It’s not just limited to the Miami Marlins, Major League Baseball or sports—across all industries, new decision-makers prefer to bring some familiarity to their organizations. For Derek Jeter, that could mean giving special consideration to players who once thrived as his teammates and rivals.
Changes to the Marlins roster are inevitable, regardless of who’s in charge. The club operated waaaaay above its means in 2017. That leaves Jeter no choice but to dangle their best players on the trade market to cleanse the payroll of onerous contracts.
That being said, they’ll still need to assemble a full roster at the MLB level. Expectations ought to be relatively low without the pressure to contend immediately. So rather than obsess over finding the perfect fit for each role, Jeter could steer the rest of the front office toward some of his personal favorites.
Imagining an offseason where the Marlins try to balance his biases with the larger goal of fiscal responsibility, these veterans would be their top targets.
Let’s start with addressing one of last season’s biggest weaknesses: pitching against left-handed batters. Miami’s staff posted an 11.2 walk rate and a 17.3 percent strikeout rate against LHB, ranking 29th and 30th, respectively, in those categories. Make fun of Mike Dunn all you want, but he would’ve been a big help!
Heading into his 13th season, Boone Logan is one of the most experienced LOOGYs on the market. He owns a career 8.6 walk rate and 29.9 strikeout rate with the platoon advantage, and Jeter saw that up close when they shared a clubhouse from 2010-2013.
Logan pitched just 21 innings in 2017—his lowest total of the decade—because of a torn lat muscle, but he’ll be more than eight months removed from the injury by the start of next season.
Next, the Marlins might turn their attention to a starter with some upside. Right-hander Clay Buchholz spends time on the disabled list nearly every summer, but he’s had extended stretches of excellence when healthy.
Jeter is well aware of that: Buchholz limited him to a .694 OPS in 35 career plate appearances. The only active pitchers to face him at least that many times with better results are Scott Kazmir, Felix Hernandez and James Shields.
On a sentimental note (which makes for fun trivia), Buchholz was the last opponent Jeter ever batted against. They had a courteous exchange after the Captain was removed for a pinch-runner to officially wrap up his playing career:
With widespread trade interest in their All-Star position players, the Fish should have plenty of at-bats available in 2018. Once again, Jeter can conjure some viable replacements by relying on nostalgia.
Outfielder Chris Young was present on Jeter’s 2014 retirement tour when the New York Yankees acquired him midseason. Although the results weren’t there for him last year at age 33, Young at least has a reputation for mashing left-handed pitching (.262/.361/.466 career splits).
A lifetime American Leaguer, Mike Napoli has been a certified Yankee Killer™. Going head to head against Jeter’s teams from 2006-2014, he posted a 1.081 OPS, second only to Miguel Cabrera in that timeframe (min. 100 PA) among hitters who are still active. And at a stage of his career when most front offices only value Napoli as a part-time player, he could probably be signed cheaply.
(Several other free agents with Jeter connections were ruled out for likely being too expensive, including Melky Cabrera, Eduardo Nunez and CC Sabathia.)
The Marlins won’t realistically trade away prospects to reunite Jeter with figures from his past. However, there is an accomplished veteran out there whose value has plunged to an all-time low. Perhaps he could be had without diverting from the rebuilding mission.
It will require a small village of assets to convince the franchise to move star slugger Giancarlo Stanton. The San Francisco Giants appear to be one of the many suitors for him. Aside from the young, controllable talent that’s at the heart of any competitive Stanton trade offer, Jeter would probably insist that the Giants add starting pitcher Matt Moore as a throw-in.
Jeter spent the first couple months of the 2013 season in Tampa rehabbing a fractured ankle. That gave him front-row seats to the hottest stretch of Moore’s life. An emerging star on the Rays, the then-23-year-old went undefeated through 10 starts (8-0, 61.0 IP, 56 K, 2.21 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) on his way to an All-Star selection.
Jeter would never admit to paying close attention to another team, but it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that his only home run of 2013 came against the lefty.
The $9 million Moore is owed in 2018 and his $10 million team option beyond that represent a substantial investment for the cost-cutting Marlins. Even so, a deal involving him and minimum-salaried players actually saves plenty of money overall. Stanton has $25 million and $26 million coming his way for those same two seasons.
Moore’s career-worst 5.52 earned run average and 27 home runs allowed last year should scare away most other MLB executives...except for the one who vividly remembers his glory days.