- Right-hander Zach Thompson announced on Twitter that he has signed with the Marlins. It’s presumably a minors deal for Thompson, who had been with the White Sox since they selected him in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. The 27-year-old topped out in Triple-A ball in 2019 with 70 1/3 innings of 5.50 ERA ball. While Thompson had difficulty preventing runs then, he did post impressive strikeout and walk numbers (10.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9).
The Marlins’ postseason berth and series victory over the Cubs surprised much of the baseball world, and as they take steps with the hopes of a return to October baseball, newly appointed general manager Kim Ng tells reporters in Miami that the bullpen is her team’s primary focus this winter (Twitter link via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald). While Ng acknowledged that she would “love” to add another bat to the mix, the ongoing lack of clarity with regard to a National League designated hitter in 2021 clouds such pursuits.
[Related: Miami Marlins Offseason Outlook]
Miami has already shuffled its relief mix early in the offseason, opting to decline closer Brandon Kintzler’s $4MM option in favor of a $250K buyout, non-tendering right-hander Ryne Stanek, and acquiring righty Adam Cimber in a trade with the Indians. Cimber joins right-hander Yimi Garcia and lefty Richard Bleier as part of the team’s late-inning mix, but the Fish are lacking experienced veterans and more proven young arms alike.
Under previous president of baseball operations Michael Hill, the Marlins had done well to wait out the relief market and bring in some affordable names on low-cost deals late in the offseason. Miami landed Sergio Romo on a one-year deal in 2019 and flipped him to the Twins in a deal that netted first base prospect Lewin Diaz, and this past winter’s signing of Kintzler paid dividends when the 36-year-old tallied a dozen saves with a 2.22 ERA (albeit with much less-convincing peripheral marks).
At this point, it’s not known whether the club will take a more aggressive approach to bullpen construction under Ng’s watch, although it would be understandable if the 2020 playoff bid prompted some increased urgency. At the moment, the Marlins have $33.15MM committed to five players: Starling Marte, Corey Dickerson, Miguel Rojas, Jesus Aguilar and Garrett Cooper. That figure could jump another $9MM or so base on still-pending arbitration cases for Garcia, Bleier, Cimber, Brian Anderson and Jorge Alfaro. Even an aggressive slate of projections would only put payroll in the $60MM range.
It’s a good winter to be in the market for bullpen help, as we’ve already seen several quality names have options for the 2021 season declined. Several more who had solid 2020 seasons — Archie Bradley, Matt Wisler, Ryan Tepera among them — were cut loose prior to yesterday’s non-tender deadline. Certainly, the trade market poses countless other options, and the Marlins have a quality farm system from which to deal if they choose to go that route.
Turning to some in-house business for the Marlins, it was notable — as pointed out by Sportsgrid’s Craig Mish — to hear Ng indicate that her preference is to see third baseman Brian Anderson play for a year before engaging in long-term contract negotiations. The 27-year-old has been Miami’s best and most consistent player for several seasons, hitting at a combined .266/.350/.436 clip with 42 home runs, 74 doubles and six triples across his past three seasons (1419 plate appearances). Anderson has proven himself capable of playing quality defense at both third base and in right field.
Mish reported back in July that the two sides had been discussing a five-year deal in the range of $30MM guaranteed, but those talks took place prior to the league’s shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For the time being, at least, it doesn’t appear as though they’ll resume this winter. That doesn’t rule out an eventual long-term deal for Anderson, however, as the Marlins still control him through the 2023 season.
With revenue losses expected to result in reduced payrolls around baseball, a larger number of players than usual are expected to be let go by their current teams by tonight’s 7pm CT non-tender deadline. Some of these players could end up re-signing with their teams for salaries below what they were projected (by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz) to earn through the arbitration process, or teams could end up simply opting to explore other options…with many of those options arriving on the market through this same non-tender process.
You can track all of the arbitration and non-tender activity here, and we’ll also run through the list of National League players who have been let go in this post.
- Southpaw Tyler Anderson was cut loose by the Giants, per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). The 30-year-old had a high-variability arbitration situation this year after turning in a solid bounceback effort in San Francisco. Anderson ended the season with 59 2/3 innings of 4.37 ERA ball, with 6.2 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9. The club also non-tendered infielder Daniel Robertson, Tim Dierkes of MLBTR tweets, as well as righties Melvin Adon and Rico Garcia, and catcher Chadwick Tromp, per Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group.
- The Cardinals non-tendered righty John Brebbia and outfielder Rangel Ravelo, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets. Brebbia had played a significant role in the St. Louis pen for his first three MLB campaigns but is still recovering from mid-2020 Tommy John surgery.
- Right-handed reliever Clay Holmes has been non-tendered by the Pirates, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was among those to cover on Twitter. The 27-year-old hurler made it into just one MLB contest in 2020 owing to a forearm injury.
- The Marlins have decided not to tender a contract to righty Ryne Stanek, Craig Mish of Sports Grid first tweeted. He joins fellow right-hander Jose Urena in departing via non-tender. (Urena had already been designated for assignment.) Stanek, 29, struggled with the free pass in limited action this year but has been a quality, high-strikeout arm in the past and could be an interesting name to watch on the open market.
- In addition to Shreve, the Mets announced the non-tenders of righties Ariel Jurado, Paul Sewald, and Nick Tropeano.
- The Mets will not tender a contract to left-handed reliever Chasen Shreve, Robert Murray of FanSided tweets. Shreve performed reasonably well in 2020, logging a 3.96 ERA/3.99 FIP with 12.24 K/9 and 4.32 BB/9 in 25 innings, but the Mets will nonetheless move on instead of paying him around $1MM in arbitration.
- The Padres won’t tender a contract to infielder Greg Garcia, reports Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). Garcia, 31, posted a woeful .200/.279/.250 batting line in 2020, albeit in a tiny sample of 71 plate appearances. In parts of two seasons with the Friars, he slashed .240/.351/.337, but the team opted not to give him a raise on last year’s $1.5MM salary.
- The Reds have non-tendered outfielder Brian Goodwin, he announced on Twitter (hat tip to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com). Goodwin, whom the Reds acquired from the Angels over the summer, slashed .215/.299/.417 with six home runs and five stolen bases over 164 plate appearances between the teams in 2020. He was due to earn a projected $2.7MM to $3.6MM in arbitration.
- The Cubs have told Jose Martinez he isn’t being tendered a contract, ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers reports (Twitter link). Acquired from the Rays in a deadline deal, Martinez went hitless over 22 plate appearances with Chicago, only reaching base once on a walk. The 32-year-old mashed for the Cardinals from 2016-18, but delivered closer to league-average production in 2019 with St. Louis and with the Rays last season prior to the trade.
With the non-tender deadline coming today at 7pm CT, expect quite a few players to agree to contracts for the 2021 season, avoiding arbitration in advance. In many (but not all) cases, these deals — referred to as “pre-tender” deals because they fall prior to the deadline — will fall shy of expectations and projections. Teams will sometimes present borderline non-tender candidates with a “take it or leave it” style offer which will be accepted for fear of being non-tendered and sent out into an uncertain market. Speculatively, such deals could increase in 2020 due to the economic uncertainty sweeping through the game, although there are also widespread expectations of record non-tender numbers.
You can track all of the arbitration and non-tender activity here, and we’ll also run through today’s smaller-scale pre-tender deals in this post. You can also check out Matt Swartz’s arbitration salary projections here.
- The Giants have a $1.275MM agreement with first baseman/outfielder Darin Ruf, Schulman tweets.
- Pirates righty Jameson Taillon will earn $2.25MM in 2021, Adam Berry of MLB.com tweets. Taillon didn’t pitch at all in 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2019. Reliever Michael Feliz will get $1MM, Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
- Twins righty Jose Berrios will earn $6.1MM with a $500K signing bonus in 2021, Dan Hayes of The Athletic reports. Catcher Mitch Garver will rake in $1.875MM, per Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Center fielder Byron Buxton ($5.125MM) and reliever Taylor Rogers (terms not released) also agreed to deals, according to Phil Miller of the Star Tribune.
- The Phillies have deals with starter Zach Eflin ($4.45MM) and relievers Hector Neris ($5MM), David Hale ($850K) and Seranthony Dominguez ($727,500), Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, Heyman and Todd Zolecki of MLB.com relay.
- The Marlins and first baseman Garrett Cooper have a $1.8MM agreement that could max out at $2.05MM with performance bonuses, Craig Mish of Sportsgrid tweets.
- The Brewers are keeping catcher Manny Pina in the fold for $1.65MM, according to Heyman. They’re also retaining first baseman Daniel Vogelbach for $1.4MM, Nightengale reports.
- The Giants and outfielder Austin Slater have a one-year, $1.15MM deal, per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.The club also reached a $925K agreement with lefty Wandy Peralta and a $700K pact with righty Trevor Gott, Heyman tweets.
- The Cubs are bringing back hurlers Dan Winkler ($900K), Colin Rea ($702,500) and Kyle Ryan ($800K), Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Ryan’s agreement is a split contract that features a $250K minor league salary.
- The Mets are retaining lefty Steven Matz for $5.2MM, Nightengale tweets. Matz had a brutal campaign in 2020 with a 9.68 ERA/7.76 FIP over 30 2/3 innings in 2020, but the Mets will give him a chance to rebound.
- The Padres and lefty Matt Strahm have a one-year, $2MM deal, Nightengale reports. Strahm gave the Padres a 2.61 ERA/4.93 FIP in 20 2/3 innings in 2020.
- Outfielder Guillermo Heredia, whom the Mets claimed from Pittsburgh in August, will earn $1MM in 2021, according to Nightengale.
- The Astros and reliever Austin Pruitt have settled for $617, 500, per Heyman. The right-hander missed the season with elbow issues.
- The Royals and outfielder Jorge Soler have agreed to a one-year, $8.05MM deal with $250K in incentives, Nightengale reports. Soler was a 48-home run hitter in 2019, but his production went backward this past season, in which he slashed .228/.326/.443 with eight HRs in 174 trips to the plate.
- The Red Sox have kept relievers Matt Barnes ($4.4MM) and Ryan Brasier ($1.25MM) and catcher Kevin Plawecki ($1.6MM), per tweets from Nightengale, Robert Murray of FanSided and Heyman. Barnes has been a solid reliever as a member of the Red Sox, though he yielded more than five walks per nine and upward of four runs per nine in 2020. Brasier was more successful this past season, as he tossed 25 frames of 3.96 ERA/3.15 FIP ball and averaged better than 10 strikeouts per nine. Plawecki had a nice year as the backup to Christian Vazquez, as he batted .341/.393/.463 in 89 PA.
- The Giants and southpaw Jarlin Garcia have settled for $950K, according to Heyman. Garcia is coming off an 18 1/3-inning effort in which he posted a near-perfect 0.49 (with an impressive 3.14 FIP) and 6.87 K/9 against 3.44 BB/9.
- The Marlins have agreed to a one-year, $4.3MM deal with first baseman Jesus Aguilar, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. The 30-year-old slugger put up strong numbers in his first year with the Fish, slashing .277/.352/.457 with eight long balls in 216 plate appearances.
- The Giants and outfielder Alex Dickerson settled at a year and $2MM, tweets Nightengale. The 30-year-old slugger has a lengthy injury history but has been excellent in limited work with the Giants, including a .298/.371/.576 slash in 170 plate appearances this past season.
- Luis Cessa will be back with the Yankees on a one-year deal, tweets Nightengale. He’ll earn $1.05MM. The righty notched a 3.32 ERA and 3.79 FIP with a 17-to-7 K/BB ratio in 21 2/3 innings this past season. Fellow righty Ben Heller will also return, the team announced, though it didn’t disclose financial details.
- First baseman Matt Olson and the Athletics settled on a one-year deal worth $5MM, tweets Nightengale. The 26-year-old Olson’s .198/.310/.424 slash was an obvious step back from his 2019 campaign, but he’s still viewed as a vital part of the club’s future moving forward.
- The Braves and righty Luke Jackson agreed to a one-year deal, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The 29-year-old was rocked for a 6.84 ERA in this year’s shortened slate of games but posted a 3.84 ERA and 3.24 FIP with better than 13 K/9 as one of the team’s steadiest relievers in 2019. The contract is valued at $1.9MM, per a team announcement.
- The Brewers are bringing back catcher Omar Narvaez for one year and $2.5MM, Heyman tweets. Narvaez was a very good offensive catcher from 2o16-19 with the White Sox and Mariners, but he struggled last season after the M’s traded him to the Brewers. Thanks in part to a career-worst 31 percent strikeout rate, Narvaez could only muster a .176/.294/.269 line and a paltry two HRs in 126 plate appearances. Nevertheless, he’s in line to return to the Brewers for a second season.
- The Brewers have agreed to a one-year, $2MM contract with shortstop Orlando Arcia, Nightengale relays. Arcia endured serious struggles on offense in prior years, but the 26-year-old managed a respectable .260/.317/.416 line with five home runs over 189 plate appearances this past season.
- The Phillies and catcher Andrew Knapp have reached a one-year, $1.1MM agreement, per Nightengale. Typically a light-hitting backstop, Knapp batted a career-best .278/.404/.444 in 89 plate appearances in 2020. He’s currently the No. 1 catcher on a Phillies team that could lose J.T. Realmuto in free agency.
- Pirates infielder Erik Gonzalez agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.225MM, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. It was the second year of arb eligibility for Gonzalez, whose glovework will earn him a contract despite a brutal .227/.255/.359 batting line in 193 plate appearances in 2020.
- The Royals and Hunter Dozier agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.72MM in entirely guaranteed money, MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports. More is available to Dozier via contract incentives. Dozier hit .228/.344/.392 over 186 PA after missing over the first two weeks of the season recovering from a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
- The Red Sox agreed to an $870K deal with right-hander Austin Brice for the 2021 season, as per Nightengale. Brice posted a 5.95 ERA, 11.4 K/9, and 5.9 BB/9 over 19 2/3 innings in his first season in Boston, and was considered a potential non-tender candidate.
- The Twins and righty Tyler Duffey agreed to a one-year, $2.2MM pact, SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson reports. According to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, Duffey’s deal is fully guaranteed.
- The Braves agreed to a one-year, $900K deal with southpaw Grant Dayton, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets. Dayton had a 2.30 ERA over 27 1/3 innings in 2020.
- The Braves announced an agreement with utilityman Johan Camargo on a one-year, $1.36MM deal. Camargo was thought to be a non-tender candidate after struggling to a .222/.267/.378 slash line in 375 plate appearances over the last two seasons, but he will return for a fifth year in Atlanta.
- The White Sox and left-hander Jace Fry agreed to a one-year deal worth $862.5K, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). Fry posted a 3.66 ERA, 2.00 K/BB rate, and 11.0 K/9 over 19 2/3 innings in 2020, and he has strong overall career numbers against left-handed batters.
- The Orioles agreed with second baseman Yolmer Sanchez on a one-year deal worth $1MM, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (via Twitter). Baltimore claimed Sanchez off waivers from the White Sox at the end of October. A Gold Glove winner in 2019, Sanchez was non-tendered by Chicago prior to last year’s deadline, though after signing a minors deal with the Giants, he returned to the White Sox on another minors deal and appeared in 11 games on the South Side.
- The Twins agreed to a one-year deal worth roughly $700K with left-hander Caleb Thielbar, The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman reports (via Twitter). 2020 marked Thielbar’s first taste of MLB action since 2015, as the southpaw worked his way back from independent ball to post a 2.25 ERA, 2.44 K/BB rate, and 9.9 K/9 over 20 innings for Minnesota.
- The Dodgers and left-hander Scott Alexander have agreed to a one-year, $1MM deal, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter link). Alexander posted a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings out of the Los Angeles bullpen this season, recording an equal number of walks and strikeouts (nine). The southpaw was thought to be a potential non-tender candidate given his relative lack of usage and his non-inclusion on the Dodgers’ playoff roster, but the team will retain Alexander for his second arb-eligible year. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (via Twitter) adds the noteworthy detail that Alexander’s $1MM salary is fully guaranteed, as opposed to the usual contracts for arbitration-eligible players that allow their teams to release them prior to Opening Day and only pay a fraction of the agreed-upon salary.
- “There have been many clubs with interest” in trading for Marlins first baseman Jesus Aguilar, SportsGrid’s Craig Mish writes. It isn’t known whether any of those teams might make the Fish a big offer prior to today’s non-tender deadline, though Mish feels the Marlins will indeed tender Aguilar a contract despite the uncertainty about whether or not the DH will be part of National League baseball next season. Aguilar started 19 games as a designated hitter in 2020, and was a first baseman in his 31 other starts. “Jesus returning without the DH is not optimal, but possible” for Miami, Mish writes, and of course trades could still be explored throughout the offseason.
Even the game’s largest Covid-19 outbreak couldn’t derail the Marlins’ Cinderella season, as the Fish surprised the league with a 31-29 record and went on to topple the Cubs in the Wild Card round of this year’s expanded postseason format. With a slew of young talent bubbling up to the Majors, newly minted general manager Kim Ng will be aiming to bring the club back to October baseball in 2021.
- Starling Marte, OF: $12.5MM through 2021
- Corey Dickerson, OF: $9.5MM through 2021
- Miguel Rojas, SS: $5.5MM through 2021 (includes $500K buyout of 2022 club option)
Note on arb-eligible players: this year’s arbitration projections are more volatile than ever, given the unprecedented revenue losses felt by clubs and the shortened 2020 schedule. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz, who developed our arbitration projection model, used three different methods to calculate different projection numbers. You can see the full projections and an explanation of each if you click here, but for the purposes of our Outlook series, we’ll be using Matt’s 37-percent method — extrapolating what degree of raise a player’s 2020 rate of play would have earned him in a full 162-game slate and then awarding him 37 percent of that raise.
- Jesus Aguilar – $3.9MM
- Jorge Alfaro – $1.7MM
- Brian Anderson – $2.2MM
- Adam Cimber — $800K
- Garrett Cooper – $1.5MM
- Yimi Garcia – $1.4MM
- Ryne Stanek – $800K
- Richard Bleier – $1.1MM
- Exercised $12.5MM club option on OF Starling Marte
- Declined $4MM club option on RHP Brandon Kintzler (paid $225K buyout)
Much of the Marlins’ surprising success in 2020 can be attributed to the team’s enviable collection of young pitching. Right-handers Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sanchez each gave strong performances, with Alcantara and Lopez soaking up the most innings. Alcantara, Lopez and Hernandez are all locked into next year’s rotation, manager Don Mattingly said after the Marlins’ postseason run ended. Sanchez’s omission from the mix may surprise some, given his strong rookie effort, although he’ll surely have the opportunity to cement his spot in Spring Training.
Behind that quartet of righties is a mix of intriguing but still unproven arms. Righty Jordan Yamamoto had some success in 2019 but was clobbered in 2020. Prospects Nick Neidert, Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers all struggled in small samples of work as well. Veteran righty Jose Urena is out of the mix after yesterday’s DFA, although that’s hardly a surprise given that he stood out as one of the game’s likelier non-tender candidates. The Marlins have some intriguing yet-to-debut options (e.g. Edward Cabrera), but their pitching depth was thinned out a bit when they sent Caleb Smith and Humberto Mejia to the Diamondbacks in this August’s Starling Marte trade.
Beyond Alcantara and Lopez, Marlins starters have at best limited track records of MLB success. Even Hernandez, whom Mattingly proclaimed as a member of the rotation, pitched just 25 2/3 solid innings in 2020; in 2018-19, he posted an ERA north of 5.00. The youth and years of team control are obviously appealing, but the Marlins would still be well served to bring in a veteran both to help mentor the staff and to provide some stable innings. Names like Rick Porcello, Martin Perez and south Florida native Mike Fiers are all available if the team’s priority is dependable innings, and there are plenty of interesting names looking for bouncebacks from injured seasons (e.g. James Paxton, Jose Quintana, Corey Kluber).
With Kintzler and Boxberger both returning to the market, the Marlins will have some work to do to round out their bullpen. Miami could’ve retained Kintzler at a seemingly reasonable $4MM price point, but there were quite a few solid reliever options declined this year. Perhaps the hope is that recently acquired righty Adam Cimber, another ground-ball specialist, can provide similar production at a fraction of the rate. Miami picked him up from the Indians in exchange for cash, and he’s projected to earn $800K via arbitration. Even with Cimber aboard, it’s likely that the Marlins will talk to Kintzler about coming back at a lower price than his option would have guaranteed.
More intriguing bullpen options will become available after the non-tender deadline. The Marlins seem likely to again look for affordable veteran help to complement their in-house options, particularly with an unsettled mix at the back of the ’pen. Two offseasons ago, the Marlins did quite well on a low-cost, one-year deal with Sergio Romo. Last winter, it was Kintzler. It seems reasonable to expect a similar approach this time around, even with a new GM at the helm.
Turning to the offense, the Marlins have plenty of intriguing youngsters on the cusp of Major League readiness, but struggles behind the plate could lead the club to look outside the organization for upgrades. Jorge Alfaro was a key piece of the trade that sent J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia — along with the aforementioned Sanchez — but he’s yet to solidify himself as the team’s long-term replacement for Realmuto. In two years as a Marlin, Alfaro has a .256/.306/.410 batting line, and both his offense and defense took marked steps back in 2020. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Miami was starting the light-hitting Chad Wallach over Alfaro.
Miami doesn’t figure to spend particularly aggressively in free agency. A Realmuto reunion is off the table, but any of the market’s second-tier options — James McCann and Yadier Molina headline the group — could seemingly fit into the budget for a team whose current payroll projection check in shy of $60MM now that Urena no longer factors into the mix. Additional trades or non-tenders could yet lower that mark.
The trade market could offer myriad other possibilities. Many Marlins decision-makers have Yankees roots and are familiar with Gary Sanchez. There’s bound to be speculation about the Cubs moving Willson Contreras as they look to cut costs. MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk recently explored the reasons that San Diego might move Francisco Mejia. The Blue Jays have a glut of catchers on their 40-man roster.
Looking up and down the rest of the lineup, the needs aren’t as palpable. The outfield should be more or less set with Corey Dickerson’s contract locking him into left field and Starling Marte set to return as the primary center fielder. Garrett Cooper hit well in 2020, but if he falters in right field, the Marlins are rife with corner-outfield alternatives; any of Jon Berti, Monte Harrison, Harold Ramirez, Magneuris Sierra, Jesus Sanchez or Lewis Brinson could earn an increased role there.
If somehow that entire bunch struggles, the club could always consider moving third baseman Brian Anderson back to right field. Between Berti, Miguel Rojas, Isan Diaz and Jazz Chisholm, the Fish should be able to cover third base, shortstop and second base even if Anderson is needed in the outfield. It’s possible the Marlins still bring in a versatile veteran infielder, if only so they have the option of allowing both Diaz and Chisholm to continue to develop in Triple-A without compromising their bench mix.
Over at first base, the Marlins got a big rebound performance out of Jesus Aguilar and will surely tender him a contract after he raked at a .277/.352/.457 clip with eight long balls in 216 trips to the dish. Should he sustain an injury or see his 2019 struggles recur, the Marlins could turn things over to Cooper or dip into the farm and call on prospect Lewin Diaz to get an earnest look at first base.
Given the wealth of young options in both the infield and the outfield, a major addition at any position other than catcher seems unlikely. Minor league depth signings and a veteran bench piece to add to either the infield or outfield mix — possibly both, if the target is someone like old friend Enrique Hernandez — make plenty of sense for the Marlins. However, this is a club whose collection of position players simply needs some time to audition for the front office.
The pitching side of things presents a bit more of an opportunity for some veteran pickups, but again, there are several key young players in place and others who are ready for a chance to show they belong in the conversation as long-term building blocks.
Had there been a traditional season with expected revenue streams and ample time for said young players to get their feet wet in the Majors and upper minors, the Marlins’ outlook might be a bit different. They’d have a better sense of who is and who isn’t vital to their long-term competitiveness and would perhaps have a better idea of where they need to spend in the long run. Given that they remarkably don’t have a single guaranteed dollar on the books for the 2022 season, the Marlins might have been considered a dark horse to again splash around with some notable free-agent spending.
That doesn’t seem as likely now with a year of zero revenue and with so many young questions to be answered. Still, that blank slate on the 2022 payroll is worth bearing in mind both as the 2021 trade deadline approaches and as next offseason looms. If the organization’s younger options aren’t cutting it, this is a team with such a wide-open financial outlay that they could take on salary either via trade or (next winter) free agency. The Fish have reached the point where they’ll look to rise from NL East cellar dweller to a legitimate threat in what could be the game’s most competitive division race for several years to come.
The Marlins have acquired right-hander Adam Cimber from the Indians for cash considerations, per an announcement from Cleveland. The Indians will receive $100K, according to Tom Withers of the Associated Press. Miami designated righty Jose Urena for assignment in a corresponding move, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports.
Also a former Padre, the 30-year-old Cimber will now join his third team since he debuted in the majors in 2018. Although he only averages around 86 mph on his fastball, Cimber has generated decent results in the bigs, including during a 2020 campaign in which he logged a 3.97 ERA/3.99 FIP with a 52.4 percent groundball rate and a 1.59 BB/9. Cimber averaged a paltry 3.97 strikeouts per nine during his 11 1/3 innings of work (down from 6.51 the previous year), though, and the Indians then deemed him expendable when they designated him last week.
Cimber will go down as the first trade acquisition for new Marlins general manager Kim Ng, and he’ll try to help a bullpen that ranked fifth from the bottom in ERA and second to last in FIP in 2020. He’ll be an inexpensive part of their relief corps next year, as he’s projected to earn between $800K and $1MM in arbitration. Cimber isn’t due to reach free agency until after 2024, so he could be a multiyear piece for Miami.
Urena is the Marlins’ longest-tenured player, Craig Mish of Sports Grid notes, but it appears the two sides are going to part ways. The 2020 season, which could go down as Urena’s last as a Marlin, ended in ugly fashion when he suffered a right forearm fracture at the end of September. He concluded his season with 23 1/3 innings of 5.40 ERA/6.06 FIP ball and 5.79 K/9 against 5.01 BB/9. It was the second straight rough season for the 29-year-old Urena, who enjoyed a solid run as a viable innings-eater from 2017-18. But considering his performance since 2019 and his $3.8MM to $4.2MM arbitration projection for next year, Urena entered this offseason as an obvious non-tender candidate.
Right-hander Dan Straily dropped completely off the MLB radar following a dismal 2019 showing with the Orioles — a season that saw him surrender 52 earned runs in just 47 2/3 big league innings. Interest in the righty was tepid, and he opted to take a guaranteed $1MM deal with the Lotte Giants of the Korea Baseball Organization over a nonguaranteed deal with an MLB club.
That move could wind up paying dividends for Straily, who’ll turn 32 next Tuesday. Sportsgrid’s Craig Mish reports that the veteran righty is receiving interest from MLB and KBO clubs alike, with the Angels, Giants and Reds among the Major League teams to have reached out. Straily is aiming to decide between a return to the Majors and another season (or seasons) in South Korea as soon as next week, per the report.
Straily’s return to the market this winter comes under vastly different circumstances. While he was coming off the worst season of his professional career a year ago, Straily recently wrapped an outstanding debut campaign in the KBO. In 31 starts, Straily totaled 194 frames and pitched to a 2.50 ERA and 2.97 FIP, averaging 9.5 strikeouts, 2.4 walks and 0.46 home runs per nine innings pitched. It was a remarkable turnaround for the well-traveled right-hander — one that seems to have restored some confidence in his ability to navigate a Major League lineup.
The 2019 season was such a struggle for Straily that it’s easy to forget he’s not far removed from being a perfectly serviceable rotation piece in the Majors. From 2016-18, Straily pitched in 90 games for the Reds and Marlins, working to a collective 4.03 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and 1.49 HR/9. Fielding-independent marks were less bullish on the righty (4.83 FIP, 4.89 xFIP) due in some part to a .261 average on balls in play that was well below the league average and a 77.9 percent strand rate that was well north of average. It’s fair to say that Straily probably did benefit from some good fortune, but extreme fly-ball pitchers like him are generally able to sustain lower BABIPs; his .261 mark over that three-year term is right in line with his career .267 mark.
Also working in Straily’s favor is the simple fact that he should be affordable if he opts to return from the KBO. It’s possible he could command a multi-year pact with a modest annual salary, but many teams are likely hoping to ink him on a one-year deal, perhaps with some incentives to help boost his annual value. He’d surely be able to generate multi-year interest in the KBO or perhaps in NPB at this point, though a successful big league return is the most lucrative potential path forward.
The Phillies are considering Dodgers assistant GM Jeff Kingston for their general manager position, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports (Twitter link). Kingston joins a rather short list of names linked to the Phils’ front office search thus far, as former Marlins GM Michael Hill is also expected to interview for the president of baseball operations position and the Phillies will also make something of a longer-shot appeal to gauge Theo Epstein’s interest in the PoBO role.
- As of Wednesday, the Marlins hadn’t made Brandon Kintzler a new contract offer, The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reports. The Marlins declined their 2021 club option on Kintzler (worth $4MM) last month and had expressed interest in bringing him back, though no progress has yet been made on that front. Kintzler posted a 2.22 ERA over 24 1/3 innings in his first season in Miami, with the caveat that advanced metrics and ERA predictors were much less impressed with the groundball specialist’s work.
- Jackson also provides an update on negotiations between the Marlins and Sinclair Broadcast Group about a new TV contract, as the team’s old deal expired at the end of the season. The Marlins are looking to more than triple the $18MM-$20MM they received annually under the terms of their old contract, though “one problem is that there’s no legitimate TV competitor to challenge Sinclair for Marlins rights.” The club could explore such alternative broadcast options as Amazon or YouTube (which Jackson describes as “a long shot”), though barring such a development, talks with Sinclair might stretch into January or February.
Devers, the cousin of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, joined the Marlins in the team’s trade with the Yankees centering on outfielder Giancarlo Stanton before the 2018 campaign. Still just 20 years old, Devers debuted at the High-A level in 2019 and slashed .325/.384/.365 in 138 plate appearances.
Devers is now the Marlins’ 13th-ranked prospect at MLB.com, which places Encarnacion at No. 17. Encarnacion, 23, reached High-A ball for the first time in 2019.