Many of the free agent mistakes that have plagued the Marlins in recent years weren’t the fault of president of baseball operations Michael Hill, a source tells Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “People without full accountability had more power under Jeffrey [Loria]” than Hill did, the source said, and Jackson’s piece details some of the thought process that led to the Marlins’ ill-fated signings of Wei-Yin Chen, Martin Prado, Edinson Volquez, Jeff Locke, Brad Ziegler, and Junichi Tazawa. Hill’s lack of culpability in these signings could explain why he kept his job once the Derek Jeter/Bruce Sherman ownership group took over the team last year, amidst a general housecleaning of former front office staff. Hill was already under contract through 2020, though that doesn’t appear to have been a major factor in his retention, since the team has eaten quite a bit of salary in letting go of other executives. According to Jackson, roughly $18MM in total salary was owed to departed front office members Mike Berger, Jeff McAvoy, Marc DelPiano, and Jim Benedict through the 2020 season.
The Marlins have selected right-handed reliever Drew Rucinski’s contract from Triple-A New Orleans, according to the team. The club optioned lefty Jarlin Garcia to New Orleans in a corresponding move.
Rucinski, whom the Marlins added on a minors deal over the winter, began the season with a 2.52 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 25 innings prior to his promotion. The 29-year-old previously saw major league action with the Angels (2014-15) and Twins (2017), combining for a 7.23 ERA in 18 2/3 frames.
Garcia ranks third among Marlins pitchers in innings (51), but they chose to demote him after he managed a 4.41 ERA, 5.65 K/9 and 3.71 BB/9 in 12 appearances and six starts. That’s not what either party had in mind when the 25-year-old Garcia no-hit the Mets over six innings on April 11 and then held the Yankees’ elite offense to one hit in five frames on April 17.
The Marlins have acquired first baseman Peter O’Brien from the Dodgers in exchange for cash, tweets Matthew DeFranks of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. It’s a homecoming of sorts for O’Brien, a Miami-area native, though he’s been assigned to the team’s Double-A affiliate in Jacksonville for the time being. He wasn’t on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, so no corresponding move is necessary for the Marlins.
O’Brien, 27, came up through the Yankees minor league system as a catcher noted for his tremendous power, but he’s bounced all over the diamond thanks to questionable defensive skills and has ultimately settled in at first base. He’s had a rough start to the season with the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate, hitting .150/.241/.390. While he’s shown his typical brand of impressive power, clubbing seven homers in 112 plate appearances, he’s also struck out at a 38.9 percent pace so far.
The Marlins will be the seventh organization for O’Brien, who went from the Yankees to the D-backs in the 2014 Martin Prado trade and has since bounced from the D-backs to the Royals, Reds, Rangers and Dodgers in a series of smaller trades and waiver claims. He’s a career .176/.228/.446 hitter in 79 Major League plate appearances and has slashed .254/.306/.495 in 1162 plate appearances at the Triple-A level.
Following another rough outing for righty Brad Ziegler, Marlins manager Don Mattingly announced to reporters that right-hander Kyle Barraclough will take over as the team’s closer (link via Joe Frisaro of MLB.com).
While Ziegler, 38, technically only has one blown save on the year, it’s been a nightmarish start to the season for him all the same. He’s been scored upon in 10 of his 24 appearances (including three of his past five) and is currently carrying a 7.83 ERA with 34 hits, six walks and a hit batter through 23 innings. Ziegler’s 5.9 K/9 is right in line with his career mark, and he’s still showing good control (2.4 BB/9) with excellent ground-ball tendencies (68.7 percent). However, the submariner is serving up hard contact at a 46.5 percent clip after registering a 28.2 percent mark in that regard a year ago.
Ziegler is playing out the second season of a two-year, $16MM contract and is owed the balance of a $9MM salary through season’s end. While the organization’s hope had surely been that he pitched well enough to be a desirable trade piece this summer, that hasn’t been the case thus far. He’ll presumably work in some lower-leverage situations for awhile, perhaps matching up primarily against right-handed opponents, as he looks to get back on track.
As for Barraclough, the changing of the guard in the ninth inning presents him with his first crack at closing in the big leagues. The 28-year-old has never displayed good control in the Majors (5.5 BB/9 in his career and in 2018), but he’s mitigated the damage of those free passes, to a large extent, by racking up impressive strikeout numbers. Barraclough has averaged 11.8 K/9 in his big league career and has a 10.0 mark in that category so far in 2018.
The move comes with plenty of financial implications for Barraclough, as well. The righty will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason and has already 64 holds in his big league career. Adding four months’ worth of saves to his resume, assuming he is able to continue pitching well in his new role, would further his impressive resume and build a nice case for a a first-time payday in the arb process.
Rays outfielder Carlos Gomez has been activated from the 10-day disabled list; he’d been sidelined since May 16th with a strained groin. The injury was thought to be minor at the time, and the fact that Gomez missed only the ten-day minimum leaves little room to doubt his health at this time. That doesn’t mean his performance comes without questions, though, as the veteran is slashing just .200/.252/.345 on the season. No corresponding move was required for Tampa Bay, as their roster was two men short following yesterday’s surprising trade with Seattle.
And now a flurry of other injury-related items from around the league…
- David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that Anibal Sanchez could be the Braves’ starter on Tuesday following a successful rehab start on Friday. Mark Bowman of MLB.com takes it a step further by quoting manager Brian Snitker, who reportedly said that Sanchez is indeed penciled in to start Tuesday’s game. Sanchez has a 1.29 ERA in three appearances (two starts) on the season.
- Adam Berry of MLB.com writes that Starling Marte will be activated from the DL by the Pirates today if he reports to the ballpark feeling ready to play. It’d be a remarkably quick return for the 29-year-old outfielder, who has been sidelined with an oblique injury. Injuries of that type have a reputation for lingering and causing players to miss extended time. One has to wonder what Marte’s potential activation would mean for the red-hot Austin Meadows, who’s managed more homers in the big leagues thus far (3) than strikeouts (2).
- The Yankees have reinstated first baseman Greg Bird from the disabled list, optioning infielder Ronald Torreyes to Triple-A in a corresponding move. Marc Carig of The Athletic notes that the move makes plenty of sense considering the versatility of Gleyber Torres and the fact that a removal of Neil Walker from the roster isn’t reversible. Bird entered the season with plenty of hype surrounding him, but has yet to make his 2018 debut thanks to right foot surgery.
- In a move that was widely expected, the Marlins placed Martin Prado (hamstring) on the 10-day DL today, recalling J.T. Riddle from Triple-A to take his place on the roster. It’s the latest in an unfortunate series of injuries for the formerly-durable Prado, who made only 147 trips to the plate last year following eight straight seasons with at least 500 PA.
It seems that Marlins infielder Martin Prado has suffered a rather significant left hamstring injury, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. The 34-year-old has endured a run of significant problems with his hamstring muscles in the past year or so. Details aren’t yet known, but it certainly sounds as if Prado will be sidelined for a lengthy stretch. He’s owed $13.5MM this year and $15MM for the 2019 campaign. The long-productive infielder has struggled to a .169/.221/.180 batting line in 95 plate appearances on the season.
Here’s more on the injury front:
- The Nationals finally got some promising injury news, as they’ll send both Daniel Murphy and Brian Goodwin on rehab assignments beginning tomorrow. Jon Heyman of Fan Rag tweeted the news with regard to the former; Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post tweeted manager Davey Martinez’s announcement on both players. Murphy has yet to appear in the 2018 campaign after offseason microfracture surgery, while Goodwin has been slow to return from a wrist injury.
- It’s still unclear just how long the Cardinals will go without shortstop Paul DeJong, but he says he has been given a four-to-eight week estimate by the medical professionals, as Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. More than anything, it seems that broad range indicates that there’s not a lot of clarity at this point as to how long it’ll take to heal. All involved will obviously hope that it hues toward the earlier estimate, as the replacement options all have their warts as semi-regular shortstops.
- It seems the Athletics will go without reliever Santiago Casilla for a stretch. He has been diagnosed with a shoulder strain, as MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports (Twitter links). Details of his anticipated absence are not yet available, but it’s said to be likely that Casilla will end up on the DL. At the same time, he says he does not believe it’s a serious malady. The veteran entered play today with an ugly 14:13 K/BB ratio, but had allowed eight runs on only 11 hits in his 21 innings of action.
- Though he seemingly avoided a more concerning fate, Orioles slugger Mark Trumbo will likely head to the DL to rest his ailing right knee, as Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com was among those to report (Twitter links). Trumbo was diagnosed with a fairly significant case of arthritis, which won’t necessarily put him on the shelf for long but also probably isn’t the best news for a defensively limited player who’s owed $12.5MM this year and $13.5MM next. He has been productive thus far in 2018, though, with a .309/.317/.469 slash through 82 plate appearances. On the other hand, it’s somewhat worrisome that he has managed only a pair of home runs and a single walk in that span.
- In other AL East news … so long as there are no surprises in the interim, Nate Eovaldi will finally start for the Rays on Tuesday, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. The Yankees announced that reliever Tommy Kahnle is back from the DL, which represents a promising development given the uncertainty that surrounded him when he went on the shelf. And while the Blue Jays still aren’t planning on a near-term return from Troy Tulowitzki, skipper John Gibbons says the veteran shortstop is at least ready to begin running, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca tweets.
- While the Padres had hoped to welcome back catcher Austin Hedges in relatively short order, he’s now halting his rehab after his problematic right elbow flared up, as MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell writes. It still seems there’s little reason to fear that Hedges is dealing with a real structural problem, though surely it’s frustrating for the organization that he hasn’t yet fully turned the corner.
- Meanwhile, the Angels provided an update on hurler Matt Shoemaker, though it mostly suggests ongoing uncertainty with regard to the root of his arm issues. As the club announced, and MLB.com’s Maria Guardado tweets, the latest examination “ruled out peripheral nerve involvement” but “showed mild edema in the forearm.” Shoemaker is also said to have undergone a bone scan. The results of that weren’t specifically cited, but it seems to suggest that the organization is looking at quite a lot of possibilities to figure out what’s really causing problems for the starter.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a regular feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.
In this rebuilding season, the Marlins are taking the opportunity to evaluate several young starting pitchers at the Major League level. Dillon Peters and Trevor Richards are back in Triple-A after getting an extended look. Jarlin Garcia made six starts before being moved to the bullpen. He was replaced in the rotation by Rule 5 pick Elieser Hernandez. Triple-A starters Zac Gallen and Ben Meyer have both been good enough to warrant a promotion, and 22-year-old Pablo Lopez (1 ER in 31 2/3 IP) has been one of the best pitchers at the Double-A level. Next in line, though, should be Alcantara, the prized prospect acquired from the Cardinals in the offseason trade of Marcell Ozuna.
After tossing eight shutout innings in his latest start, the 22-year-old right-hander’s debut with the Marlins has to be on the horizon. Alcantara doesn’t have the high strikeout rate that you’d expect from a top prospect, but he throws in the mid-to-high 90s—he averaged 98 MPH in eight relief appearances last season—and has been a strike-throwing machine as of late. Since walking 16 batters over his first six starts, Alcantara has been in control over his last three outings with only one walk in 20 innings, including back-to-back starts without issuing a free pass. As a comparison, he walked a batter in all but one of his 22 Double-A starts last season.
If the Marlins hold off and give Alcantara two more Triple-A starts, he could make his ’18 debut when they face his former team in St. Louis between June 5th-June 7th.
The Phillies’ rotation is on a roll—they have the sixth-lowest ERA in the Majors and the third most quality starts—and currently have no weak link in their five-man rotation. But despite lacking a clear path to the Majors, De Los Santos is making it obvious that he’s ready when needed.
After allowing a run in each of his first three Triple-A starts, the 6’3″ right-hander stepped it up a notch with three consecutive scoreless outings, a quality start on May 16th (6 IP, 3 ER) and another gem yesterday (7 IP, ER, BB, 5 K). At just 22 years of age, De Los Santos is dominating at the Triple-A level (1.39 ERA, 3.0 BB/9 and 9.7 K/9) and also has a 150-inning season under his belt at the Double-A level. With the Phillies primed for a playoff run, it’s almost certain that the young workhorse will figure into their plans at some point.
Replacing an accomplished 12-year veteran who is struggling mightily at the plate with an unproven prospect who is putting up huge numbers in Triple-A is not an easy decision. While the 35-year-old Ian Kinsler is no longer the hitter who slashed .288/.348/.484 with 28 homers back in 2016, he’s probably not as bad as he’s looked through his first 149 plate appearances of 2018, either (.197/.275/.288). Regardless, the Angels have to at least be considering whether it’s time to give the 23-year-old Fletcher a chance.
After a subpar performance during his first full season in the upper minors in 2017 (.655 OPS in 111 games between Triple-A and Double-A), the former sixth-round draft pick has taken a huge step forward in 2018. He already has 20 multi-hit games and 28 extra-base hits—he had 24 total extra-base hits in 2017—while striking out just 13 times in 193 trips to the plate. A rare 0-fer on Tuesday has his slash line down to .356/.401/.599 in 192 plate appearances. Capable of playing second base, third base and shortstop, Fletcher could be used in a utility role while taking at-bats away from Kinsler, who is currently in a 5-for-34 rut.
It’s not surprising that 19-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been the most impressive and most talked-about prospect in Double-A since the start of the season. But Jimenez, who began the season on the disabled list with a strained pectoral muscle, is quickly making up for lost time. The 21-year-old debuted on April 19th and, after going hitless in his first 11 at-bats, is now hitting .328/.360/.608 with eight homers and 11 doubles.
While he doesn’t have the plate discipline of Guerrero or Juan Soto, another impressive 19-year-old who made his MLB debut with the Nationals this past weekend, Jimenez doesn’t strike out a ton. He has 21 total strikeouts (a 15.9 percent clip) and has gone without a strikeout in 15 of his 31 games. When he does put the ball in play, it’s often very loud. There’s also a clear path to the Majors on a rebuilding White Sox team with one of the least-productive group of outfielders in baseball.
Digging deep into their starting pitching depth is nothing new for the Dodgers. They’ve been doing it for years and, for the most part, their second wave of starting pitching has done an excellent job. This year has been no exception with Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu on the disabled list and Walker Buehler (2.38 ERA in six starts), Ross Stripling (3.26 ERA in four starts) and Brock Stewart (one run in four innings in his lone spot start) doing their part to hold down the fort. Next in line could be the 22-year-old Santana, who threw six shutout innings with only three singles allowed and 11 strikeouts in his Triple-A debut over the weekend.
After he struggled badly in seven Double-A starts last season (5.51 ERA, 6.3 BB/9), an MLB debut in 2018 did not appear to be in the cards despite being added to the 40-man roster over the offseason. But that’s changed after eight impressive Double-A starts (2.56 ERA, 3.3 BB/9, 11.9 K/9) and, probably even more so, after whiffing 11 hitters without issuing a walk over six shutout innings in his Triple-A debut. Like Kenley Jansen and Pedro Baez, Santana started his professional career as a position player—he was a shortstop for one season after signing in 2013—so he should feel at home in the Dodgers’ clubhouse.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- Veteran reliever Junichi Tazawa has been released after clearing waivers, the Marlins announced. Miami will remain responsible for the rest of his $7MM salary for the current season, less any eventual earnings at the MLB minimum rate. Tazawa was one of several veteran hurlers added by the Marlins in hopes of building around a talented (and since largely traded-away) core of position-player talent. Like most of the others, he did not contribute as hoped. Tazawa was even worse this year than last, allowing an earned run for each of the twenty frames he handled.
- The Marlins have also parted ways with righty Dustin McGowan, as MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro recently tweeted. The 36-year-old reliever had caught on with the Miami organization in mid-April but had not appeared with an affiliate. McGowan played a big role in the Miami pen in each of the past two years, though he could not sustain the 2.82 ERA pitching he showed in 2016. Last year, McGowan worked to a 4.75 ERA with 7.4 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 over 77 2/3 innings.
- The Marlins expect reliever Kyle Barraclough to generate interest prior to the deadline, Cafardo reports. The 27-year-old is amid his fourth straight high-strikeout/high-walk/low-ERA season, with 11.32 K/9, 5.23 BB/9 and a 1.74 ERA through 20 2/3 innings. Adding to his appeal, Barraclough’s under control through 2021 and making just over $1.1MM this season.
Swanson hit the DL earlier this month due to left wrist inflammation. He was off to a solid start, hitting .289/.336/.430 prior to the injury, and the Braves will surely be hoping he can build on those numbers after a somewhat up-and-down start to his major league career. The former number one overall pick produced at about replacement level last season (according to fWAR) after a hot debut at the tail end of the 2016 season.
Swanson’s activation is likely to impact the playing time of Johan Camargo, Jose Bautista or both. Bautista has certainly been unimpressive to this point, posting a .143/.250/.343 slash line and serving as a defensive liability, but it’s fair to think he might get a longer look in the Braves’ lineup. Perhaps, then, Johan Camargo could slide into a utility role while the club waits to see if Bautista can heat up to his career norms.
Wisler has been shuttled back and forth multiple times already this season, most recently pitching 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball while striking out five Marlins. Once highly regarded enough to serve as the key return piece in the Craig Kimbrel trade, Wisler hasn’t lived up to expectations and now appears to be little more than a depth piece as multiple young starters have seemingly leapfrogged him on the depth chart.