Outfielder Austin Dean, who has spent his entire professional baseball career with the Marlins, was designated for assignment on Thursday, as first reported by Craig Mish. The move cleared space on the 40-man roster for the team to officially sign catcher Francisco Cervelli.
Miami’s fourth-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, Dean was among the longest-tenured members of the organization. He absolutely raked at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans during the past two seasons—receiving 2018 Marlins Minor League Player of the Year honors—but hasn’t been able to translate that success to the highest level. His MLB career slash line is .223/.268/.388 with a 74 wRC+ in 311 plate appearances. Both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference value his contributions far below replacement level.
After disastrous results as a corner outfielder (-9 DRS/-6.8 UZR/-8 OAA in 602 innings), Dean got a few reps at first base last September (and made all the routine plays, for what it’s worth).
While Dean’s willingness to accept a position change is admirable, it’s difficult to imagine him drawing strong interest from other National League teams—his optimal role would be as a designated hitter. His age (26) and two remaining minor league options add to the appeal.
By sheer coincidence, Fish Stripes video producer Christian Cevallos completed an Austin Dean 2019 highlights package earlier this week.
Not included above: Dean had his viral moment while warming up in between innings and pegging the top of a beer can pyramid in the stands.
For a portion of the 2019 season, the Marlins made do with only two catchers on the 40-man roster. That raises the question of why Dean, who still has some offensive upside, was the expendable one instead of Chad Wallach; the 28-year-old backstop is now a distant third on the depth chart behind Jorge Alfaro and Cervelli.
Mish notes that Wallach is held in high regard within the organization. The Marlins didn’t want to risk losing him on waivers considering their lack of capable, MLB-ready alternatives should Alfaro and Cervelli suffer an injury (both sustained concussions last year).
Marlins view Wallach as a great receiver who would have been claimed if designated. In addition they have put a premium specifically on who will catch top prospects Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera & Jorge Guzman if (as expected) they start in AAA.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) January 9, 2020
The Marlins now have seven days to find a taker for Dean. In the unlikely event that the Texas native clears waivers, they would be able to outright him to the minors. Meanwhile, right-hander Austin Brice has five more days in DFA limbo.
Regardless of how the situation unfolds from here, Fish Stripes wishes Austin Dean and his new wife Sarah all the best.