- Tim Naehring has been a popular name for baseball ops openings around baseball like the Phillies and Marlins, but he’s unlikely to leave his role with the Yankees, per Andy Martino of the SNY Network (via Twitter). Connections to Derek Jeter in Miami and Girardi in Philly draw straight lines to Naehring, who is a VP of Baseball Operations in New York. But the role he is in now apparently works for Naehring, and those obvious contacts may be pumping up the possibility of a change.
- After parting ways with president of baseball operations Michael Hill, the Marlins are set to embark on an executive search as well. One person worth keeping an eye on when the hiring process kicks off, according to Sportsgrid’s Craig Mish (Twitter link): Yankees special assistant Jim Hendry. The 65-year-old has been in the New York organization since 2012. His tenure has overlapped with Marlins CEO Derek Jeter’s playing career, as well as Miami director of player development and scouting Gary Denbo’s time in the Yankees’ front office. Hendry is most well-known for his stint as Cubs general manager from 2002-2011.
During a conference call with reporters (including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald) to discuss the departure of president of baseball operations Michael Hill, Marlins CEO Derek Jeter noted that the club is planning to exercise its $12.5MM club option on outfielder Starling Marte for the 2021 season. The option contained a $1MM buyout.
Miami acquired Marte in a trade deadline blockbuster with the Diamondbacks that sent southpaw Caleb Smith, right-hander Humberto Mejia and minor league left-hander Julio Frias to Arizona. Given the substantial trade return, it always seemed pretty likely that the Marlins would pick up Marte’s option rather than see him only as a rental player for the rest of 2020.
Still, with all of the economic uncertainty around baseball, there are only a few contract options that could be seen as 100 percent sure things this winter. It is also noteworthy that the Marlins are the team making this decision, given their history of low payrolls. Marte immediately becomes their highest-paid player and a symbol that the rebuilding in Miami could be coming to an end, even though if it’s probably safe to assume that the Marlins won’t be going on a spending spree just yet.
Marte’s first month in a Marlins uniform had mixed results, as he only hit .245/.286/.415 in 112 regular-season plate appearances. The Fish did end up reaching the postseason, however, and Marte went 2-for-4 in the Marlins’ Game 1 victory over the Cubs in the wild card series. Unfortunately for Marte, he was also hit by a pitch and suffered a hand fracture, sidelining him for the rest of the postseason.
Assuming no long-term effects from the injured hand, Marte will be ready to roll as Miami’s everyday center fielder in 2021. The 32-year-old hit a combined .281/.340/.430 over 250 PA with the D’Backs and Marlins last season, and has been a consistently steady performer over his nine-year career, spent entirely in Pittsburgh prior to the 2020 campaign.
Marte’s original six-year, $31MM extension with the Pirates signed in 2014 contained club options for both 2020 and 2021, so with both options exercised, that contract will end up as an eight-year, $53MM pact. Marte forfeited roughly $2.4MM of that sum during his 80-game suspension for a positive PED test in 2017, and the shortened 2020 season reduced Marte’s salary from $11.5MM to a little under $4.26MM.
10:31AM: In a conference call with Barry Jackson and Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald (Twitter links) and other media members, Jeter said the club had talks with Hill about a new contract but eventually decided to part ways. The club will have a GM/president of baseball operations in place, though Jeter likes his front office’s collaborative way of decision-making. Marlins director of player personnel Dan Greenlee has also been promoted to assistant GM, Jeter said.
9:12AM: The Marlins have moved on from president of baseball operations Michael Hill, the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link). The news ends an 18-year run for Hill in Miami’s front office.
The move isn’t a firing, as Hill’s contract with the club (an extension signed under previous owner Jeffrey Loria) was up at the end of the 2020 season. There hadn’t been any word about a new deal for Hill, yet today’s news still counts as a surprise, both because there hadn’t been any indication that Hill wouldn’t be staying on with the club, and because the Marlins are coming off their first playoff appearance since 2003.
Despite this recent success, however, it could be that majority owner Bruce Sherman and CEO Derek Jeter simply wish to cut ties with one of the few remaining faces from the Loria era. The Marlins organization underwent a pretty substantial makeover once Sherman bought the team in 2017, though Hill retained his job and helped oversee the Marlins’ latest roster overhaul.
Hill steadily moved up the chain of command over his long stint in Miami, moving from an assistant general manager to the GM job in 2007, and then the president of baseball operations role in 2013. It is a tenure that is difficult to properly evaluate, given the tumult that Hill often had to navigate amidst Loria’s controversial ownership of the Marlins. As noted by the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson (Twitter links), “Hill never had total authority” to run the front office under either Loria or Sherman. “Loria made all significant personnel decisions in prior regime,” while Hill was the public face of the front office under Jeter but was “part of what was essentially a committee of people who gave input to Jeter on personnel moves.”
One common thread throughout Hill’s time with the Marlins has been the team’s knack for drafting and developing young talent, though time after time, this pipeline was undercut by Loria ordering ill-advised trades and major signings. Compounding the problem was Loria’s tendency to immediately lose faith in his team after failing to experience immediate success, which led to the front office having to then figure out how to cut costs and start over with another rebuild. The fact that the Marlins were able to generate a good core group of young talent multiple times over (both under Loria and under Jeter) is perhaps a hint of what Hill could achieve if he was able to run a more normal front office environment.
Hill is only 49 years old, and given his respected reputation around baseball, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him emerge as a candidate for one of the open GM/president of baseball operations jobs this offseason. The most immediate speculation has focused on the Reds, as president of baseball ops Dick Williams resigned earlier this month and Hill is from Cincinnati. It stands to reason that the Phillies and Angels might also have interest in speaking to Hill about their front office vacancies.
Speaking of the Angels, former Halos GM Billy Eppler could potentially be a candidate to step into Hill’s old role in Miami, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets, as well as Yankees VP of baseball operations Tim Naehring. Both Eppler and Naehring were in the Yankees organization during Jeter’s time in New York, and Jeter has shown a propensity for hiring people with ties to the Bronx.
It also isn’t necessarily clear whether or not a new Marlins hire would enjoy any more autonomy than Hill did, since Jeter is ultimately making the baseball decisions. A new GM or president of baseball ops might simply be trusted with handling day-to-day duties and being a member of the aforementioned “committee” reporting to Jeter. Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes that Gary Denbo, the Marlins’ director of player development and scouting, is seen around baseball as being Jeter’s top front office advisor, so a new general manager might not even rank second in Miami’s front office pyramid.
Still, there is bound to be plenty of industry interest in being part of a Marlins organization that has signs of turning the corner. After ten losing seasons, the Fish went 31-29 to reach the postseason and then defeated the Cubs in the NL wild card series before being swept by the Braves in the NLDS. This success was in spite of a widespread COVID-19 outbreak within the clubhouse that impacted 18 players and coaches and put the Marlins’ season on hold for over a week.
The Marlins have set their 28-man roster for this week’s NLDS matchup against the divison-winning Braves. Here’s how it all breaks down:
- Sandy Alcantara (Game 1 starter)
- Brad Boxberger
- Yimi Garcia
- James Hoyt
- Brandon Kintzler
- Pablo López (Game 2 starter)
- Nick Neidert
- Sixto Sánchez (Game 3 starter)
- Ryne Stanek
- Nick Vincent
The biggest change here for Miami is the obvious omission of Starling Marte, who is on the taxi squad after breaking his pinkie finger against the Cubs. Lewin Diaz and Stephen Tarpley also moved from the active roster to the taxi squad. Neither appeared in the wild card round against the Cubs.
In their place, the Marlins selected the contract of veteran utility man Sean Rodríguez and added pitchers Castano and Vincent. Rodríguez is a veteran of 13 major league seasons, though the 35-year-old appeared in just 4 games for the Marlins this year, going 2-for-13 at the plate. A veteran of four prior postseasons, he immediately becomes one of, if not the most experienced player on the roster. He’s also been prepped as their potential emergency catcher. Rodríguez has never caught in the majors before, but the Marlins are prepared to use Alfaro as a pinch-hitter early in games, leaving Rodríguez as the sole backup for Wallach.
Vincent appeared in 21 games for the Marlins this year with a 4.43 ERA/5.52 FIP across 22 1/3 innings. The 34-year-old righty adds an important level of depth to the bullpen for a series that has the potential to last 5 consecutive days. The Marlins now have 14 arms in total, with 10 to 11 in the bullpen. Castano could be an option to start a potential game 4. The 25-year-old southpaw made 6 starts to just 1 bullpen appearance during the regular season. He posted a 3.03 ERA/4.81 FIP across 29 2/3 innings. Most likely, he’ll be one of many arms the Marlins would rely on to get through a potentially hectic game four on Friday.
The Miami Marlins will begin today’s NLDS without starting centerfielder Starling Marte, per MLB Network contributor Craig Mish (via Twitter). Marte will not be on the roster for the series. He took a pitch off the hand in the first game of the Wild Card series against the Cubs, fracturing the fifth metacarpal on his left hand. He was said to have been available to pinch-hit in the second game, though he did not appear. It was the third time this season that Marte had been hit on the hand, including the final game of the season.
Losing Marte is a blow for the upstart Marlins, though if there’s a team prepared to weather the storms of adversity, these Marlins certainly top the list. They’ve already withstood a COVID-19 outbreak, the loss of veteran Jose Ureña on the final day of the season, the opt-out and subsequent opt-in plus injury of second baseman Isan Diaz, and the retirement of starting catcher Francisco Cervelli. They also outlasted supposedly better teams in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. (not to mention Chicago) to break a 17-year playoff drought. For most people outside of Miami, Marte’s injury won’t move the needle simply because they aren’t expected to beat the Atlanta Braves anyhow. For those in the Marlins’ clubhouse, add this setback to the fuel for their nobody-believes-in-us fire.
Per Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald, manager Don Mattingly said this about leaving Marte off the roster: “Obviously a guy you don’t want to leave off your roster. But we weren’t comfortable with what he was going to be able to do.” The need to add an extra pitcher, as well as the presence of numerous options to mix-and-match in centerfield also played a part in moving Marte to the taxi squad. Given how difficult a decision this proved to be, one would think Marte could heal enough to return to the roster for the NLCS, should the Marlins outlast the Braves.
Magneuris Sierra will start in Marte’s place in Tuesday’s game, McPherson notes, as he did in the second game of the wild card round in Chicago. In that game, Sierra came up big with an RBI single to give the Marlins a much-needed 2-run cushion. Interestingly, Sierra gets the start in game one even against southpaw Max Fried. That’s in part because of the makeup of the roster, of course, as Lewis Brinson will start in right field instead of lefty Matt Joyce. The 24-year-old Sierra has tremendous speed and defensive potential, which should be an asset for Sandy Alcantara, Miami’s game one starter, who allowed 52.6% Fly Ball Percentage this season.
The Marlins are preparing to kick off their NLDS against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. This series is non-conventional for a postseason set in that the best-of-five will play out over 5 consecutive days (and of course, because it’s being played in a playoff bubble at a neutral site during a pandemic).
No days off means there will be less of the starters-in-relief that has come to define many recent postseasons, including last year when Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez used each of Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Patrick Corbin out of the bullpen en route to winning the World Series. But there’s still potential for lots of in-series finagling of pitching staffs depending on how the first couple of games play out. For Atlanta, that could mean a bullpen day for game four. Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Kyle Wright will take the hill for the first three games, and odds are they’d bring Fried back on short rest for a potential winner-take-all game five.
The potential to return on short rest for a deciding game five makes the selection of the game one starter all the more important . The Marlins will start Sandy Alcantara in the series opener, followed by Pablo López in game two and rookie phenom Sixto Sánchez in game three, tweets Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald. The Marlins young trio have a real opportunity to add to their pandemic-truncated resumes. Alcantara and López won’t be arbitration eligible until after 2021, so there’s time to build a more comprehensive portfolio before entering the arbitration process. Still, every extra start does help considering the half a season or more lost due to the pandemic. The 25-year-old Alcantara, for example, was only able to make 7 regular season starts because of time spent on the COVID-19 injured list. He added one successful postseason start to that total already, and by starting game one of the NLDS, he could add another pair should the series go the distance.
Sánchez, with just 7 regular season starts to his name, isn’t scheduled to enter arbitration until after the 2023 season. He’ll be pushed back a day after 5 spotless innings against the Cubs in game two of the Wild Card series. Sánchez came out hot against the Cubs, routinely hitting triple-digits in the first couple of innings. His velocity dropped to the 94-to-97 mph range by the fifth inning. A game two start would have put him on track for a regular four days of rest. This way gets the 22-year-old an extra day off after a high-intensity outing at Wrigley Field.
López will take the hill for Wednesday’s game two instead. His last start came all the way back on September 24th. That gives him 12 days off between starts. That last outing also happened to come against these very Braves, one of three times he opposed Freddie Freeman and company during the regular season. The Marlins went 2-1 in those games, though the loss on September 9th was easily López’s roughest (and shortest) outing of the season. He managed just 1 2/3 innings while serving up 4 hits, 4 walks, and 7 earned runs. The 24-year-old went 5 scoreless, striking out 6 while yielding just 2 hits and 2 walks in his final start of the year at Atlanta.
In a vacuum, any of the three would be legitimate options to open the series, but manager Don Mattingly wasn’t troubled by his decision about who to start in game one. Per MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro, Mattingly said, “Obviously, Sandy’s easy. He’s been our guy, kind of our No. 1.”
- Miami will likewise take as much time as possible before making a decision on Starling Marte. In the meantime, per Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald (via Twitter), it’s “Rest. Recovery. Treatment.” The Marlins will likely start Magneuris Sierra if Marte isn’t on the roster. Unlike with the Padres’ starters, there is a scenario where Marte is available to pinch-hit, but not to start. Sierra had just 53 plate appearance during the regular season, but he’s a burner who put together some nice at-bats against the Cubs in the wild card round.
- Game one, of course, would likely pit the Marlins against southpaw Max Fried. In that case, Monte Harrison or Lewis Brinson would be more likely to get the nod. Brinson saw the most playing time during the season, slashing .226/.268/.368 across 112 plate appearances in 47 games. Brinson started 28 of the Marlins 60 games in the outfield, but he saw more time in the corners than in center. For what it’s worth, Brinson’s triple slash jumped to .260/.315/.480 in his 54 plate appearances against left-handers in 2020.
Longtime MLB catcher Francisco Cervelli announced his retirement in an Instagram post today (h/t to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Daniel Álvarez Montes of Elextrabase (Twitter link) was first with the news of Cervelli’s forthcoming announcement.
Signed by the Yankees as an international amateur from Venezuela in 2003, Cervelli broke into the big leagues as a September call-up five years later. He would go on to see big league action for New York every year from 2008-14 but only eclipsed 200 plate appearances in a season once. Following a 2014 trade to the Pirates for reliever Justin Wilson, Cervelli finally got an opportunity as a team’s #1 catcher. He made the most of it. In 2015, Cervelli hit .295/.370/.401 (117 wRC+) in 510 plate appearances while rating as one of the league’s premier receiving catchers.
Unfortunately, a worrisome series of concussions kept Cervelli from matching that lofty workload in the following seasons. Nevertheless, he generally continued to produce when healthy over the rest of his five-year Pittsburgh tenure. A miserable 2019 season eventually led to Cervelli’s release from Pittsburgh, although he did latch on with the Braves for their playoff run last season.
Cervelli signed a one-year deal with the Marlins last offseason and was thrust into the lineup when presumptive starter Jorge Alfaro went on the injured list. Even at age 34, he acquitted himself well, hitting .245/.355/.453 in 16 games. Unfortunately, another concussion (at least the seventh of his career) sent him back to the injured list in August. It soon became apparent he wouldn’t factor into the Marlins’ playoff push. Miami had already placed Cervelli on the 60-day IL, so today’s news won’t affect their roster status in advance of next week’s NL Division Series with the Braves.
This surely isn’t the way Cervelli would’ve wanted his career to end, but he noted in his announcement that “for the first time in a long time, I know my health and wellness needs to be the leadoff.” Despite his various injuries, Cervelli ultimately compiled a 13-year MLB career. He hit .268/.358/.382 with 41 home runs over 2618 plate appearances, a bit better than the league average hitter overall. Baseball Reference estimates he was worth approximately 14 wins above replacement, while FanGraphs pegs his career as worth 18 WAR. MLBTR wishes Cervelli the best in retirement.
Oct. 1: Marte saw a specialist today, who confirmed a fracture of the outfielder’s fifth metacarpal in his left hand, tweets Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald. He’s been fitted for a protective brace and is undergoing treatment to reduce the swelling.
The fact that today’s scheduled tilt between the Marlins and Cubs has been postponed due to the weather in Chicago could play to the Marlins’ advantage, as that will give the Fish another day to help regain some mobility in Marte’s hand and reduce the swelling. It’s still not clear to what extent he’ll be available or whether he’ll eventually need to be replaced — squeezing a glove, catching a fly-ball and gripping a bat with a broken bone in one’s hand isn’t exactly easy — but the team has yet to make a roster move. At the very least, Marte could be a potential pinch-runner.
Sept. 30: The Marlins earned their first playoff win since 2003 on Wednesday with a 5-1 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of the teams’ wild-card series, but Miami did not come out of it unscathed. Marlins center fielder Starling Marte exited in the ninth inning after taking a pitch off the left hand from Dan Winkler. It turns out that Marte suffered a fractured pinkie, per Craig Mish of Sports Grid. This could end Marte’s season, but the Marlins are hopeful he will return at some point, according to Mish.
Marte, whom the Marlins surprisingly acquired from the Diamondbacks before the Aug. 31 trade deadline, got off to a solid start in Arizona this year before his production fell in Miami. He posted an .827 OPS as a Diamondback and a .701 mark as a Marlin, leading to a .281/.340/.430 line with six home runs and 10 stolen bases in 250 plate appearances.
No matter how their season ends, the Marlins will have to decide how to proceed with Marte once the winter comes. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Marte has a $12.5MM club option or a $1MM buyout for 2021, the former Pirate’s last season of team control. It seems like a reasonable enough figure for the Marlins to put on their books in a year, but it’s worth noting the D-backs were reportedly leaning against exercising it before they traded Marte. If it’s severe enough (and there’s no indication it is), this injury could affect Miami’s plans.