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Derek Jeter may be stuck with Marlins’ home run sculpture

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MIAMI (AP) Season previews suggesting the Miami Marlins have an entirely new look in the outfield aren’t quite accurate.

Yes, major league home run king Giancarlo Stanton is gone. So are Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and even fourth outfielder Ichiro Suzuki.

But the Red Grooms home run sculpture remains.

While the Marlins have undergone a radical makeover under CEO Derek Jeter, he has yet to find a new home for the kitschy, colorful, carnivalesque sculpture nicknamed Homer. It stands beyond the center field wall at Marlins Park, the towering legacy of former owner Jeffrey Loria, and nearly as unpopular.

What’s Jeter’s opinion of the 73-foot-tall artwork?

“It’s big,” he said. “It’s big. It’s big.”

Does he like it?

“It’s unique,” he said.

Translation: He hates it. Ex-Yankees shortstops and other traditionalists tend to give the sculpture a thumbs-down.

Like the Marlins, however, Homer does have a few fans. They consider the pop art very Miami, and right at home in a ballpark with garish green walls, a nightclub in left field and fish tanks behind home plate.

“A lot of people hate it, but I don’t know why,” New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler said. “It’s a wild stadium, and that thing is pretty wild, so why not?”

Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler said his kids enjoy the sculpture, which springs into motion whenever the home team homers.

“They’re 2 and 3,” Ziegler said. “They always liked seeing the Marlin go flying when Mr. Giancarlo and Mr. Christian and Mr. Marcell would hit home runs.”

Jeter traded Mr. Giancarlo and Mr. Christian and Mr. Marcell. But who would be interested in acquiring Homer?

Jeter’s old team is out; it’s impossible to envision the sculpture at Yankee Stadium, although Babe Ruth probably would have loved it. Fenway Park and Wrigley Field don’t seem like good matches either.

A better option would be someplace like Houston, a modern city with a modern ballpark and more homers to celebrate lately. What would the World Series champions give up for Miami’s home run sculpture?

“A bag of sunflower seeds and a bucket of practice balls,” Astros catcher Evan Gattis said.

How about the San Francisco Giants? The sculpture looks like something from a Grateful Dead album cover.

“Hah! Gonna pass on that one,” Giants CEO Larry Baer said in a text message. “Cannot block views of the Bay.”

Washington, perhaps? The nation’s capital has a fondness for monuments.

But even the Nationals show no interest in Homer.

“There’s not really much I want to trade out of DC,” Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez said. “I wouldn’t trade anybody for that. I wouldn’t trade the cherry blossoms. And we wouldn’t even know where to put it.”

If there’s no trade to be made, Jeter would probably be happy to relocate Homer at the bottom of Biscayne Bay. But like Marlins Park, the sculpture is the property of Miami-Dade County. Grooms wants it to stay where it is.

Move the $2.5 million sculpture over Grooms’ objection, and it could lose almost all of its value, said Michael Spring, director of the county’s department of cultural affairs.

“There are no plans to move it at the moment,” Spring said. “Everyone would love for there to be more news, but it isn’t at the top of our agenda.”

Sending the sculpture to another ballpark might appease Grooms, and Spring laughed at the idea of a trade. But he declined to endorse even a straight-up deal for, say, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis or the Mets’ home run apple.

“We’re not interested in trading public art,” Spring said.

So wheeler-dealer Jeter might be stuck. He can trade away players who hit lots of homers, but Homer seems here to stay.

AP Sports Writers Mike Fitzpatrick in New York and Janie McCauley in San Francisco and AP freelance writer Chuck King in West Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.