- The Marlins are drawing some interest in righty Jose Urena, Craig Mish of MLB Network reports on Twitter. The Blue Jays are said to be one of the clubs to have called on the hard-throwing 28-year-old, who’s under arbitration control for two more seasons. Fellow Marlins starters Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez have also gotten clubs’ attention, as upward of half the league’s teams have inquired about them, Joe Frisaro of MLB.com tweets. However, Frisaro writes that it’s “extremely unlikely” the Marlins will trade anyone from that trio.
We’ve yet to hear much of anything this winter regarding Kole Calhoun — a reflection both of the primacy of starting pitching on the market and the devaluation of the long ball around the league. The veteran corner outfielder has waited his turn as teams chase higher-priority targets.
Now, it seems some attention is beginning to turn to Calhoun and other possible targets. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets that the Blue Jays, Reds, Brewers, and Marlins all have some level of interest in the 32-year-old.
Calhoun was paid a $1MM buyout by the Angels when his long-time team decided not to pick up his $14MM option. He popped 33 home runs in 2019 and has long been respected as a hard-nosed grinder with a quality glove, but his nice season wasn’t enough to warrant that level of pay even on a one-year deal.
While Calhoun has at times produced well-above-average offensive numbers, his context-adjusted output wasn’t exceptionally productive in 2019. Over 552 plate appearances, he maintained a .232/.325/.467 batting line, good for a 108 wRC+. That was an improvement on his average-ish 2017 and awful 2018 showings with the bat, but hardly an otherworldly effort. Calhoun walked at a career-best 11.1% rate but also went down on strikes at a personal-worst 25.6% clip.
The initial list of potential pursuers doesn’t seem to portend a bidding war. The Fish are biting this year, but don’t seem likely to go wild. They’re also looking at quite a few other options, as are the Reds. The Blue Jays and Brewers both make sense but don’t seem likely to spend past their internal valuations for a player such as Calhoun. Of course, it’s certainly possible that other clubs are in the picture or could join it depending upon outcomes with other segments of the market.
While it was overshadowed entirely by a much bigger move, last night’s swap of Nomar Mazara from the Rangers to the White Sox also represented a notable bit of action in the outfield market. The landscape hasn’t changed much since the start of the offseason but could begin to come into focus now that the biggest starting pitching moves have been made.
It seems the Mets are still working things out in their outfield situation. Word is that they’re willing to consider parting with Brandon Nimmo, per SNY.tv’s Andy Martino (Twitter link). The New York org is reportedly still kicking around concepts with the Pirates regarding Starling Marte, one of the market’s top trade candidates. Some potential trade scenarios could involve the younger, cheaper, and more controllable Nimmo. It’s not specifically clear whether Nimmo is otherwise open for bidding, but it seems the New York org is doing everything it can to land a true center fielder — even if it means parting with the left-handed-hitting OBP machine.
Meanwhile, the Twins are discussing Eddie Rosario with several other clubs, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). The 28-year-old has been a mainstay in the Minnesota outfield but dipped a bit last year to a .276/.300/.500 batting line. He did launch 32 long balls and performed better in the on-base department in the prior two seasons. The Twins shouldn’t really need to move salary — Rosario is projected to earn $8.9MM with one more arb season to come — but may see an opportunity to pick up talent (especially in the pitching department) while reinvesting the payroll space and clearing the way for the near-term ascent of Alex Kirilloff.
The potential market for Rosario isn’t yet evident. The Marlins are among the teams with interest in Rosario, per Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio (via Twitter). But the Miami organization considers the Twins’ asking price “extremely high” at the moment. That was also the team’s stance with regard to Nomar Mazara, who ended up being dealt instead to the White Sox yesterday. The pursuit of Rosario and Mazara offers some insight into the thinking of the Miami organization. It seems obvious the organization is willing to take on a decent bit of salary and won’t limit itself to players with lengthy control rights. The club has a long-stated desire to add some corner pop and is also exploring the possibilities on the open market.
The Miami Marlins haven’t had a lot to feel good about in recent seasons, but the rebuild is beginning to bear fruit. The Marlins rotation has been a talking point since around the All-Star break of 2019, and though they’re not yet a fearsome unit, they’re worth keeping an eye on. They finished the year 16th in the majors by ERA, 20th by FIP, 14th in HR/9, and 22nd by fWAR. They didn’t generate a lot of groundballs, but that’s playing to strength given their ballpark. The biggest area of improvement looking ahead to next season will be control, as they finished second-to-last with 3.50 BB/9. Still, given where the franchise has been in recent seasons, any unit climbing from the cellar is noteworthy.
That said, the first wave of talent often becomes the last wave of prospect-gathering trade bait. At least for the time being, however, the Marlins aren’t overeager to move their starting pitching. Still, that doesn’t stop teams from asking, particularly about Caleb Smith, per MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman. Smith, 28, is the veteran at the front of their young group, and his trade value remains high due to having just over two years of service time. He struggled with the long ball in 2019, but it was an overall successful campaign: 10-11, 28 starts, 4.52 ERA/5.11 FIP, 153 1/3 innings. Smith definitely made strides in securing his spot as a major leaguer, though it would not be surprising were the Marlins to pivot and decide to move him.
Regardless, President of Baseball Ops Michael Hill suggested the Marlins are secure in their starting options heading into 2020, and they’re unlikely to make a major acquisition in that regard, per Wells Dusenbury of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. The current group includes Smith, 2019 All-Star Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Jordan Yamamoto, Jose Urena, Elieser Hernandez, and Robert Dugger. Alcantara and Smith are probably the only two with their rotation spots guaranteed. The rest of the group should have no trouble conjuring a sense of urgency, as top prospect Sixto Sanchez finished the year in Double-A, as did Edward Cabrera, perhaps their most promising arm after Sanchez.
The Marlins felt secure enough in this group (and the intriguing group of prospects coming behind them) that they dealt Zac Gallen to the Diamondbacks for young shortstop Jazz Chisholm. The position player side of the ball should soon see an influx of intriguing young talent get their chance in the big leagues. Along with Chisholm, the Marlins added JJ Bleday with the 4th overall pick in the draft and acquired another top prospect in Jesus Sanchez from the Rays. Chishold and Sanchez are likely to reach the majors in 2020, along with centefielder Monte Harrison. Chisholm, Sanzhez, and Harrison are the Marlins #3, 4 and 5 ranked prospect by MLB.com. On both sides of the ball, patience will carry the day for now in Miami. Given the gusto with which their division mates have approached the offseason, Miami is all but assured to finish 2020 in the NL East cellar for the third consecutive season.
6:17pm: The White Sox are “working hard to land” Mazara, as Jim Bowden of SiriusXM first reported. As for Chirinos, the Astros, Tigers, Rays and Pirates join the Rangers in the market for him, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets.
1:04pm: The Rangers have remained busy on the market, with MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reporting that the club is active on multiple fronts (Twitter links). While it stands to reason that the team is still considering moves in the rotation, the attention now is on the position player side after several notable pitching additions.
It has long seemed likely that the Rangers would explore possible swaps involving its existing outfielders. But the team now appears to be engaged in a somewhat dedicated manner. Sullivan says the intention is to “move one of their extra left-handed hitting outfielders,” with Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun, and Shin-Soo Choo named as possibilities.
That’s a highly varied group of players. Mazara is a mid-arbitration player that hasn’t turned the corner in the majors but remains quite youthful. Calhoun hasn’t had the same degree of opportunity (and hasn’t logged as much service) but showed well with the bat last year. He’s also still a question mark defensively, as is the aging Choo, who can still hit but isn’t worth the remainder of his big contract.
The Rangers are said to be chatting with the Diamondbacks about some of these players; the clubs were connected last night regarding Mazara. Evidently talks between the Rangers and Marlins didn’t advance. Craig Mish of MLB Network Radio tweets that the Fish were turned off by the asking price for Mazara, a former top prospect.
Meanwhile, there’s “mutual interest” in a new deal with backstop Robinson Chirinos. That’s rather an interesting development, considering the Texas organization surprisingly declined its option over him last fall. The replacement plan fell apart, as MLBTR’s Connor Byrne explored, while Chirinos flourished with the cross-state Astros.
The 35-year-old Chirinos and the Rangers are amply familiar with one another, as he played with the team for six seasons. It seems the sides carry no ill will over the way things ended. The catching market has moved rather swiftly to this point, leaving Chirinos and Jason Castro as the top available options.
- The Marlins have hired Billy Hatcher as the team’s new first base coach, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports. Hatcher brings 21 years of coaching experience to Miami, after long stints with both the Rays (1998-2005) and Reds (2006-18). Trey Hillman will move from first base coach across the diamond to coach third base next season, to accommodate Hatcher. In other Marlins staff news, assistant hitting coach Eric Duncan has been promoted to hitting coach.
- The Marlins have picked up infielder Gosuke Katoh on a minors deal, Wells Dusenbury of the Sun Sentinel writes. His agreement comes with an invitation to big league spring training. Notably, there are now members of the Miami front office who were in New York’s FO when the Yankees picked Katoh in the second round of the 2013 draft. Evidenced in part by his high selection (No. 66), Katoh was once a highly promising prospect. While Katoh hasn’t made it to the majors since then, the 25-year-old did have a nice season in 2019. In his first action at the Triple-A level, Katoh slashed .279/.382/.443 with 11 homers and eight steals in 308 PA.
- The Marlins are looking to upgrade a bullpen that was “not good” in 2019, according to president of baseball operations Michael Hill (via Wells Dusenbury of the Sun Sentinel). Veteran right-hander Sergio Romo was one of the Marlins’ most effective options, but they dealt the then-pending free agent to the Twins in advance of the July 31 trade deadline. Hill acknowledged Monday that there’s now interest on the team’s part in reuniting with Romo, 36. “We’re exploring the entire market of eligible guys and I know he’s been connected to us as well he should be,” said Hill. “I think if you asked him — he was very public in saying that [he] enjoyed his time with us so we’ll see where things go, but [he] was a player who did well for us and did a good job in his time with us.”
- The Rockies claimed righty Tyler Kinley from the Marlins. Righty Joe Harvey was designated for assignment to create 40-man space in Colorado. Kinley, a 28-year-old righty, carried an ugly 46:36 K/BB ratio in 49 1/3 MLB frames last year. But he also managed a 3.65 ERA on the year, generated a 12.9% swinging strike rate, and carried a mid-nineties heater. He was a Rule 5 pick by the Twins in 2018, so it’s clear that multiple clubs are intrigued by his raw potential. He has a pair of minor league options remaining, so he’s a sensible and affordable depth option for the Rockies, who opened the season by proclaiming a lack of payroll flexibility.
- Outfielder Nicholas Castellanos may be down a suitor, but the news seems to be good. The Marlins are “out of the bidding,” according to Jim Bowden of The Athletic (via Twitter), owing to the fact that the auction ask has “sky rocketed” in the wake of the surprisingly lofty Mike Moustakas deal. Castellanos has always seemed a tricky player to predict. The youthful, bat-first performer might in past years have been a candidate for a top-of-the-market contract. But recent trends have not favored defensively marginal sluggers. We guessed he’d get four years and $58MM; now that Moustakas has topped that guarantee, perhaps Castellanos can be expected to go higher. His market still appears to be taking shape but could conceivably come together quickly over the next few days.