in the Majors for parts of eight seasons with the Mets, Red Sox, Padres, Cubs and Rangers. The younger Schiraldi didn’t crack any Mariners top prospect rankings but has a gaudy 15.2 K/9 rate in 37 1/3 innings of work at Class-A Advanced. However, he’s also not particularly young for the level at 23 years of age, and he’s worked to a 4.58 ERA with a 6.5 BB/9 rate.
Ultimately, the Marlins will secure four players in exchange for a year and a half of a quality setup man while also saving a bit of cash for the remainder of the 2017 season. While it’s tempting to look at the sheer volume of players and wonder how this will impact the market for other relievers — especially those that are controlled beyond the 2017 season, such as Brad Hand and Zach Britton — it’s also worth emphasizing that Seattle’s farm system is generally regarded as weak. That bit of context should absolutely be considered when debating the value of other relief arms, and it seems unlikely that the volume of the Phelps deal “raises the bar” for other relievers throughout the league.
MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand first reported that the Mariners were in talks to acquire a reliever and that Phelps was the target. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi termed the deal “fairly close,” and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan pushed it further to “imminent.” FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweeted that the trade was indeed finalized, while Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted that Seattle was sending multiple minor leaguers to Miami. Passan and Heyman added a bit more detail on the return (Twitter links), with Passan ultimately reporting Hernandez as the headliner. Sherman broke news of the other three players in the deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.