The Marlins are screwing over one of their players… again

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When the Marlins demoted starting center fielder Marcell Ozuna on July 5, it made some sense. Sure, they had no one to replace him, but he was in a lengthy slump and 10-14 days in Triple-A might have been just the thing to restore his confidence at the plate.

And it was. Ozuna hit .325 with two homers and four doubles in his first 10 games back in the minors. But he wasn’t recalled.

Two weeks later, Ozuna is still rotting away in Triple-A while the Marlins play Christian Yelich out of position in center and Cole Gillespie, Ichiro Suzuki and recently Derek Dietrich in the corners. Ichiro played in 24 games and got 77 at-bats last month, hitting .195/.250/.234.

Ozuna has kept producing through all of this, hitting .314/.372/.558 in 24 games in Triple-A. It’s really hard to imagine that he’s not one of the Marlins’ three-best outfielders right now. Even his disappointing major league line of .249/.301/.337 features an average, an OBP and a slugging percentage better than Ichiro’s.

But, of course, the Marlins have reasons to keep Ozuna down. Financial reasons. Money reasons. Jeffrey Loria reasons. See, Ozuna entered the 2015 season with one year and 153 days of service time, practically assuring that he would be super-two arbitration eligible if he remained in the majors. That’s not going to happen now. If he were recalled today, he’d already be a long shot to qualify for super two. If the Marlins wait another week, it’s a given that he’ll miss the cut off.

So, they’ll wait another week.

Ozuna’s continued presence in Triple-A is all about saving Loria a buck. His free agency timetable hasn’t changed, but losing out on that fourth year of arbitration will probably cost him $5 million-$10 million over these next few years. That’s apparently enough to make it worth it for Loria. He hasn’t even gotten the kind of negative publicity for it that he might if he were holding back a top prospect instead (oddly enough, the Marlins rarely hold back top prospects for service time considerations, which is why they get themselves into such situations later).

I do wonder, though, if this will really pay off for Loria in the long run. Ozuna is a Scott Boras client. Jose Fernandez is a Boras client. Lots of good players are Boras clients. Spiting him to save a couple of million per year doesn’t seem like the greatest of ideas.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.

As for the Indians, the commitment to Kluber for 2020-21 is $31.5 million if you exercise next year’s option, $18.5 million if you don’t. He’s one year and a freak injury removed from goin 20-7 with a 2.89 (150 ERA+), 0.991 WHIP, and 215 innings pitched. Cleveland is coming off 93 wins and should contend. Why you trade Kluber in that situation, regardless of the return, is a question they should have to answer to fans who expect to see winning baseball.