Welcome to the Marlins, Corey Dickerson! His two-year, $17.5 million deal was announced by the team Tuesday morning. It’s easily the largest financial commitment made to any individual player under the current Derek Jeter/Bruce Sherman ownership group (surpassing the Miguel Rojas extension).
The 30-year-old left-handed batter projects as the semi-regular starting left fielder for the Fish in 2020. He owns a career .286/.328/.504 slash line (117 wRC+) through seven major league seasons.
All of Dickerson’s skills and question marks were discussed at great length on a recent podcast episode.
But here’s what makes this expected move newsworthy: Miami designated right-hander Austin Brice for assignment to make room on their 40-man roster.
The former Marlins draft pick returned to the organization last February as a waiver claim. Through the first half of the 2019 season, he exceeded expectations (1.93 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.10 WHIP in 37.1 IP). Unfortunately, Brice suffered a forearm flexor strain right after the All-Star break, got lit up upon his return to the roster, then went back on the injured list with a season-ending forearm strain in late August.
Brice averaged a 2,903 RPM spin rate on his curveball, according to Statcast, which ranked in the 94th percentile across Major League Baseball. It accounted for 44.7% of his total pitches thrown and the results against it were impressive (.172 BAA, .268 xwOBA). Health permitting, if Brice regains his feel and trust for that breaking ball, there is good reason to believe he can be a contributor to any MLB bullpen.
The combination of Brice’s 2019 performance and long-term club control—arbitration eligible in 2021, free-agent eligible after the 2023 season—makes him a trade asset. Just yesterday, the Marlins were able to get raw catching prospect José Estrada in exchange for Kyle Keller; Brice is only a year older than Keller and has a substantially longer MLB track record, so his value figures to be even higher.
The key question is how Brice’s arm is feeling after his injury scare(s). If we are to believe his recent tweet that he is already “getting loose” for 2020, there ought to be multiple suitors for the 27-year-old in the coming days. It would be unacceptable for the Marlins to turn the page on him without receiving significant compensation.
Brice has tweeted his “most sincere thank you” to the organization and fanbase:
In light of recent news that is my DFA. I just want to send a most sincere thank you to South Florida for welcoming me back home in 2019. I thank you fans that bleed the colors. And just a thank you to the staff that really turned my career around. See you guys around the bend.— Austin Brice (@AustinBrice) January 7, 2020
This latest DFA continues a trend of the Marlins parting ways with nearly all the mainstays from their unsuccessful 2019 bullpen.
Here are the leaders in games pitched for the 2019 Marlins.— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) January 7, 2020
6 of the top 8—Tyler Kinley, Tayron Guerrero, Wei-Yin Chen, Nick Anderson, Sergio Romo and now Austin Brice—are gone pic.twitter.com/EYQDPzLQ15
Several of those spots can be filled internally, but how about a respected veteran with high-leverage experience?
FNTSY Sports Radio host Craig Mish reports that Brandon Kintzler, Héctor Rondón and Pedro Strop are all free agent possibilities. (Of those three, Kintzler is my preferred target.)
Among the FA names the Marlins are considering in the pen : Pedro Strop, Brandon Kintzler, Hector Rondon. Others also. A veteran pen add still very much in play. The Marlins opening day closer is likely going to be decided in a Spring competition.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) January 7, 2020
Meanwhile, the Francisco Cervelli signing is still pending. Yet another familiar face must be removed from the Marlins 40-man roster to finalize that deal.