In a sign that Miami’s pursuit of Albert Pujols is likely over, the Marlins shifted their attention to the rotation and signed veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle to a four-year, $58 million contract.
Buehrle drew interest from nearly half the teams in baseball, but recently narrowed his choices down to the Marlins, Nationals, and one other unnamed team, ultimately choosing to be reunited with Ozzie Guillen after the two spent the past eight seasons together with the White Sox.
Buehrle has never blown anyone away with his raw stuff, but he has a 3.83 career ERA and has topped 200 innings in each of his 11 full seasons. During that same period Marlins pitchers have topped 200 innings a combined total of 13 times. Over the past four years Buehrle ranks 10th among all pitchers in innings and 28th in adjusted ERA+, which factors in ballpark and league.
At age 33 a four-year commitment is risky, but Buehrle is coming off one of his best seasons with a 3.59 ERA in 205 innings and while certainly not as exciting as signing Pujols the Marlins can definitely use the rotation help. Josh Johnson’s health is a huge factor for the Marlins’ pitching staff, but a potential front four of Johnson, Buehrle, Anibal Sanchez, and Ricky Nolasco could be among the league’s best.
And now we’ll find out if Miami still has enough money left to pursue a fourth big-name free agent like Prince Fielder. So far they’ve handed out $191 million to Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, and Buehrle.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.