MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro reports that the Marlins have reached out to free agent catcher Jeff Mathis about re-signing with the club.
Mathis, who turns 33 in March, doesn’t hit much but he plays above-average defense, calls a good game, handles the pitching staff well, and — as Frisaro notes — is one of the most popular players in the clubhouse. This past season, Mathis hit a meager .161/.214/.290 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 103 plate appearances. He missed nearly two months after fracturing his right ring finger in April.
If he returns to the Marlins, Mathis would be backing up J.T. Realmuto. Mathis earned $1.5 million for the 2015 season and would likely be looking at a similar salary on a one-year pact.
Padres outfielder Carlos Asuaje, one of four players acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade, will be given an opportunity to compete during spring training and potentially win a spot on the Padres’ 25-man roster, MLB.com’s Corey Brock reports.
Asuaje, 24, got his first taste of Double-A competition this past season and hit .251/.334/.374 with eight home runs and 61 RBI in 570 plate appearances with Portland. He was drafted by the Red Sox in the 11th round of the 2013 draft.
With Justin Upton leaving for free agency, the Padres have an opening in the outfield. 25-year-old Alex Dickerson is currently at the top of the depth chart for the opening.
Shortstop Ian Desmond turned down the Nationals’ $15.8 million qualifying offer on Friday, officially thrusting him into free agency. The Padres have already expressed interest, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Desmond, 30, hit a disappointing .233/.290/.384 with 19 home runs and 62 RBI this past season. Prior to that, however, he hit 20-plus homers, 25-plus doubles, and stole 20-plus bases in each of the previous three seasons.
Desmond has draft pick compensation attached to him after receiving and then turning down the qualifying offer. As a result of finishing with one of the ten worst records in baseball in 2015, the Padres’ first-round draft pick is protected, so they would give up a second-round pick instead. Outfielder Justin Upton and starter Ian Kennedy both rejected qualifying offers from the Padres, which means they would be recouping two picks anyway so it may wash out.
The Padres currently don’t have much in the way of shortstop depth. In 2015, they used Alexi Amarista, Clint Barmes, and Jedd Gyorko at the position.
The Red Sox made a deal with the Padres on Friday night for closer Craig Kimbrel, and that had the very obvious effect of displacing Koji Uehara. Uehara has been a dominant closer for the Red Sox over the last three seasons, but he’ll turn 41 in April and suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right wrist back in August.
Uehara spoke with president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and accepted the demotion, per MLB.com’s Ian Browne. Uehara said he is putting the team first and he wants to win a World Series. Since 2013, Uehara has 72 saves with a 1.86 ERA and a 228/26 K/BB ratio over 179 innings. Kimbrel, in that same span of time, has 136 saves with a 1.77 ERA and a 280/68 K/BB ratio over 188 innings.
On Twitter, Blue Jays radio play-by-play man Mike Wilner was discussing potential lineup configurations. A fan wondered why Pillar wasn’t a viable leadoff candidate. Wilner said that outfielder Kevin Pillar wasn’t one of the Blue Jays’ best hitters. Pillar responded:
Wilner retorted, saying he would rank Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitzki ahead of Pillar.
One could even throw Russell Martin on Wilner’s list, as well. Pillar hit .278/.314/.399 during the regular season. The batting average ranked fourth of nine Jays with at least 300 plate appearances, but the on-base percentage was eighth of nine and the slugging percentage was seventh of nine. Going by adjusted OPS, which accounts for league and park factors and sets 100 as the average, Pillar’s 96 was a few ticks below average and fell behind many of his teammates, including the aforementioned five as well as Chris Colabello, Justin Smoak, Ben Revere, Devon Travis, and Danny Valencia (the latter three did not meet the 300 PA threshold).
Wilner makes a good point, and it’s Pillar’s subpar on-base percentage in particular that makes him a poor fit atop the Blue Jays’ lineup.