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2020 free agency roundup, Marlins edition

Updating the statuses of former Marlins players and the club’s negotiations with veteran reliever Pedro Strop.

Miami Marlins v New York Mets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

With MLB teams solidifying their 2020 plans, there has been a surge of free agent activity lately. The names of plenty ex-Marlins are flying around as well as prospective future Fish.

Did you miss any of the news? Probably! That’s why I felt this post was necessary.


Old Friends—Major League Deals

Atlanta Braves v Miami Marlins Photo by Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins via Getty Images

Marcell Ozuna has returned to the NL East, inking a one-year, $18 million deal with the Braves.

While with the Cardinals from 2018-19, Ozuna slashed .263/.327/.452 (108 wRC+) and contributed 5.4 fWAR overall. That kind of performance has been rewarded more generously for others in the same free agent class. MLB Network insiders Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman both reported Thursday morning that he received offers elsewhere for three-plus years, but at a lower average annual value. Ozuna’s stock was negatively affected by throwing arm concerns and his attachment to draft-pick compensation via the qualifying offer. He can return to the market with zero restrictions next winter.

The Braves won 97 games a season ago with Ronald Acuña Jr. as their primary center fielder. This acquisition signals that the club trusts him out there moving forward, considering that Ozuna is limited to left field at this stage of his career.

Ozo addressed his old and new fanbases on Tuesday via Instagram:

Old Friends—Minor League Deals

Hialeah’s own Peter O’Brien agreed to terms with the Braves in December. His 2018 late-season hot streak with the Marlins did not carry over to the following year. On the bright side, he has excelled in the Dominican Winter League, winning the 2019-20 regular season MVP award, plus he is currently leading Toros del Este to the cusp of a Caribbean Series berth. However, the Ozuna news makes his path to steady MLB reps even more arduous.

Gabriel Guerrero will be reunited on the Blue Jays with his talented cousin, Vlad Jr. While fellow Marlins corner outfielders like Harold Ramirez and Austin Dean hit their way to call-ups at various points in 2019, Guerrero started slow out of the gate with Triple-A New Orleans and never really settled in (.253/.271/.407, 56 wRC+ in 336 PA).

On Wednesday, veteran infielder Neil Walker joined the Phillies as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. He more or less met expectations in Miami—his age-33 production was comfortably above replacement level yet limited by injuries. For what it’s worth, Walker has great career numbers at Citizens Bank Park (.311/.377/.511, 6 HR in 151 PA).

Still no official word anywhere, but Yehuda Schwartz has reported that right-hander Merandy Gonzalez will be in camp with the reigning champion Nationals. You may remember him for being involved in the 2017 AJ Ramos trade and briefly appearing in the majors in 2018. Gonzalez has since bounced around to the Giants and Cardinals organizations. Only 24 years old!

Cut Loose

According to Baseball America, the Marlins released 11 players from their minor league ranks recently (subscription required). To be blunt, most of them aren’t even worth mentioning.

A 19th-round draft pick in 2017, Micah Brown reached as high as Triple-A last season in a utility role. He has a lifetime .226/.297/.344 slash line and 28.1% strikeout rate.

Brayan Hernandez was once upon a time the centerpiece who came over from the Mariners in the David Phelps trade, briefly regarded as the best outfield prospect in Miami’s farm system. He secured a big bonus in international free agency thanks to his plus speed and throwing arm, but the bat still hasn’t come around. He struggled with Low-A Clinton and Short Season A Batavia in 2019.

Michael Hernandez (no relation) is a South Florida native who has shown decent pop in pro ball with 12 home runs in 564 plate appearances.

Unfortunately, there is too much swing-and-miss in his game to realistically project progression up the organizational ladder.

Marlins’ Activity/Targets

As part of our 2020 Marlins Season Preview, read more about new right-hander Johan Quezada, an imposing mound presence at 6-foot-9. He is a comparable prospect to what Tayron Guerrero was when initially acquired by the Fish in 2016. It will take a combination of good health and more repeatable mechanics to make him viable as a reliever at the highest level.

The Marlins and Rangers are finalists for Pedro Strop, tweets Dominican reporter Héctor Gómez. The 34-year-old is coming off a replacement-level campaign with the Cubs—4.97 ERA, 4.53 FIP, 1.27 WHIP in 41.2 IP—and doesn’t consistently throw strikes, though he has far more high-leverage major league experience than any of the existing Marlins bullpen options. He would be a helpful pick-up on a $1-2 million deal.

Finally, an update from Henderson Alvarez(!), who’s looking for a new employer this season:

The former All-Star is somehow only entering his age-30 season. Alvarez’s fastball averaged about 92 miles per hour when last tracked by Statcast in MLB games, but the pitches posted to his Twitter account on Wednesday came out of his hand at 95.

It is unclear why Alvarez tagged the Marlins, Astros, Royals and Angels. Did they have representatives in attendance for this workout? Several years removed from being effective in affiliated ball, he would surely settle for a minor league deal.

Alvarez pitched for his native Venezuela in November’s WBSC Premier12. He is also on the preliminary roster for an Olympic qualifying tournament being held in Arizona in March.