CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reports that the Mariners and Diamondbacks met tonight to discuss Justin Upton.
Heyman’s report is just a tweet, so there are no details on the meeting. Heyman does, however, speculate on whether an offer of top prospect Taijuan Walker and Nick Franklin might be enough get a deal done.
Such a package would certainly intrigue the Diamondbacks, who seem to have their hearts set on acquiring a long-term shortstop for Upton. Franklin isn’t a can’t-miss guy, but he is one of the better shortstop prospects in the minors. He hit .322/.394/.502 in 205 at-bats in Double-A and .243/.310/.416 in 267 at-bats in Triple-A as a 21-year-old last season. He also batted .338/.422/.519 in the offense-heavy Arizona Fall League.
Walker, 20, is regarded as one of the game’s best pitching prospects, though he didn’t excel statistically last season. As one of the youngest players in the Southern League, he went 7-10 with a 4.69 ERA and a 118/50 K/BB ratio in 126 2/3 innings for Double-A Jacksonville.
Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are two other top pitching prospects the Mariners probably discussed with the Diamondbacks.
Upton, 25, is perhaps the most intriguing trade property out there right now, even though he’s coming off a down year in which he hit .280/.355/.430 with 17 homers in 554 at-bats. He’d be a terrific foundation piece for the Mariners’ rebuilding efforts. Adding him would give the team a 2013 lineup that looks something like this:
2B Dustin Ackley
3B Kyle Seager
RF Justin Upton
C/DH John Jaso
1B Justin Smoak
DH/C Jesus Montero
LF Michael Saunders
CF Franklin Gutierrez
SS Brendan Ryan
The Marlins are intent on adding one of the three best relievers available on the free agent market, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Those three, of course, are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon.
As Ashley noted earlier, Melancon is reportedly fielding multiple four-year offers in excess of $60 million. The price tags for Chapman and Jansen are likely to match or exceed that. The Marlins haven’t typically been eager to whip out the checkbook for free agents but with the bullpen being the name of the game in baseball these days, GM Michael Hill may feel the need to match his rivals.
The Nationals, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers are the teams most often linked to the “big-three” group of relievers, so it won’t be easy for the Marlins.
A.J. Ramos handled the closer’s role for the Marlins this past season and did an admirable job, saving 40 games with a 2.81 ERA and a 73/35 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. There’s no doubt, though, that Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon would represent a significant upgrade in the ninth inning.
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Reds manager Bryan Price is likely going to use a trio of pitchers in the closer’s role: Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani, and Michael Lorenzen. At RedsFest on Saturday, Price said:
I’d say right now that we have a series of guys that I’m comfortable with in the ninth inning and that would include (Raisel) Iglesias, (Tony) Cingrani and (Michael Lorenzen). Should we stay with this format – which I intend to do – all three of those guys and maybe more could have opportunities in save situations. At this point in time, there’s no defined closer. There are multiple options and I’d like to stick with the philosophy that we’re going to have our multi-inning guys, so we’re going to need multi-closers.
This seems to be part of the new bullpen zeitgeist in which managers are shying away from strictly-defined roles for their relievers. Indians manager Terry Francona’s postseason success using Andrew Miller likely had some degree of influence on Price’s willingness to go with a three-headed giant.
Iglesias started the 2016 season in the Reds’ rotation but missed two months with an injury, then moved to the bullpen in late June. Price put him in the closer’s role down the stretch in September. The right-hander overall finished the season with a 2.53 ERA and an 83/26 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings.
Cingrani battled control issues in his 63 innings of work this past season, finishing with a 4.14 ERA and a 49/37 K/BB ratio. He’s left-handed, though, and gives Price some matchup flexibility in the late innings.
Lorenzen impressed in his first full season as a reliever, ending the year with a 2.88 ERA and a 48/13 K/BB ratio in 50 innings. The right-hander uses a fastball that sits around 96 MPH on average along with a cutter and slider.