Roughly 24 hours after welcoming a new first baseman, new second baseman and new starting pitcher to the organization in an introductory press conference at Marlins Park, Mike Hill got around to talking about his latest big move on Saturday -– upgrading third base.
Friday, the Marlins acquired Martin Prado from the Yankees (a player the Marlins tried to get back in 2010 when they shipped Dan Uggla off to Atlanta) and sent Casey McGehee, the National League’s 2014 Comeback Player of the Year, to the Giants for two minor league pitchers.
Hill said parting with the 32-year-old McGehee was “an extremely difficult decision because he did mean so much on the field and in the clubhouse, a true pro in every sense of the word.”
But getting the younger, more versatile Prado, 31, who is a better a career hitter (.291) and fielder (.965) at third base than McGehee (.261 hitting; .953 fielding), was too much to pass up. So was the fact Prado is under contract through 2016 (the Marlins will pay him $8 million each season with the Yankees picking up $3 million each year). McGehee, headed to arbitration and expected to make close to $4 million, would be eligible for free agency after 2015.
“It was probably one of the toughest phone calls I’ve ever had to make to let Casey know he’d been traded,” the club's president of baseball operations said. “But in return, we’re really excited to bring back Prado and we’re excited for what he brings both on the field and in the clubhouse as well.”
Though McGehee was a pleasant surprise last season, batting .319 with 53 RBI before the All-Star break, he slumped after the break hitting .243 with 23 RBI while bouncing into a major-league leading 31 double plays.
Still, Hill said thanked McGehee for what he did for the team in 2014. “We’re trying to build and be successful and he understood what we were trying to do,” Hill said. “We just thanked him for what he did for us on and off the field. He thanked us for bringing him back to the big leagues and giving him an opportunity. We wished him the best of luck and he wished us the best of luck and that was it.”
Prado, an All-Star in 2010 during his seven-year stint with the Braves, hit .282 with 12 homers and 58 RBI last season for the Diamondbacks and Yankees. He missed the final three weeks of the season after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Sept.16. Hill said Prado, a native Venezuelan, is “full go” in terms of health and will be the Marlins' everyday third baseman.
“He’s extremely excited to join our club,” Hill said. “We saw a lot of him from the other dugout when he was with the Atlanta Braves. It’s nice to have him in a Marlins’ uniform. He’s killed us on many occasions as an opposing player. We just love what he brings to the table.”
Prado, a career .313 hitter against the Marlins, has batted second in the lineup most of his career but Hill said “he’ll bat somewhere in the middle of that lineup.”
"We just know he’s a very dangerous hitter who can beat you so many different ways,” Hill said. “With his bat control and knowledge of the strike zone, I don’t think we’re concerned where ever he ends up in the order. We just know he’s going to give us quality at-bats and do tremendous things for us offensively and defensively.”
In addition to Prado, the Marlins picked up right-handed pitcher David Phelps in the trade that sent pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, first baseman Garrett Jones and a minor-league pitcher to the Yankees. Under club control through 2018, Phelps, 28, started 40 games for the Yankees and pitched out of the bullpen in 47 others. He’s 15-14 with a 4.21 ERA.
“We just wanted another versatile piece,” Hill said. “We’re going to give him an opportunity to compete and be one of 12 with our club. It should be a great competition with Phelps and [Brad] Hand and [Aaron] Crow.”
Hill said right-handed pitchers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo, acquired in the McGehee trade, will likely start the season in Double A Jacksonville and Single A Jupiter, respectively. Flores, 23, is 31-24 with a 3.47 ERA in five minor-league seasons. He was one of the Giants’ top 20 prospects before the start of the 2014 season. Castillo, 22, is 3-6 with a 2.67 ERA and 32 saves in 36 chances in three minor-league seasons.
“We’ve parted with a lot of inventory over the last few weeks,” Hill said. “This was an opportunity to re-stock a bit and get quality pitching prospects we really like.”
It’s been a busy couple weeks for the Marlins, but Hill hinted the club might not be done yet. “We’re going to try and enjoy the Holidays, but we’re still looking for ways to improve the club,’ he said. “If there is something that makes sense to us, we will pursue it.”