- Alex Rodriguez could still factor into the Marlins’ next ownership group if the faction including Tagg Romney, Tom Glavine and Dave Stewart lands the franchise. Given A-Rod’s controversial past, the Romney team is keeping him “at arm’s length” for now; even if they weren’t, Rodriguez isn’t allowed to be part of an ownership group as long as he’s still collecting a salary from the Yankees. The 41-year-old’s contract with the Bombers expires at season’s end. His former teammate Derek Jeter, who’s vying with Jeb Bush and against Romney & Co. to purchase the Marlins, isn’t planning to invest much money, says Heyman. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported Saturday that Bush and Jeter are leading the race to acquire the franchise.
The groups bidding on the Marlins have concerns over whether baseball will ever make it big in Miami, reports the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, who adds that it’s possible the team needs a major Latin American star to market itself to a largely Hispanic population. With that in mind, it would make sense for the Marlins to pursue Orioles third baseman and Florida native Manny Machado if he were to hit free agency after the 2018 season, opines Cafardo. The club’s biggest star at the moment is right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, whose mammoth contract has been a burden in Jeffrey Loria’s attempt to sell the Marlins, according to Cafardo. Stanton is in Year 3 of a 13-year, $325MM deal and also has a full no-trade clause that the Los Angeles native would likely only waive to go to the West Coast, per Cafardo. There’s no indication that any West Coast teams are interested in acquiring the slugger, however.
- The Marlins “are actively looking for a taker” for righty Tom Koehler, writes Cafardo. Koehler, whom the Marlins were going to send to the minors before he went on the disabled list May 19 with shoulder bursitis, has drawn interest from both the Dodgers and Red Sox. Los Angeles would use Koehler as a reliever if it were to acquire him, suggests Cafardo, which would be a change of pace for someone who registered 30-plus starts in each of the previous three seasons. Koehler was a fairly stable option over those 97 outings, combining for a 4.07 ERA, 7.08 K/9, 3.74 BB/9 and a 43.7 percent ground-ball rate, but has struggled mightily this season. Across eight starts and 38 1/3 innings, Koehler has pitched to a 7.08 ERA, with 7.26 K/9, 4.46 BB/9 and a 37.1 percent grounder rate. Koehler, 31 in June, is making $5.75MM and will be arbitration eligible for the last time over the winter.
The Marlins are negotiating with the Jeb Bush/Derek Jeter and Tagg Romney/Tom Glavine/Dave Stewart groups and intend to sell the team to one of those groups “in the coming weeks,” Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes in a detailed report about the status of the sale. (We encourage you to give it a click; especially for stories like these that revolve around events that take place entirely away from the baseball field, firsthand reporting is crucial.) Other recent stories about the sale have characterized negotiations as fraught, suggesting either that potential owners have backed away after examining the team’s financials, or that the Bush/Jeter group in particular did not have the capital necessary to complete the deal. According to Jackson, though, current owner Jeffrey Loria remains “fully committed” to selling the team, and the team is “optimistic” a deal will happen.
The Bush/Jeter group is currently a “slight favorite,” Jackson writes, although the Romney/Glavine/Stewart group is still a real possibility. Both groups have told the Marlins that they and their investors have enough money to make the deal (contrary, perhaps, to a recent report suggesting the Jeter/Bush group did not have the necessary funds to make a $1.3B bid), although neither group’s investors have formally submitted partnership agreements that are required by the league.
Jackson explains that, according to a source close to Bush, the Bush/Jeter group has a number of verbal agreements with investors that would give it the money necessary to buy the team. The winning bid might require $800MM-$850MM in equity (with the rest of the sale total being financed through debt), plus an additional $200MM or so to pay to run the team (presumably meaning paying for player salaries and other significant expenses in the period shortly after the sale). The Romney/Glavine/Stewart bid was slightly higher than the Bush/Jeter bid, Jackson writes, although a source tells him that other factors make the two bids approximately the same.
Jackson also adds that Joe Molloy, briefly a managing general partner of the Yankees and formerly George Steinbrenner’s son-in-law, has also been trying to get involved in the bidding for the Marlins. His group has not yet made a bid, however. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross never made any bid to buy the Marlins, contrary to a previous report, Jackson writes.
- The potential price tag in a sale of the Marlins could dip further below the reported $1.3 billion mark that both the Derek Jeter/Jeb Bush and Tom Glavine/Tagg Romney groups were said to be willing to exceed, reports FanRag’s Jon Heyman. Heyman spoke to one person with knowledge of the Bush-Jeter group in particular and said that group is still short of the necessary capital to formally make such a bid. He adds that some potential suitors for the Marlins have backed away after looking “under the hood,” so to speak, which gels with previous reports that the team’s lack of revenue and long-term payroll commitments could be negatively impacting the sale process.
- Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich is confident that he can avoid the disabled list after suffering what now looks to be a minor hip flexor injury, writes MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. Perhaps of greater consequence in the long term, Frisaro adds that there’s yet to be any discussion of Tommy John surgery for Marlins southpaw Wei-Yin Chen. Dr. Neal ElAttrache examined Chen’s left elbow recently and recommended rest as the best option for the ailing lefty. “Everybody hears ’tear’ and fears the worse, but a sprain is technically a tear,” said Marlins president of baseball ops Mike Hill. “Like, with anything, if there is an injury, you try to maintain it and give it the rest that it needs to be effective.”
- Things obviously haven’t gone as hoped thus far for the Marlins, though that doesn’t mean president of baseball operations Mike Hill is giving up just yet, as Tim Healey of the Sun-Sentinel reports. Time may be running short to engineer a turnaround, but “there’s no panic” in the organization, says Hill. With lapses cropping up all over the roster, says the veteran executive, “it makes it even harder” to find a solution. For the time being, then, it seems there’s little the club can do but continue to press on.
- Outfielder Christian Yelich is among the Marlins players who has not quite performed to expectations thus far. Now, he’s dealing with a new injury, as Healey reports. Yelich left last night’s game after his right hip flexor tightened up. The club is waiting to see how Yelich feels today before determining the next steps.
- Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters today that left-hander Wei-Yin Chen has undergone another platelet-rich plasma injection in his ailing left elbow (Twitter link via the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s Tim Healey). Chen had a PRP in that same elbow last summer and was able to return after an absence of about two months. At this point, however, the Marlins still don’t have any idea when the southpaw will be cleared to rejoin the rotation. As I noted yesterday when running down the various opt-out decisions that will impact the upcoming class of free agents, Chen’s injury makes it nearly impossible to fathom a scenario where he opts out of the remaining three years on his five-year, $80MM contract.
Recently, I took a quick look at all of the players with vesting options for the 2018 season, noting that many of the outcomes within will have significant ramifications for both the upcoming free-agent market and the future of those players’ respective teams. The implications are even greater for the eight players that have opt-out provisions of some type at the end of the current season. In some cases, the opt-out in question could either liberate that player’s team from more than $80MM in future commitments or saddle them with that same burdensome amount. (And, in most cases, if the player isn’t opting out, the remaining salary is indeed a burden, as the player either performed too poorly to opt out and/or got hurt.)
Here’s a look at the opt-out decisions that are looming at season’s end…
- Justin Upton, Tigers: The disastrous start to Upton’s six-year, $132.5MM contract now looks like a distant memory. After struggling to a .228/.286/.369 batting line through his first three months in the Motor City, Upton has surged with a .255/.342/.535 slash and 31 home runs over his past 471 big league plate appearances. Strikeouts are still an issue for Upton, but he’s also walking more than ever (15 percent in 2017). He’s on pace to finish the season right around the 30-homer mark, and if he can do so with an OBP in the mid-.300s and respectable marks in left field — he’s currently at +4 DRS and +3.4 UZR — then the remaining four years and $88.5MM on his contract will pose an interesting decision for Upton, who is currently playing out his age-29 season.
- Johnny Cueto, Giants: Cueto looked like an ace in his first year with San Francisco but has stumbled to a 4.50 ERA through his first 58 innings with the Giants in 2017. He’s still averaging better than eight punchouts per nine innings to go along with solid (but diminished) control. However, he’s seen his ground-ball rate plummet from 50 percent to 39 percent, and paired with the increase in walk rate (1.8 BB/9 to 2.5 BB/9), that has led to some issues. There’s still plenty of time for Cueto to get back on track, but the remaining four years and $84MM on his contract doesn’t look quite as easy to walk away from as it did just seven weeks ago. He’ll be 32 next season.
- Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees: Cueto’s slow start looks Cy Young-worthy when juxtaposed with Tanaka, who has logged a ghastly 6.56 ERA through 48 innings in 2017. Like Cueto, Tanaka has seen his control take a step back, though his strikeout and ground-ball rates are consistent, and his velocity is fine. Tanaka’s average on balls in play is up, however, and his homer-to-flyball rate has skyrocketed from 12 percent to 24.5 percent. Given his age (29 in November), Tanaka would be a virtual lock to opt out of the remaining three years and $67MM on his contract with a good season. If he can’t overcome his home-run woes, however, he may instead opt for the substantial amount of guaranteed cash remaining on his deal.
- Wei-Yin Chen, Marlins: Chen’s opt-out is perhaps the easiest to determine of any player on this list. Unfortunately for the Marlins, that’s due to the fact that he’s currently sidelined indefinitely due to arm troubles. Chen is on the disabled list with arm fatigue, though it’s been reported previously that he’d been pitching through a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, which was sustained in 2016. Chen hasn’t pitched well as a Marlin even when healthy, and at this point it would take a quick recovery and a dominant finish for him to even consider opting out of the remaining three years and $52MM on his contract.
- Ian Kennedy, Royals: Kennedy has logged a solid 3.74 ERA in 233 1/3 innings since signing a five-year deal with Kansas City, but he’s already in his age-32 season. His strikeout rate and control have taken a step back in 2017 as well, and he’s remained homer-prone despite pitching half his games at the spacious Kauffman Stadium. Kennedy turned in a very strong final four months in his last contract season — which helped him land this surprising contract in the first place — but it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll opt out of the remaining three years and $49MM on his current contract.
- Greg Holland, Rockies: To be clear, Holland cannot technically opt out of his contract just yet. The one-year, $7MM contract that he signed with the Rox contained a $10MM mutual option that can vest as a $15MM player option if Holland finishes 30 games. At this juncture, though, it seems as if an injury is all that can stop Holland’s player option from vesting. He’s already finished 20 of the 30 games he needs, and he’s currently boasting a preposterous 0.96 ERA with a 26-to-6 K/BB ratio through 18 2/3 innings. Apparently, pitching at Coors Field suits Holland just fine, though if he keeps this up, it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll turn down the one year and $15MM he’d receive for a second season at Coors and hit the market in search of a lucrative three- or four-year contract.
- Matt Wieters, Nationals: The stagnant offseason market for Wieters’ services culminated in a two-year, $21MM contract with the Nats that offers Wieters the opportunity to test free agency once again next winter, if he wishes. To this point, it’s looking likely that Wieters will pass on that player option. His walks, hard-hit rate and BABIP are up, none of which has come at the expense of his strikeout rate. Wieters is hitting a solid .283/.358/.442 with four homers on the year. His caught-stealing rate is down (23 percent), and his framing remains questionable, but the improved offense makes it seem likely that, even if Wieters again struggles to find the strong multi-year deal he craves, a contract comparable to the one year and $10.5MM he can opt out of will once again be available on the open market.
- Welington Castillo, Orioles: Castillo’s two-year, $13MM contract with the Orioles was a pleasant surprise for a player who had previously been locked into arbitration in Arizona before surprisingly being non-tendered. He’s off to a torrid .348/.375/.543 start to the season with four homers and six doubles through 96 plate appearances. There’s a fair bit of luck involved in that production, as evidenced by the 30-year-old’s .418 BABIP. But his strikeouts are down this season, and he’s thrown out a career-best 41 percent of attempted base thieves. His framing marks, while still below average, have improved on a per-pitch basis as well. His glove may prevent him from fully cashing in, but Castillo’s bat could make the remaining one year and $7MM on his contract easy enough to walk away from, assuming he’s healthy.
- The Marlins announced that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Vance Worley, who will start their game against the Dodgers on Sunday. Worley hadn’t cracked the majors this year until now, having spent the first month-plus at Triple-A after inking a minor league deal in early April. The 29-year-old Worley hasn’t been great at that level, with a 4.43 ERA, 4.43 K/9 and 2.22 BB/9 in 44 2/3 innings. The well-traveled swingman has prevented runs at a respectable clip in the majors, though, evidenced by a 3.75 ERA over 595 1/3 career frames.
- The Marlins outrighted Mike Aviles to Triple-A yesterday, as per a team announcement. Aviles was signed to a minor league deal less than two weeks ago and was already promoted for a brief stint in the bigs due to Miami’s lack of infield depth, though Aviles was designated for assignment after Christian Colon was claimed off waivers.