- Unsurprisingly, the Mets aren’t willing to part with both Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo in a trade for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, Jon Heyman of Fancred reports. Moreover, the Mets don’t want to trade young infielder Amed Rosario at all, Heyman adds. As great as Realmuto is, it wouldn’t make sense for the Mets to trade Conforto and Nimmo – their most valuable outfielders – for two years of control over him. Conforto still has another three years of control left, while Nimmo has four more – including a pre-arb season in 2019.
TODAY: The Mets are “resistant” on including Rosario in a deal, per Jon Heyman of Fancred (via Twitter). It seems the Marlins have at least some level of interest, unsurprisingly, in Nimmo, Conforto, and Rosario.
All things considered, it does not appear at present as if the sides have settled upon a clear potential deal structure. There could well be other moving parts to getting something done. After all, the Mets would need to fill in for any departing MLB assets while the Marlins could conceivably involve a third team to spin off any acquired MLB pieces.
YESTERDAY, 8:32pm: The Mets have spoken to the Marlins and are at least considering the possibility of including Nimmo as a centerpiece in a Realmuto deal, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. That said, Sherman cautions that there’s no deal close and that the Marlins are still in talks with multiple other clubs.
However, whether that would be enough for the Mets remains to be seen. Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM tweets that the Marlins don’t view Nimmo as a potential Realmuto centerpiece and would prefer Rosario or Conforto to headline a package of young players instead. That’s at least somewhat curious, given the fact that Conforto has only one more season of club control remaining than Realmuto.
6:55pm: Mike Puma of the New York Post tweets that it’s unlikely the Mets would include Conforto in a trade for Realmuto.
5:35pm: Trade chatter surrounding J.T. Realmuto will persist throughout the offseason following the definitive declaration that he won’t be signing an extension with the Marlins. While the Marlins reportedly have a preference to trade Realmuto outside of the division, Andy Martino of SNY writes that the Mets are looking into Realmuto now that they officially have Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz on board. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, in fact, reports that the Mets reached out on Realmuto earlier today and are being “aggressive” in their pursuit (Twitter links).
Newsday’s Tim Healey tweets that the belief is that the Mets would have to include at least one young Major Leaguer in order to pry Realmuto loose from Miami, and Rosenthal suggests the same. (The Mets subtracted a pair of high-end prospects from its system when trading outfielder Jarred Kelenic and right-hander Justin Dunn to Seattle in the Cano/Diaz swap.) Martino speculated that Amed Rosario’s name could come into play, and Rosenthal adds both Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto as the type of talents that could pique Miami’s interest. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Mets would have any actual interest in dealing from that promising young trio. More specifically Fancred’s Jon Heyman tweets that Rosario and Nimmo would be Miami’s top two targets in talks.
The Mets already tendered contracts to both Kevin Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud, though either could be traded elsewhere or designated for assignment anyway, should the organization land an upgrade in the form of Realmuto. (Speculatively, either could also be sent back to Miami as a short-term stopgap in the absence of Realmuto.)
Elsewhere in the NL East (which, to this point, has been the runaway most active division in terms of offseason activity), Craig Mish of SiriusXM tweets that the Phillies have inquired on Realmuto but are considered to be a long shot. The Phils presently have Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp as in-house catching options now that Wilson Ramos is a free agent, and they’ve been aggressive early this winter, already acquiring Jean Segura and James Pazos from the Mariners.
Mish also suggests that the Braves have inquired on Realmuto, although both David O’Brien of The Athletic and Heyman have tweeted otherwise. O’Brien indicates that he was somewhat bluntly told there’s no validity to the report that Austin Riley and Mike Soroka have come up in discussions, while Heyman reports that the Braves haven’t even engaged on any serious Realmuto talks this winter. O’Brien further adds that the Braves have shifted their focus to adding a corner outfielder and shoring up the pitching staff (Twitter links).
Looking outside the NL East, Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets that the Rockies have checked in on the catcher — although talks between the two sides, to this point, have failed to progress. Colorado would make a perfectly logical landing spot, though, given that none of Chris Iannetta, Tony Wolters or Tom Murphy stands out as an obvious front-line option. The Rockies also have plenty of young pitching — much of it MLB-ready, which would surely be of interest to the Marlins as they continue to build for the future.
It’s worth remembering, too, that the clubs here likely only represent a fraction of the market for Realmuto. Heyman notes that 14 teams have inquired with the Marlins about Realmuto this winter, and while clearly not all of those clubs will be particularly aggressive in their pursuit, the sheer volume underscores how many teams view the All-Star backstop as a potential difference maker. A trade isn’t necessarily guaranteed, but it’s likely that Realmuto’s value is at its apex this winter. The Marlins surely know that their time with Realmuto is limited following comments from agent Jeff Berry and, per Mish, a pair of rejected extension offers of four and five years in length (both at prices that are nowhere near Realmuto’s actual market value).
The Marlins have announced their coaching staff under manager Don Mattingly. In addition to preexisting members, Mel Stottlemyre Jr. will serve as pitching coach, Trey Hillman will join as first base/infield coach, Jeff Livesey will become the assistant hitting coach, and Kevin Barr will run the club’s strength and conditioning.
Stottlemyre comes over from the Mariners, who decided not to retain him after the 2018 season. He only briefly reached the bigs as a pitcher, but has spent most of the past decade in MLB dugouts. Stottlemyre served for three years as the Seattle pitching coach and has functioned as a pitching coach and bullpen coach with the Diamondbacks.
As for Hillman, whose hiring was reported yesterday by Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald (via Twitter), he has had a particularly interesting path. He has not only managed in the majors (with the Royals), but skippered championship clubs in Japan and (most recently) Korea. After taking the KBO crown last year with SK Wyverns, Hillman decided upon a stateside return.
Livesey was not retained by the Pirates as their assistant hitting coach after a five-year run, but lands the same post in Miami. Barr is best known for his long run with the Rays. Otherwise, the Fish will continue to rely on Tim Wallach as bench coach, Mike Pagliarulo as hitting coach, Fredi Gonzalez as third base coach, and Dean Treanor as bullpen coach.
The Marlins announced Monday that they’ve signed a slew of players to minor league contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training. First baseman Pedro Alvarez and middle infielders Dixon Machado and Deven Marrero have the most recent MLB experience of the bunch. Left-hander Mike Kickham, right-hander R.J. Alvarez, infielder Jon Berti and outfielder Gabriel Guerrero all have big league experience as well. Miami also made its previously reported re-signing of catcher Bryan Holaday to a minor league contract official and revealed that prized outfield addition Victor Victor Mesa will participate in Major League Spring Training.
Alvarez, 32 in February, is the most recognizable name of the bunch. The former No. 2 overall draft pick and Pirates slugger has spent the past three seasons in the Orioles organization. “El Toro” swatted 22 homers and had a solid year at the plate — primarily as a platoon designated hitter. He returned to the O’s on minor league pacts in each of the past two seasons but spent more time in Triple-A than in the Majors. Last year, Alvarez batted just .180/.283/.414 with eight homers in 127 Major League plate appearances and hit .243/.311/.446 with 16 homers in 305 Triple-A plate appearances. He’ll give the Marlins another option to compete for playing time alongside Peter O’Brien and Garrett Cooper.
Machado, 26 (and of no relation to the free-agent market’s more prominent Machado), appeared in 140 games with the Tigers from 2017-18. He’s generally regarded as a quality up-the-middle defender but didn’t provide enough hope with the bat to keep his roster spot in Detroit, even as the Tigers themselves are somewhat starved for middle-infield options. Machado batted just .229/.280/.303 in 414 PAs over the past two seasons, and he’ll give the Miami organization a glove-first depth option.
Marrero fits a similar profile. The former Red Sox first round-pick (2012) has long drawn praise for his defensive prowess but has yet to find success at the plate in parts of three seasons with Boston and another in Arizona. In 343 MLB trips to the plate, Marrero has posted a woeful .197/.250/.283 slash with five homers, 10 doubles and 10 steals. He does have experience at three infield positions, so he’ll join Machado in competing for a bench job in Miami this spring.
Kickham, soon to turn 30, will return to the Marlins organization after a solid minor league campaign in 2018. Through 42 innings (34 1/3 of which came in Triple-A), Kickham notched a 3.64 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against 1.5 BB/9. He hasn’t been in the Majors since 2014 and has surrendered 37 earned runs in 30 1/3 frames as a big leaguer, but he’s thrown well in the Miami minor league ranks since 2017.
R.J. Alvarez, 27, hasn’t appeared in the Majors since 2015 and has a career 7.39 ERA through 28 innings at the game’s top level. He’s punched out 101 hitters through 88 2/3 innings with the Rangers’ Triple-A club across the past two seasons, though he’s done so while exhibiting questionable control (48 walks).
Berti, 29 next month, received a four-game cup of coffee with the Blue Jays late in 2018, which marked his MLB debut. He’s struggled to a .593 OPS in 506 career PAs in Triple-A but posted much better numbers in Double-A. As with Machado and Marrero, he’ll provide some infield depth.
Guerrero, 24, was once considered to be one of the Mariners’ best prospects but has seen his production evaporate since reaching the Double-A level. The Reds gave him his first taste of the Majors in 2018, and he managed to connect on his first big league homer in a brief 14-game stint with Cincinnati. On the whole, though, he went 3-for-18 with eight strikeouts and no walks in his first MLB cup of coffee. There’s certainly reason to believe that a player with Guerrero’s bloodline can improve; he’s the nephew of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero and the cousin of Blue Jays uber-prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Beyond the aforementioned players, the Marlins also added catchers B.J. Lopez, Sharif Othman and Rodrigo Vigil to minor league contracts, as well as left-hander Brian Moran. None of that quartet has MLB experience, though each will have the opportunity to win a job in Spring Training, it seems. Lopez, Othman and Vigil were minor league free agents of the Marlins and each re-signed to return to the organization.
- Cashman also said that recent reports about the Yankees’ interest in J.T. Realmuto were “false, completely false,” and that the team didn’t make an offer to the Marlins about the All-Star catcher. According to Fancred’s Jon Heyman, the Yankees were open to the idea of moving Gary Sanchez to Miami for Realmuto in something close to a one-for-one trade, though the Marlins wanted other significant pieces in addition to Sanchez.
- The Mets were linked to Martin Maldonado in early November, though talks “haven’t materialized” as of yet between the team and Maldonado’s camp, the New York Post’s Mike Puma writes. Catcher remains a position of need for the Mets, though they’ve already seen one trade target (Yan Gomes) get dealt to a division rival in Washington, while their impending trade of some top prospects in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz deal could mean New York doesn’t have the minor league depth to acquire J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. Puma wonders if this means the Mets could circle back to Yasmani Grandal, another player that drew some early interest from the Amazins as the free agent market opened.
- In regards to Realmuto, the Mets and Phillies may not be realistic contenders for the catcher’s services, as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman hears from an official with the Nationals or Braves that “Miami is not trading him in the division.” It had previously been surmised that the Marlins’ huge asking price in a Realmuto trade was what turned D.C. and Atlanta to alternate catching solutions (i.e. Gomes, Kurt Suzuki, and Brian McCann), though it stands to reason that the Marlins could’ve wanted a particularly big premium in order to send Realmuto elsewhere in the NL West.
- The Braves reunited with catcher Brian McCann in free agency Wednesday, giving them a decent behind-the-plate tandem with him and Tyler Flowers. Atlanta’s not necessarily out of the sweepstakes for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, though, as Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported this week (subscription link). It appears Miami would need to significantly lower its asking price in order for Realmuto to join the NL East rival Braves, however. Per Rosenthal, the Marlins requested second baseman Ozzie Albies and more from the Braves in the teams’ discussions. Unsurprisingly, the Braves haven’t been willing to part with the 21-year-old Albies, who turned in a 3.8-fWAR rookie campaign in 2018 and is under wraps for the foreseeable future, for two seasons of control over Realmuto, 27.
The market for star Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto seems to be reaching a fever pitch, with the Astros, Yankees, Dodgers, Mets and Giants among the latest teams to “show interest,” says Fancred’s Jon Heyman. The odds of an extension for the backstop seem infinitesimal at this juncture, with sources “suggesting” that the proposed figure was in range of the massive extension signed by Giants catcher Buster Posey prior to the start of the 2013 season. Whether or not the ask was mere posturing on the part of Realmuto, whose agent Jeff Berry seemed to make clear the 27-year-old’s intentions on a radio show in late October, is unknown, but it seems a near certainty the Oklahoma-born product will be moved at some point this offseason.
In other news from around the region . . .
- Per Heyman, the Yankees seem to be willing to include Gary Sanchez in a deal for Realmuto, but only in something approximating a straight-up swap. Sanchez, who has four remaining years of team control to Realmuto’s two, has turned off some admirers with his indifferent play behind the plate and propensity for the long slump, but is nevertheless an extremely valuable asset in today’s desiccated offensive landscape behind the dish. Indeed, Steamer actually projects the 26-year-old Sanchez to be nearly as valuable next season as the elder Realmuto (3.5 WAR, to the latter’s 3.7), pegging him for a 116 wRC+ to Realmuto’s 108. It should be noted, too, that analytical models are far more bullish on Sanchez’s much-maligned defense than the general public: DRS, after all, sees Sanchez as clearly superior to the Marlin star over the last three seasons, while Baseball Prospectus, though higher on Realmuto, mostly agrees, seeing the Dominican-born backstop as generally above-average over the same frame. The Marlins, though, seem to find the package insufficient without other “top pieces” involved, which scenario would almost surely be a non-starter for the Bombers.
- Outfielder Nick Markakis “remains a candidate” to return to Atlanta, and is a “more likely fit” than Michael Brantley, per Heyman. Markakis, a Georgia native, enjoyed a blissful ’18 renaissance in the last year of his 4 year, $44MM deal signed prior the 2015 season, slashing .297/.366/.440 in hitter-friendly SunTrust Park on the way to 2.6 fWAR, his first two-win-plus season with the Braves. Atlanta, of course, continues its search for offensive upgrades even after the inking of Josh Donaldson to a one-year deal, but doesn’t see outfielder A.J. Pollock as a likely target, according to Heyman. The 35-year-old Markakis, though, had posted five consecutive sub-.400 slugging percentage seasons before the last, and has never been a particularly nimble defender in a corner. Atlanta, at this point in the offseason, may be setting its sights a little higher in its dogged pursuit of an outfielder.
- Per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays are “considering high-end upgrades” across the diamond. Topkin lists Noah Syndergaard, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nelson Cruz, among others, as potential options, and notes that the team’s monetary resources far outshine those of past seasons. The Rays, perhaps more than any other team, are rife with young talent, with logjams up the middle and on the corners, and have considerable prospect capital with which to deal, so multiple major upgrades cannot, at this point in the offseason, be ruled out.
The Marlins have agreed to re-sign veteran catcher Bryan Holaday to a minor league contract, tweets Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. He’ll be invited to Major League Spring Training and again compete for a roster spot.
Holaday, 31, spent the 2018 season as the primary backup to star catcher (and trade candidate) J.T. Realmuto. The well-traveled veteran appeared in 61 games for Miami and tallied 166 plate appearances, though he struggled considerably, hitting just .205/.261/.258 in that time.
Holaday has long struggled to get on base, but his defensive contributions in 2018 were readily apparent. He threw out a league-leading 45 percent of would-be base thieves (17-for-38) and, per Baseball Prospectus, delivered above-average marks in terms of both pitch framing and blocking.
Chad Wallach is the only catcher other than Realmuto who is presently on the Marlins’ roster, so they’ll need some additional depth whether Realmuto is traded or retained. In the event of a trade, it’s unlikely that Holaday would be in line for regular work in Miami — he’s never topped 171 PAs in a big league season — but he’ll likely be in the race for a roster spot regardless of how Miami’s offseason shakes out.
- The Marlins announced that right-hander Ben Meyer and outfielder Braxton Lee have both cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A New Orleans and Double-A Jacksonville, repsectively. The 25-year-old Meyer made his MLB debut in 2018 but was hammered for 22 runs in 19 innings. The 2017 season was much better for the righty, as he worked to a 2.02 ERA with 10.8 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9 in 111 1/3 innings — albeit against much younger competition between Class-A and Class-A Advanced. Lee, meanwhile won a Double-A batting title in 2017 but hit just .233/.316/.294 across three minor league levels in 2018 in addition to a weak showing in a brief MLB debut of his own (18 plate appearances). Lee received plus grades for his speed and above-average marks for his outfield defense in the past but has never shown any power.
- The Marlins have signed outfielder Harold Ramirez to a minor league contract, per John Dreker of PiratesProspects.com (Twitter link). The 24-year-old Ramirez spent a third consecutive season at the Double-A level in 2018 and put together a strong campaign, hitting .320/.365/.471 with 11 homers, 37 doubles and 16 steals in 505 trips to the plate. Ramirez was once considered to be on the fringes of the game’s top 100 prospects, but his stock has dipped in recent seasons — particularly in 2017 (.678 OPS in his second full season of Double-A ball).