Marlins to sign Matt Downs to minor league contract

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According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins are close to signing Matt Downs to a minor league contract. He’s expected to get an invitation to spring training.

Downs, who turns 29 in March, batted .202/.253/.371 with eight home runs, 16 RBI and a .623 OPS in 191 plate appearances with the Astros last season. Originally drafted by the Giants back in 2006, he owns a .230/.296/.406 batting line in the majors.

Downs offers some pop from the right side and versatility between the infield and the outfield, so he could make the Marlins in a super-utility role.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.