- Marlins right-hander Dan Straily allowed just one hit in tonight’s start against the Astros but exited after five innings. Straily was struck on the right forearm by a line drive off the bat of Evan Gattis that was smoked at 108.3 mph, per Statcast (h/t: MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro). Straily was able to make his scheduled plate appearances the next inning (though he only bunted), and Frisaro tweets that the righty said after the game that he escaped serious injury. Straily said the ball struck more muscle than bone, and while there’s obviously some swelling, he expects to make his next start.
We’ll track the day’s minor moves in this post. The latest:
- The Diamondbacks have purchased the contract of lefty Aaron Laffey, per an announcement from the Somerset Patriots. Laffey had been working for the indy ball club, throwing 22 1/3 innings of 2.82 ERA ball. The 32-year-old spent last year as a Triple-A swingman in the Nationals organization after briefly cracking the majors with the Rockies in 2015. He had compiled a much more extensive MLB track record before that, though, appearing in seven straight campaigns as a starter and/or reliever beginning in 2007. All told, Laffey carries a 4.44 ERA with 4.5 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 across 494 1/3 big league innings.
- The Marlins have outrighted infielder Yefri Perez to Double-A, per a club announcement. Perez, 26, lost his roster spot recently to make room for the addition of veteran Mike Aviles. Though he made it to the majors briefly last season, Perez is still in need of quite a bit of seasoning. He has swiped as many as 73 bases in a single minor-league season, though it’s hardly clear he’ll ever reach base enough to hold on in the big leagues. Through 123 plate appearances this year at Double-A, he’s carrying a meager .131/.283/.162 batting line.
- The Cubs have released catcher Carlos Corporan, who joined the organization on a minor league deal in January. In his most recent action, Corporan hit a paltry .197/.246/.333 in 196 combined PAs between the Marlins’ and Rays’ Triple-A affiliates last season. The 33-year-old hasn’t cracked the majors since 2015, and has batted .218/.280/.342 in 780 PAs at the game’s highest level.
- The Marlins have announced that they’ve outrighted righty Joe Gunkel, who they designated for assignment last week when they selected Steve Lombardozzi’s contract. Gunkel has headed from the Orioles to the Dodgers (in a minor trade) and from the Dodgers to the Marlins (on a waiver claim) in the past several weeks, and he’s pitched just 17 minor-league innings so far this season as a result. The 25-year-old had a solid 2016 in the Orioles system, posting a 4.08 ERA, 6.0 K/9 and a very strong 1.1 BB/9 in 141 1/3 innings in the rotation at Triple-A Norfolk.
When the Marlins placed left-hander Wei-Yin Chen on the disabled list with a tired arm last Saturday, their hope was that he’d only miss one start. Now, after Chen suffered a setback during a bullpen session Saturday, the Marlins are unsure when (or if) he’ll pitch again this year, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald.
Chen’s arm “just doesn’t feel right,” according to manager Don Mattingly, who added: “At this point, you feel like you really can’t count on him in the near future when it happens like this. Obviously, this is turning into more than what we thought it was going to be.”
- The Marlins have announced that they’ve reinstated righty Edinson Volquez from the 10-day DL and optioned fellow righty Brian Ellington to Triple-A New Orleans. Volquez will start tonight against the Braves. Volquez spent the minimum required time on the DL while dealing with a blister issue. He’s posted a 4.71 ERA, 10.0 K/9 and 6.9 BB/9 in 28 2/3 innings thus far this season for Miami.
The Marlins sale situation continues to evolve behind the scenes. Charlie Gasparino and Brian Schwartz of FOX Sports have the latest update of the efforts of current owner Jeffrey Loria to cash in on his investment.
Most notably, per the report, the bidding group led by Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush is “experiencing some difficulties” arranging the needed cash. Together, those two high-profile investors are set to chip in only $50MM, a long ways shy of the total equity required here.
One issue, it seems, is that the amount of cash required may have grown. Jeter and Bush were said to be looking to compile around $900MM total to meet MLB’s debt ratio requirements. Financing was also contemplated for the reported $1.3B offer amount, though that number might also be reduced by the team’s apparent $400MM operating debt. Now, there’s said to be a preference on the league side that a new owner have “as much as $500MM more as a cash cushion” to account for “the dire financial condition of the Marlins.”
Under these circumstances, it seems there’s some room for the bidding group led by Tagg Romney (with Tom Glavine also a factor) to become a bigger factor. That group reportedly remains in the picture despite prior indications that the sale was heading toward Jeter and Bush. In particular, Romney’s team seems to have better prospects for increasing the volume of cash on hand, which could give them greater appeal to the league.
It’s still not clear, of course, just how things will turn out. A spokesperson for Bush would say only that it is “inaccurate” to suggest that his group’s bid is in jeopardy. There could yet be more back-and-forth to come; interestingly, as Doug Hanks of the Miami Herald notes on Twitter, there’s apparently some bad blood between the two groups of would-be Marlins owners.
The infield-needy Marlins have announced several roster moves. The team has selected the contract of veteran Mike Aviles, optioning catcher Tomas Telis to create a spot on the active roster while designating infielder Yefri Perez to create 40-man space.
[RELATED: Updated Marlins Depth Chart]
Aviles was signed only days ago to a minors pact. The 36-year-old struggled badly last year with the Tigers after declining at the plate over the course of a three-year run with the Indians. He hasn’t appeared since being released last year following a mid-season trade to the Braves.
It’s anybody’s guess what Aviles will be able to contribute after having only a little time to prepare, though he did hit well in limited action in the World Baseball Classic. But he’s a respected presence, and the need is acute given the flood of injuries to infielders that recently hit the organization.
Evidently, the club did not feel that the 26-year-old Perez was a better option. He saw brief MLB action last year — mostly as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner — and had held onto a 40-man spot, but his typically poor offensive numbers had further faded this year. Over 123 plate appearances at Double-A, Perez has slashed just .131/.283/.162. He has stolen quite a few bags in past years — including 73 in 2015 — but owns only a .251/.310/.305 batting line over nine seasons in the minors.
It’s one of those sayings managers have when they address their players every spring: “Play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. And play for the other organizations out there. You never know who’s going to be watching you.”
While players might hear that speech but not really listen to it, that axiom tangibly meant something 25 seasons ago.
Two organizations – the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins – were out there in force. Their scouts were doing their player evaluations at the major league and minor league levels. They were doing their homework. They were doing their prep work. They were looking for any reason to have interest in a player – or not have interest at all.
This is the 25th anniversary of the one full year that the Rockies and Marlins spent scouting and preparing for the November 17, 1992, Major League Baseball expansion draft – when the two organizations would be selecting players from the existing 26 major league clubs. A total of 72 players would be chosen – since 50 more major league jobs were becoming available for the 1993 season.
Hundreds of players were auditioning for major league jobs. The truth is … most did not realize it. And when their names were called on expansion draft day, they were stunned.
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On paper, the Marlins and the Rockies had just under 14 months to get ready for the expansion draft – from the time their general managers were hired to the day they arrived in New York City for the initial building of their first big league rosters.
“I found the whole process to be exhilarating … that all the work we had accomplished was ready to move forward,” said Dave Dombrowski, the first general manager in Florida Marlins history. “Our goal was … you want to start an expansion team. You want to get players on board. But ultimately, you’re trying to build a world championship. We knew it would be a while down the road.
“But we were now in the position where finally you were going to have a chance to start adding some players – and all that work that had taken place would come to fruition. So I found it a very exciting time.”
While the Marlins went into the expansion draft knowing they had some money to spend, Colorado Rockies general manager Bob Gebhard and his organization were operating under a tight budget.
“We went into New York with our small group of people who we felt were going to help us make the right selections,” Gebhard said. “But the unknowns were who was going to be available – and could we afford them?
“We felt that we were going to draw some people in Denver. But one of the things the owners brought to my attention is they really thought we needed to win some ball games right away. We were competing in a football city, we were the new team in town, and we really needed to be competitive. We certainly didn’t want to lose 100 games that first year. So we were trying to pick carefully so that, No. 1, we had a team that was affordable, and No. 2, that we had a team that could compete in the 1993 season. We were trying to do both. It was difficult knowing that we didn’t have a lot of money to spend.”
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How would the two teams be put together?
The rules were pretty simple – and pretty complex. All players in the 26 existing organizations were eligible to be drafted, except those with no prior major league experience who had less than three years of service if signed at age 19 or older – or less than four years of service if signed at age 18 or younger.
Cutting to the chase, any “under contract” player who had big league service time was in play if he wasn’t protected. From the minor league side, in layman’s terms, it all depended on when you were drafted – but the drafts of 1990, 1991 and 1992 were off limits. If you were a college kid selected in the 1989 draft with no big league time – you were eligible if an organization didn’t protect you. As an example, Trevor Hoffman, Cincinnati’s 11th-round pick that year, was not on the Reds’ protected list – leaving him available to be selected. If you were a high school kid chosen in the 1988 draft without major league experience (for instance, Yankees minor leaguer Carl Everett), or an undrafted young international player signed that year (the Cubs’ Pedro Castellano), you too were eligible if left unprotected.
What constituted a protected player? Major league teams were able to protect 15 players prior to the draft. Players with 10/5 rights (10 years of major league service, the last five with the same team) and players with no-trade clauses in their contracts had to be protected unless they waived those rights.
The procedure for the three-round expansion draft:
- Before the draft, a coin flip determined which team selected first in the first round and second in rounds two and three – or second in the first round and first in rounds two and three. The Rockies won the coin flip and opted to choose first.
- In the first round, the Rockies and the Marlins alternated turns, with each of the existing 26 teams losing one player. In theory, both teams were alternately selecting who they considered to be the 16th-best player on every other team’s roster. At the conclusion of the round, both Colorado and Florida would have selected 13 players each.
- Prior to the second round, the existing National League teams were able to pull back an additional three players, while American League teams were able to protect four more. The second round proceeded in the same manner as the first, with each existing major league organization losing a second player. At this point, both expansion teams would have selected 26 players each.
- Prior to the third round, the N.L. teams once again were able to protect three more players, while the A.L. teams were able to protect four. During the third round, 20 total players were selected – with each N.L. team losing one player and eight A.L. clubs losing a player. At the conclusion of the round, both the Marlins and the Rockies would have made 36 selections.
Not only were the Rockies and Marlins drafting players, they literally were playing a dice game. If you wanted a player from a specific team, and the other expansion club drafted a player from that club, then you likely lost out on an opportunity. You had to roll the dice when making your selections.
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The Rockies’ trip to New York became eventful before the big event.
After his arrival in the Big Apple, Gebhard was able to engineer a franchise-shaking move before the team had any players on its roster.
“Jim Bronner, the agent for Andres Galarraga, called me and said, ‘I’ve got a first baseman for you.’ And he told me it was Andres,” Gebhard said. Galarraga, a veteran of seven seasons in Montreal and one in St. Louis, had an All-Star appearance, one Silver Slugger Award and two Gold Gloves on his resume. “I told him, ‘You know, I have a very limited budget. I’ve been told I have $8 million to spend on a 40-man roster, so I have to be careful who I make commitments to – because this would be a salary hit.’ So we negotiated a contract for $500,000.
“The day before the draft, we signed Andres Galarraga.”
The 32-year-old Galarraga would go on to hit a National League-best .370 in 1993 and become an early builder of the Rockies’ “Blake Street Bombers” identity that Don Baylor wanted to establish. Galarraga spent five years in a Rockies uniform – finishing in the N.L. Top 10 in Most Valuable Player voting four times.
A second aggressive right-handed offensive presence that Gebhard coveted was Dante Bichette – who had fallen out of favor in Milwaukee.
Gebhard also had an affinity for Milwaukee’s Darren Holmes, a right-handed reliever who had experienced some success in 1992 (2.55 ERA and 6 saves in 41 games) – but was not protected by the Brewers.
The question for Gebhard was … could he get both players? The Rockies believed that if they took one, the other would either be protected after the first round – or selected by the Marlins early in the second round.
“We decided we needed pitchers who could pitch in Denver, so we were going to take Darren Holmes early in the draft,” Gebhard said. “But we had also zeroed in on Dante Bichette. It was a little bit of a mystery how we could get him.”
As fate would have it, “the morning of the draft, I went downstairs for coffee and ran into (Milwaukee GM) Sal Bando,” Gebhard said. “We had some discussions, and then I asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’ He said he needed a left-handed DH, and I asked him if he had any interest in (Texas’ Kevin) Reimer. He said, ‘Absolutely.’ So I asked him, ‘What if we draft him, and after the first round, you pull Dante Bichette back so we didn’t lose him to Florida? We can announce the trade after the draft.’ And he said, ‘That’s a deal.’ That’s how we got Dante Bichette.
“All of a sudden we had the big first baseman in Galarraga and now we had Bichette. We had the makings of a middle of the lineup with two power hitters. The rest of it just sort of fell into place.”
Bichette went on to play seven years for the Rockies, going to the All-Star Game four times. Holmes showed he could keep the ball in the park, surrendering only 34 homers in 263 games during his five years in a Colorado uniform.
Last August, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the Diamondbacks and Marlins were in talks regarding a possible Shelby Miller trade that was ultimately vetoed by D-backs owner Ken Kendrick. Roughly nine months later, FanRag’s Jon Heyman adds some more context to the story, noting that the two sides were in talks regarding right-handers Luis Castillo, Jose Urena and Austin Brice were all being discussed as potential pieces for Arizona to acquire, as was left-hander Dillon Peters (not necessarily all four, though Castillo and Urena were likely the centerpieces). One D-backs source tells Heyman the trade was never close, though Heyman cites others who agreed with Nightengale’s report, stating that Kendrick did indeed veto the deal when it was close to fruition. Miller, of course, remained with the D-backs and looked better in 2017 than he did in 2016 before suffering a torn UCL and undergoing Tommy John surgery.
- Despite the fact that multiple reports suggest the bidding price for the Marlins is around $1.3 billion, some have suggested to Heyman that the team’s lack of revenue and significant financial commitments to Giancarlo Stanton, Wei-Yin Chen, Martin Prado and others will ultimately lower the sale price after a full financial examination. Heyman adds that despite prior reports, he’s been told that Alex Rodriguez was never actually offered a spot in the Tagg Romney/Tom Glavine group that is vying to purchase the Marlins. Whether A-Rod was made an offer or not, the key takeaway is that it appears he won’t be involved in the sale.
The Marlins have added infielder Nick Noonan to their Triple-A club, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald (on Twitter). MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro further tweets that Noonan was acquired from the Brewers in exchange for cash.
The addition of Noonan, 28, comes at a time when the Marlins’ infield has been ravaged by injuries. Martin Prado, Adeiny Hechavarria and Miguel Rojas have each landed on the disabled list between Monday and Wednesday this week, prompting the Fish to bring up J.T. Riddle and Stephen Lombardozzi from Triple-A. Noonan figures to receive some of the playing time that Riddle and Lombardozzi would’ve been in line for in New Orleans. With further injuries in the Majors and/or impressive play in Triple-A, he could conceivably see some big league time as well.
Noonan, after all, has logged MLB time in each of the past two seasons (and in three of the past four). He was with the Padres in 2016 and the Giants (who drafted and developed him) in 2015 and 2013. Once considered one of the best prospects in the Giants’ farm system, Noonan has yet to capitalize on multiple promotions to the Majors, hitting .193/.239/.234 in 155 plate appearances between San Francisco and San Diego. He’s been better in Triple-A, where he’s managed a .273/.321/.371 batting line in parts of seven seasons.