Nothing gold can stay. Or blue. Or pink. Or yellow. Or whatever other colors adorn the Home Run Sculpture at Marlins Park. It was reported this week that new Marlins owner Derek Jeter may secure help from the mayor of Miami-Dade County to remove the quirky ballpark fixture, but there could still be some more high-profile roster changes afoot this offseason.
With two-thirds of Miami’s outfield (Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna) already out the door, Christian Yelich is understandably interested in following. As we noted on Wednesday, Yelich’s agent, Joe Longo, told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN that the player’s relationship with the Marlins is “irretrievably broken” and it would be in the best interests of both sides for him to be traded before spring training. Interest has been widespread and it’s easy to see why.
Saving money was the main consideration in the Stanton deal and reviews were mixed about the haul in the Ozuna trade, but dealing Yelich might be their best chance to land a true impact youngster as part of their rapid teardown. The 26-year-old outfielder signed an extension back in 2015 which will keep him under team control through at least 2021. He’s guaranteed $44.5 million over the next four seasons and his contract also includes a $15 million club option for 2022. This is the sort of commitment which appeals to large and small market teams alike.
Yelich got off to a slow start last season, so he failed to duplicate his 2016 production, but he still turned in a fine .282/.369/.439 batting line with 18 homers and 81 RBI across 156 games. He also picked things up on the speed front by going 16-for-18 in stolen base attempts. Yelich looks like someone who should hit for more power and he has at least increased his fly ball rate over the past two seasons. He’s an excellent player as is, but it’s not crazy to think there’s still another level here.
The Braves are one of the teams who have inquired on Yelich, but the asking price is naturally sky high. Peter Gammons of MLB Network reported this week that the Marlins asked for top prospect outfielder Ronald Acuna in return. Hey, it's worth a shot. Given Yelich's contract, it's not an unreasonable ask. The Braves might not agree on that point, but it shows that Miami isn’t going to part with Yelich without netting a huge piece in return. Despite Yelich’s wishes, they have every right to wait things out, even if it means going into the season with him still on the roster.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said this week that Dominic Smith is the team’s first baseman of the future, but exactly when the “future” will become the “present” is unclear. That’s because the club finalized a major league deal with Adrian Gonzalez this week and plan to give him the first crack at the starting job during spring training.
Gonzalez, who turns 36 in May, was limited to just 71 games last season due to a back injury while posting an ugly .242/.287/.355 batting line. He was not active during the team’s World Series run and he was curiously absent for a large part of the postseason. His tenure with the Dodgers came to an unceremonious end in December when he was traded to the Braves in a swap of bad contracts. The Braves quickly released him before he latched on with the Mets this week.
There’s a decent chance that Gonzalez is cooked, but it’s not going to cost the Mets much to find out. While he’s owed $22.4 million this season, New York will only have to cover the major-league minimum salary of $545,000. That's music to the Mets' ears.
The chances of carrying both Gonzalez and Smith on the Opening Day roster are probably slim. They are both left-handed hitters and it wouldn’t do Smith any good to have a diminished role, so he could end up back in Triple-A to begin 2018. The 22-year-old batted just .198/.262/.395 during his first stint in the majors last season and looked shaky defensively at times, though he slugged nine homers in 49 games and posted a hard-hit rate well north of the league average. Things just got more complicated here, but Smith could quickly find himself back atop the depth chart if Gonzalez underwhelms and/or has more physical issues.
On the topic of physical issues, Alderson also stated this week that outfielder Michael Conforto is not expected to return until at least May 1 as he rehabs from shoulder surgery. This means that Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo project to share time in center field while Jay Bruce will be the regular right fielder. The Mets reportedly shot down dealing Nimmo to the Pirates for Andrew McCutchen, but he could still be a factor in talks regarding Josh Harrison. While McCutchen will be a free agent next offseason, Harrison comes with three years of team control (at $32 million) if both of his options are exercised.
The Mets are monitoring the Harrison situation, but Alderson acknowledged this week that he’d rather sign a free agent for second or third base than give up talent from an already-thin farm system. Mike Moustakas and Todd Frazier remain on the open market at third base while Eduardo Nunez, Neil Walker, and Jose Reyes are among the familiar names at second base. Depending on which way the Mets go, Asdrubal Cabrera will play either second base or third base this season.
Quick Hits: Agent Scott Boras said a report that the Red Sox made free agent slugger J.D. Martinez a five-year, $100 million offer is “not accurate” … Dustin Pedroia (knee surgery) has been cleared to begin running … Diamondbacks outfielder Yasmany Tomas was arrested Thursday morning in Arizona after allegedly driving 105 mph …The Nationals officially announced a two-year, $7 million contract with Howie Kendrick … Brad Ziegler, who could open 2018 as the Marlins closer, said on Fantasy Sports Radio on Wednesday that he tried to pitch through a rib injury last season … The Cubs re-signed left-handed reliever Brian Duensing to a two-year, $7 million contract … The Rangers inked catcher Curt Casali to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … The White Sox are expected to give Carson Fulmer a chance to win a rotation spot in spring training … The Blue Jays signed reliever Al Alburquerque to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Some (okay, well one of us) may know him best as Alberto Jose Alburquerque … The Giants claimed infielder Engelb Vielma off waivers from the Pirates …