While the Marlins’ Jeffrey Loria era will soon end, the franchise’s low-payroll ways won’t, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter agreed to purchase the team from Loria for $1.2 billion ($400MM of which will come from Sherman), but they don’t have the type of money necessary to spend big on a roster, according to a potential investor who spoke with Jackson. Sherman and Jeter informed Jackson’s source that they plan to pare down payroll from $115MM to either $80MM to $85MM or $55MM in 2018, depending on whether they trade high-priced MVP candidate Giancarlo Stanton. Slashing spending won’t sit well with Marlins fans who have witnessed the team go on a late-season run and Stanton turn in an awe-inspiring 2017 performance, Jackson notes. And Jackson adds other details that likely won’t please fans, either, as the investor told him Jeter’s set to pay himself $5MM per year until he recoups his $25MM investment and get a company credit card so he can cover expenses from his home in Tampa Bay to Miami. Further, Jackson suggests that FOX won’t be renegotiating the Marlins’ television contract, the least valuable in baseball, before its expiration at the conclusion of the 2020 campaign.
The Padres fired hitting coach Alan Zinter on Friday, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweets. Zinter lasted less than two seasons in the position, having taken the job in November 2015. The Padres’ offense ranked toward the bottom of the majors during Zinter’s run, but he didn’t exactly have a world of proven talent at his disposal. Manager Andy Green explained to Lin that he’s seeking a “different voice” for the role. Meanwhile, GM A.J. Preller told AJ Cassavell of MLB.com that the Padres will begin searching for a successor immediately, but he indicated there’s no rush to hire a replacement (Twitter link).
Here’s more from the National League:
- The Brewers’ rotation was rife with question marks entering the season, but it now appears the surprise contenders have at least three legitimate building blocks in Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson and Zach Davies, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel observes. The emergence of that cost-controlled trio has been especially important to a team that’s not able to spend big on free agents, and Haudricourt points out that the Brewers may even have a couple more promising young starters on hand (Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader). It’s possible they’ll go into 2018 with those five comprising their rotation, Haudricourt notes.
- Rockies outfielder David Dahl is resigned to the fact that he won’t be able to contribute this year, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. Dahl hasn’t appeared in a major league game this season, and he hasn’t played in a minor league contest since July 31, thanks to the rib injury he suffered during spring training. Now, Dahl doesn’t expect to swing a bat again until December, according to Saunders. “The thing I really need is rest, to let it heal completely, because every time I would start swinging, I would start feeling it again,” said the 23-year-old Dahl, who excited the Rockies last season with a .315/.359/.500 batting line in a 237-plate appearance rookie campaign.
- A partial UCL tear in Wei-Yin Chen’s left elbow has kept him from taking the mound since May 1, but he’ll return to the Marlins in the coming days, Tim Healey of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. While Chen will finish 2017 as a reliever, the Marlins expect to slot him back into their rotation next season. After this fall’s World Series, Chen will be able to opt out of the remaining three years and $52MM left on the five-year, $80MM contract he signed with the Fish in January 2016. That’s obviously not going to happen, though, as the ex-Oriole has struggled with injuries and turned in mediocre results during his two years in Miami.
The first-place Red Sox’s success this year has come despite a lack of power (they entered Saturday 26th in the majors in home runs and 27th in ISO), leading Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe to argue that they have to pursue Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason. It’s unclear whether the new Marlins ownership group will shop the right fielder and potential 60-home run man, but Cafardo contends that a Red Sox offer consisting of left fielder Andrew Benintendi, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez and a pitching prospect would grab the attention of Derek Jeter & Co. As great as Stanton has been this year, it’s tough to imagine Boston parting with Benintendi, a top-flight rookie who won’t even be eligible for arbitration until after the 2019 campaign. Stanton, meanwhile, is still due another $295MM from 2018-28, and his contract includes full no-trade rights and an opt-out clause after the 2020 campaign.
“Knocking Down the Door” is a regular feature that identifies minor leaguers who are making a case for a big league promotion.
Since a mid-July promotion to Triple-A New Orleans, the 24-year-old Anderson has been hitting like someone who knows he’s auditioning for a Major League job. In 29 Pacific Coast League games, the right-handed hitting third baseman is slashing .350/.420/.631 with eight home runs and 12 multi-hit games.
Dee Gordon and Martin Prado will presumably be on the trade block this offseason, and the Marlins wouldn’t pull the trigger on dealing either player without knowing if they have a potential in-house replacement (Prado could move to second base if Gordon is traded). If there is a Marlins prospect who is a candidate to step into a starting role in 2018, it would be Anderson, a former third-round draft pick. Calling him up in the near future and giving him 100+ plate appearances would give the Marlins a much better idea of how capable he is of becoming their starting third baseman next season.
A shoulder injury that pushed Gonsalves’ season debut to mid-May could be a blessing in disguise for him and the Twins. While most starting pitching prospects are usually close to their innings limit in August and not expected to contribute much at the Major League level in September and beyond, Gonsalves is at 109 2/3 innings after his latest start. Considering that he threw 140 innings during a breakout 2016 in which he appeared very much on the fast track to the Major Leagues, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s pitching for the playoff-contending Twins late this season.
The 23-year-old lefty was recently promoted to Triple-A following a dominant 28-start stint in Double-A (161 2/3 IP, 2.28 ERA, 6.1 H/9, 3.3 BB/9, 10.3 K/9) over the past two seasons. After posting back-to-back quality starts, Gonsalves struggled in his third Triple-A outing before bouncing back with another stellar effort over the weekend (6 IP, ER, 7 H, BB, 6 K). The Twins are currently in possession of a Wild Card berth with Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee serving as their fourth and fifth starters, respectively. If they’re going to hold on, they might need to turn to their farm system one more time. Gonsalves could be the difference maker.
The 23-year-old Lopez is only three months removed from pitching in the High-A Florida State League, but there are already several reasons to believe that he’s not far away from the Majors. After allowing 15 earned runs in his first 27 innings with Double-A Pensacola, the right-hander has been one of the best pitchers in the Minor Leagues. In his last 10 starts, he has a 1.24 ERA with 4.8 H/9, 1.6 BB/9 and 8.0 K/9. He’s completed at least six innings and hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs or five hits over that span.
During Lopez’s first crack at the upper minors, he’s shown an ability to make adjustments, miss bats, throw strikes and pitch deep into games—he has a 68.5% strike rate and hasn’t thrown more than 96 pitches in any of his 10 consecutive quality starts. Tyler Mahle, who made this list on May 1st and June 27th, became the 15th Reds’ pitcher to make a start in 2017 when he made his MLB debut yesterday. Lopez deserves to be the 16th.
The Cubs appeared to solidify what was already a deep and talented bullpen by acquiring lefty Justin Wilson at the trade deadline. Wilson has been mostly ineffective, however, while the team’s other key relievers have been unreliable, to put it kindly, over the past few weeks. It’s not quite a major area of concern at this point, considering the track record of the group, but it’s probably alarming enough to at least take a look at adding a reinforcement from the Minors, even one that began the season in High-A.
Maples’ rise didn’t begin immediately after the team converted him to a reliever a few years back. His numbers out of the ’pen were unimpressive in 46 appearances in the low minors from 2015-16, but something has apparently clicked in 2017. In 51 appearances across three levels, including his last 16 with Triple-A Iowa, the 25-year-old has a 2.74 ERA, 6.2 H/9 and 14.3 K/9. The walks are a concern (5.3 BB/9), but he’s only walked more than one batter in three of his combined 30 appearances in the upper minors. It’s also worth noting that Carl Edwards Jr. had a 6.0 BB/9 in 24 Triple-A appearances last season but went on to finish the year as one of the best relievers on the World Series champs.
Walker’s already difficult path to the Majors could not have taken a worse turn during the past offseason. With limited at-bats available in Baltimore behind Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, the right-handed hitting first baseman was designated for assignment in February. The likelihood of a better opportunity lied ahead. But it never came. By the time the regular season started, he had been claimed on waivers by three different teams—Braves, Reds and Diamondbacks—that employed superstar first basemen who rarely miss a game. In late March, he was designated for assignment a fourth time, only to clear waivers and remain with the Diamondbacks.
To his credit, the 26-year-old did not let the limited opportunity and removal from the 40-man roster affect him at the plate. After putting up what would be slightly below-average numbers for a first baseman in Triple-A during parts of the previous three seasons, Walker has taken his game to another level in 2017. In 565 plate appearances, he’s been the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A version of Paul Goldschmidt, slashing .312/.384/.609 with 32 homers and 34 doubles. While the Pacific Coast League is more hitter-friendly than the International League, where Walker played previously, his improved walk and strikeout rates (145 BB, 406 K from ’14-16; 58 BB, 97 K in ’17) are indications that a better approach at the plate has helped lead to his success.
A September call-up is in the cards as the D-backs have gotten very little from their pinch-hitters in ’17 (.636 OPS), but they’d also do Walker a huge favor by either trading him in the offseason to a team where he has a chance to play or removing him from the 40-man roster—assuming he’s added in September—so he can opt for free agency.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Phillies, Cardinals and Rangers are among the teams that have reached out to the Marlins to express interest in slugger Giancarlo Stanton, but USA Today’s Bob Nightengale cites a “high-ranking Marlins executive” in reporting that the Giants are the club that has expressed the most interest.
Miami has surged back to within striking distance of an NL Wild Card spot (largely due to Stanton’s recent heroics), so Stanton won’t be changing hands until this offseason, at the earliest. However, despite the recent offensive spike — Stanton is hitting .356/.462/.925 with 29 homers in his past 47 games — there are still numerous obstacles to a potential Stanton swap. Stanton’s 13-year contract affords him full no-trade protection, and Nightengale adds that not one prospective trade partner has expressed a willingness to absorb the remaining 10 years and $295MM on Stanton’s contract beyond the 2017 season.
Beyond that, the Giants’ minor league system is not very well regarded. Tyler Beede entered the year as the top pitching prospect in San Francisco’s minor league ranks, but he’s had a poor season in Triple-A this year (albeit in a very hitter friendly environment). He’s now likely to miss the final two months of the season with a groin injury. Fellow right-hander Joan Gregorio posted a 3.04 ERA in 74 Triple-A innings but carried some questionable secondary metrics and saw his season end in early July due to a PED suspension.
On paper, the Giants make a fair amount of sense as a trading partner for Stanton. San Francisco, as a team, ranks dead last in the Majors with 101 home runs this season. Stanton alone has nearly half that number, while the 29th-ranked Padres have out-homered the Giants by 25. That lack of pop is all the more glaring at a time when home runs are being hit at a record pace throughout the league.
More specifically, the Giants’ outfield has been the worst in baseball this year by measure of slugging percentage, OPS and fWAR. They rank 29th in on-base percentage, ISO and wRC+ as well. Incumbent right fielder Hunter Pence will turn 35 next April and has struggled to a career-worst .254/.306/.378 batting line through 431 plate appearances this season. Stanton would provide a thunderous jolt to any lineup he joined, but there’s very arguably no team that has a more acute need for his skill set than the Giants.
As for the Phillies, there may not be a team in baseball that can better handle his contract from a financial standpoint. Philadelphia’s only long-term commitment at present is to Odubel Herrera, and they have a history of lofty payrolls when contending. The Cardinals have been rumored to be in the market for an impact bat to place in the middle of their lineup since June, and the Rangers have little certainty in their outfield mix beyond 2017.
All of this, of course, is putting the cart before the horse. There’s no guarantee that the new Marlins ownership group will be in a rush to trade Stanton on the heels of the best season of his excellent young career. Doing so would come with massive public relations repercussions and could start the Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter-led ownership group out on the wrong foot with a fan base that has long harbored a potent distrust of previous owner Jeffrey Loria. That’s especially true when considering the fact that the Marlins would likely have to pay Stanton’s contract down to the point where an interested partner felt it carried enough surplus value not only to acquire Stanton but also to part with well-regarded young talent.
The Marlins’ preference under new ownership, according to Nightengale, is to keep the payroll around $100MM, and Stanton’s salary will jump to $25MM next season. He’ll be paid $26MM in both 2019 and 2020, after which he can opt out of the remaining seven years of the deal. If he forgoes the opt-out, Stanton will be paid $29MM in 2021-22, $32MM in 2023-25, $29MM in 2026 and $25MM in 2027. Stanton’s contract also includes a $25MM option for the 2018 season, which comes with a $10MM buyout.
- Trading right fielder Giancarlo Stanton and his massive contract would improve the Marlins’ financial situation, but dealing the franchise cornerstone shouldn’t be a consideration for the Derek Jeter-led ownership group that will soon take over in Miami, Buster Olney of ESPN opines. Just as Jeter was the face of the Yankees during his playing days, Stanton is the Marlins’ franchise player, writes Olney, who argues that moving the potential 60-home run man would get the new ownership team off on the wrong foot. But if Jeter & Co. do attempt to part with Stanton, Olney lists several potential fits for the 27-year-old in his column.
Thanks to an improbable late-season rally, the Marlins entered Saturday a game over .500 and 4.5 games behind Colorado for the National League’s last wild-card spot. They’re not going to attempt to sell veterans such as 49-home run right fielder Giancarlo Stanton or reliever Brad Ziegler anytime soon, then, Rosenthal suggests (video links). Dealing Stanton during the season looked extremely unlikely even before the Marlins’ recent run, given his enormous contract (10 years, $295MM left after this season), the opt-out in the deal after the 2020 campaign and his full no-trade clause – not to mention the team’s impending ownership change. Nevertheless, the Marlins have been getting calls on the surging 27-year-old, according to Rosenthal, who reports that teams have been offering packages consisting of prospects, salary relief and major leaguers for Stanton. Miami has not seriously considered any offers to this stage, but if Stanton’s incredible performance keeps up, proposals from other clubs should only get more appealing, Rosenthal posits.
More from Rosenthal on the Marlins and two other clubs:
- On account of their unexpected success, the Marlins seem to be on the lookout for rotation help, though president of baseball operations Michael Hill told Rosenthal that the starters who have cleared waivers in August are “not inspiring at all.” Stuck with the likes of Vance Worley and Justin Nicolino in their rotation, the Marlins could promote minor league left-hander Dillon Peters, per Rosenthal. The 24-year-old Peters has posted impressive numbers across 45 2/3 Double-A innings this season, with a 1.97 ERA, 7.88 K/9 against 2.17 BB/9 and a 46 percent grounder rate, and MLB.com ranks him as the Marlins’ fourth-best prospect.
- “It appears” as if Marlins closer Brad Ziegler has cleared August trade waivers, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes. This means that Miami would be free to deal Ziegler to any team. Ziegler is owed roughly $1.25MM remaining this season and $9MM in 2018, and prior to the trade deadline, the Marlins were reportedly willing to eat a large portion of that contract. Ziegler, however, has only allowed runs in two of his last 22 appearances and he has pitched especially well since taking over as Miami’s closer. Given that the Fish are now within striking distance of an NL wild card berth, it also isn’t clear if the team is still in selling mode.
- With injuries sapping their infield depth, the Marlins added a pair of new players. Grant Green joins the organization on a minors deal while Jake Elmore was acquired from the Blue Jays in exchange for cash. Green, 29, has seen at least some MLB action in each of the past five years but owns a meager.261/.300/.370 batting line this year through 258 plate appearances. The 30-year-old Elmore also has appeared in five major league campaigns; his slash at the highest level of the minors this year stands at .235/.325/.274 through 380 plate appearances.
Two relievers have cleared outright waivers, today, according to announcements from their respective organizations:
- Orioles lefty Vidal Nuno has been assigned to Triple-A after clearing waivers. The 30-year-old struggled badly in a dozen appearances earlier this year with the O’s, but hadn’t been in the majors since a mid-June stint. Nuno, who was acquired as camp opened this spring, has had more success this year at the highest level of the minors. Over 22 1/3 innings at Norfolk, he owns a 2.82 ERA with 10.5 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9.
- The Marlins have sent righty Javy Guerra back to Triple-A New Orleans. He was designated for assignment yesterday and cleared waivers since. Guerra, 31, has posted three MLB seasons with at least forty innings of sub-3.00 ERA ball. But the last of those came in 2014 and he has largely struggled in the upper minors ever since. Thus far in 2017, Guerra has scuffled through four MLB appearances and carries a 4.99 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 in his 48 2/3 innings at Triple-A.