- The Marlins are in ongoing negotiations with Sinclair Broadcast Group about a new TV rights contract, reports Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The parties’ current deal, which will pay the club a league-low $20MM for broadcast rights on Fox Sports’ regional networks in 2020, expires at the end of the season. The figures the parties are discussing for 2021 and beyond are unclear. However, Jackson notes that the Marlins turned down an offer which would’ve paid north of $50MM annually in 2017; that offer was put on the table after the current Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter group agreed to buy the franchise, but before the franchise sale was completed, and new ownership preferred to negotiate the TV deal on their own. Whether that particular offer (or something higher) is still on the table isn’t known. What is apparent, however, is the new TV contract will be far more lucrative than the old deal, which could spur ownership to significantly increase spending on player payroll (Jackson estimates an extra potential $20MM annually) in future seasons.
Joyce, 35, has had a series of up-and-down performances the past few seasons. A productive hitter for the Rays from 2010-14, Joyce was traded to the Angels prior to the 2015 season. He endured a miserable season in Anaheim before an offensive rebirth with the Pirates the following year. He continued that strong showing with the the A’s in 2017, where he amassed a career-high 544 plate appearances of .243/.335/.473 hitting (117 wRC+). After a down 2018 season in Oakland, though, Joyce was forced to settle for a pair of minor-league contracts last offseason.
The Giants, who signed Joyce to the second of those minor-league deals, traded him to Atlanta just before the start of the season. The Braves quickly selected him to their active roster, and they were rewarded with yet another bounceback year at the plate. In 238 plate appearances, Joyce put up a .295/.408/.450 line with seven home runs.
As that plate appearance figure suggests, Joyce was used judiciously by Braves’ manager Brian Snitker. He started just 34 games (thirty in right field, four in left). He was much more prominently used as a bench bat, pinch hitting 85 times. He wasn’t especially productive as a pinch hitter (and hasn’t been throughout his career), but he was stellar when trusted to start games.
Joyce is almost exclusively a platoon player. He has just a .188/.272/.309 career line against left-handed pitching, and he totaled all of 26 plate appearances against southpaws last season. He’s got a career .252/.354/.452 (122 wRC+) mark against right-handers and is coming off a season in which he was even better than that. Clearly, the Fish believe he can still serve as a quality hitter if put in the right role.
The Marlins’ corner outfield mix is promising but uncertain. Fellow free agent signee Corey Dickerson will surely get a long leash, but he’s coming off an injury-riddled 2019 season. Miami plans to move Jonathan Villar around the diamond. He’s also an option on the dirt and could speculatively be given a look in center, too, given his athleticism.
That likely leaves Garrett Cooper and Harold Ramírez as Joyce’s primary competition for at-bats. Both hit right-handed, making Joyce a potential platoon partner. (Both Cooper and Ramírez have been better without the platoon advantage to this point in their careers, although that tends to reverse itself over a larger sample size). Joyce has never played first base, but it’s at least possible (speculatively speaking) to imagine him occasionally spelling the right-handed Jesús Aguilar there as well. At the least, he figures to give manager Don Mattingly a deeper, more balanced bench as the Marlins continue to improve around the margins in hopes of being more competitive in 2020.
The Marlins have agreed to a one-year contract with right-hander Brandon Kintzler, ESPN.com’s Jesse Rogers reports. The deal will pay Kintzler $3.25MM in guaranteed money — $3MM in 2020 salary, and a $250K buyout of a $4MM club option for the 2021 season. In the event of a trade before the 2020 season is out, the 2021 club option increases to $5MM with a $500K buyout. Kintzler is represented by Kevin Kohler.
Miami has been linked to the 35-year-old Kintzler for the last few weeks, with MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reporting earlier today that the two sides were “working on a deal.” With Kintzler now in the fold, it would seemingly put an end to the Marlins’ pursuit of Pedro Strop, another former Cubs reliever Miami was also considering as a ninth-inning option.
Now, Kintzler will step back into a closer’s role for the first time since the 2017 season. Kintzler has spent the bulk of his career outside of save situations, though he did total 46 saves with the Twins and Nationals over the 2016-17 seasons. 2018, however, was a rougher ride for Kintzler, who struggled to a 7.00 ERA over 18 innings with the Cubs after the Nationals dealt him at the trade deadline.
After working to “simplify my mechanics” last Spring Training, Kintzler bounced back in impressive fashion, posting a 2.68 ERA, 3.69 K/BB rate, 7.6 K/9, and 54.7% grounder rate over 57 innings out of the Chicago bullpen in 2019. Despite being in the bottom eighth percentile of hard-hit ball rate, opposing batters couldn’t do much with that hard contact, as Kintzler also posted a low exit velocity (19th percentile) and limited batters to a .265 wOBA that was only slightly lower than his .286 xwOBA.
Kintzler brings some closing experience and, with 10 MLB seasons to his name, simply some experience overall to a mostly-young Marlins bullpen. With Kintzler looking like the favorite to handle the ninth inning, Miami can deploy Jose Urena, Ryne Stanek, Drew Steckenrider, or any other potential closer candidates in other high-leverage roles to gauge their readiness for any save situations. Since the Marlins are still rebuilding, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kintzler shopped at the trade deadline if the right-hander is pitching well, and the extra control offered by the 2021 club option could increase his trade value over pure rental pitchers.
TODAY: The Marlins “are working on a deal” with Kintzler, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets.
JANUARY 24: The Marlins are a reported finalist for righty Pedro Strop, but they’re also “very much in pursuit” of right-hander Brandon Kintzler, tweets Craig Mish of FNTSY Sports Radio. The Miami organization is hoping to entrust ninth-inning duties to one of those two veteran late-inning arms.
Both Strop and Kintzler have spent the past couple seasons with the Cubs. But while Strop is out on the market in hopes of enjoying a rebound season in 2020, Kintzler has already enjoyed a strong rebound effort and is hoping to cash in on his 2019 showing.
In 2018, the now-35-year-old Kintzler limped to a 4.60 ERA (4.10 FIP, 4.50 xFIP) through 60 2/3 innings between the Nationals and Cubs. He’d been sharp in D.C. but immediately scuffled in Chicago, posting a 7.00 ERA in 18 innings. It wasn’t at all the showing for which the Cubs had hoped and Kintzler unsurprisingly exercised a $5MM player option.
That 2018 hiccup now looks like more of an outlier, though, as Kintlzer recorded a career-best 2.68 ERA with 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.79 HR/9 and a 54.7 percent ground-ball rate. As usual, Kintzler’s low-spin sinker — where, unlike with four-seam heaters, less spin is considered a positive — generated plenty of grounders. He also more than doubled the amount he used his changeup and enjoyed an uptick on his swinging-strike rate against that particular offering.
Kintzler now has an ERA of 3.15 or better in three of the past four seasons. Going back seven years to his first full season in the bigs, he’s posted an ERA of 3.24 or better on five occasions, with the lone exceptions coming in 2018 and in 2015, when a knee injury wiped out most of his season (seven MLB innings, 19 in the minors). All told, he has a career 3.37 earned run average in 424 1/3 innings. And while his lifetime 6.3 K/9 mark isn’t the gaudy total one expects to see from a closer, Kintzler is no stranger to late-inning pressures. He’s tallied 49 saves in his big league tenure, thriving thanks to a quality 2.3 BB/9 mark and his robust 56.1 percent grounder rate.
The chase for Pedro Strop may not rate as national news, but it’s an important situation in the context of the remaining relief market. Perusing the slate of still-available pen pieces should convince you of that.
The group of pursuers was defined recently and seems now to have been culled again. The Marlins and Rangers are the two final clubs in the bidding, according to Hector Gomez of Deportivo Z 101 (Twitter link), with the Brewers and Cubs evidently exiting the picture.
For the Fish, Strop would represent something of a finishing flourish to an offseason full of bullpen movement. The Miami organization has dumped a whole lot of talented but unreliable younger hurlers and obviously has interest in plugging in a late-inning veteran.
Should he land instead in Texas, Strop would help buttress a unit that still has some uncertainty. Jose Leclerc and a resurgent Rafael Montero provide some potential fire at the back of the unit, but it’d be nice to pair Strop with Jesse Chavez to lock in some sturdy frames.
Strop has been a steady performer for years now, though he’s coming off of a down 2019. With injuries limiting his availability and effectiveness, the 34-year-old managed only a 4.97 ERA. More than anything, he (like many of his peers) was suddenly prone to the long ball, allowing about twice as many per nine innings as he had over the preceding five years. And a fairly significant velocity decline gave some cause for concern. But it’s not hard to envision a quick bounce back if Strop is at full health, as he still proved capable of inducing an enticing mix of swings and misses and groundballs.
- The Marlins have released outfielder Brayan Hernandez, per Hilburn-Trenkle. Hernandez, who joined the Miami organization in a 2017 trade with Seattle centering on David Phelps, was a touted prospect when he came out of Venezuela in 2014. The 22-year-old didn’t perform well in the minors from 2018-19, however, and managed a miserable .461 OPS in 166 trips to the plate between Single-A and low-A ball last season.
Free-agent righty Pedro Strop is mulling offers from multiple clubs, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (Twitter links). The longtime Cubs setup man has three offers in hand at the moment, Nicholson-Smith adds, citing the Marlins, Brewers, Cubs and Rangers as teams who’ve been showing interest of late.
While it’s not clear which combination of that group has offers on the table, it’d be a surprise to see the Cubs make a competitive offer following ownership’s recent spending limitations and the team’s general lack of offseason activity to date. Nicholson-Smith does indicate that two NL clubs and an AL team have put an offer out to Strop, which at least speculatively speaking, would make the Marlins, Brewers and Rangers a trio that fits the description. Miami was already tied to Strop two weeks ago when FNTSY Sports Radio’s Craig Mish reported their interest.
Hamstring and neck injuries limited Strop to just 41 2/3 innings in 2019 and quite possibly hindered his on-field production; the typically hard-throwing righty logged a 4.97 ERA and saw his heater dip from an average of 95.1 mph in 2018 to 93.6 mph in 2019. That said, Strop still racked up strikeouts at an impressive clip (10.6 K/9) and notched a quality 13.5 percent swinging-strike rate.
And, of course, prior to his down year in 2019, Strop was a consistent force in the Chicago ’pen. The right-hander posted five consecutive sub-3.00 ERA seasons from 2014-18, pitching to a combined 2.61 mark (3.10 FIP) with averages of 10.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 with a ground-ball rate well north of 50 percent. The Marlins have seen considerable turnover in their bullpen already this winter and are said to be eyeing a veteran addition along the lines of last year’s Sergio Romo pickup. The Brewers, meanwhile, already have a deep collection of arms but never shy away from a late-offseason value play. And the Rangers, of course, have been aggressive in reshaping their club in preparation for the opening of their new stadium in 2020.
We’ll use this post to track some minor signings throughout the day…
- The Indians added a pair of minor leaguers, the team announced (via Twitter). Southpaw Gunner Leger and catcher Yojhan Quevedo will report to minor league camp at the beginning of March. A Louisiana native originally drafted in the 26th round by the Miami Marlins, Leger, 24, instead returned to the University of Louisiana in his hometown of Lafayette, where he concluded a successful NCAA career after the 2019 season. Leger went 24-13 with a 2.44 ERA across 63 games, 53 starts in college. Williamsport fanatics might remember Leger as a first baseman and pitcher for a Lake Charles team that made it all the way to the United States finals before losing to perennial challenger, Hawaii, in 2008.
- Quevedo, 26, is a Venezuelan native whose latest baseball action came in the Venezuelan Winter League each of the past two seasons. The catcher is clearly on the older end of the prospect spectrum, thought catchers often develop later. His latest output impressed with a .371/.378/.411 line across 136 plate appearances in the winter league.
- Marlins’ outfield prospect Monte Harrison has an opportunity to win a spot on Miami’s season-opening roster, relays Joe Frisaro of MLB.com as part of a reader mailbag. Harrison, one of Miami’s top prospects, slashed a solid but unspectacular .274/.357/.451 in his first crack at Triple-A last season. Given the continued struggles of Lewis Brinson, who was acquired alongside Harrison in the regrettable Christian Yelich trade, there could be an opportunity for Harrison to claim the center field job. As Frisaro notes, Harrison is already on the Marlins’ 40-man roster, so no further move would be necessary.
TODAY: Hernandez has been outrighted to Triple-A Pawtucket after clearing waivers, the Red Sox announced.
JANUARY 10: The Red Sox have acquired righty Austin Brice from the Marlins, per club announcements. Minor-league infielder Angeudis Santos is headed to Miami in return. The Boston organization designate infielder Marco Hernandez for assignment to create roster space.
Brice was recently designated by the Marlins, making him the latest Miami relief arm to be cut loose. With today’s news, he becomes the latest to land on his feet. On occasion, a rebuilding team cuts loose a pre-arb player that ends up on another 40-man roster. But it’s notable that it has happened four times this winter for the Marlins.
The 27-year-old righty did end his 2019 season with some arm woes. And he wasn’t exactly a dominant hurler by measure of his peripheral numbers. But he was able to contribute 44 2/3 frames of 3.43 ERA pitching on the year. He has multiple serviceable pitches that he has tinkered with over the years; perhaps the Red Sox feel they can extract something with a slightly different mix.