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.”
Marlins president of baseball operations Mike Hill is still tinkering with his 2015 squad, and it's likely Friday's trade with the Yankees for infielder Martin Prado and pitcher David Phelps won't be his last move.
Still, here's what Hill talked about Friday after introducing Dee Gordon, Mike Morse and Mat Latos among his newest acquisitions during a ceremony at Marlins Park. (Note: We're still waiting to talk to Hill about the Prado/Phelps trade).
"We love the moves we were able to make," Hill said. "We checked off a lot of boxes in terms of what our goals were and what we wanted to accomplish as we headed into the off-season. The priority was taking care of the big man and making sure he's a part of our future. We've done that. And then it was adding to this team.
"We felt like this team was good, but it wasn't where it needed to be. We needed to add more talent to get us over the hump and we felt like we needed more offense at first base. We felt like we needed a true four-hole hitter to hit behind the big man. And although it wasn't on the immediate priority list, as the meetings unfolded in San Diego it became more clearer we could access Dee Gordon. And I wanted Dee Gordon just because he's a game changer. His speed is a game changer. He fits on this ballclub. He fits in this ballpark and he sets our lineup up in a way where we can lengthen it, make it deeper. We can put Christian Yelich in a more run-producing spot. You put him on base in front of Big G and Michael Morse and Marcell Ozuna and I think you've created an offense that is very formidable."
Hill said getting two players with local high school connections in Morse (Davie Nova) and Latos (Coconut Creek) was "just really a bonus, a cherry on top."
Both players grew up going to Joe Robbie Stadium and following the Marlins as kids. Both were there for Charlie Hough's first pitch and have deep connections with former Marlins greats.
The Marlins brought Morse to Marlins Park for a recruiting tour before heading off to San Diego for the winter meetings.
"When we met with Mike I don't think I could put into words how excited he was for the opportunity to come back home," Hill said. "It's like, I've played for other teams, but deep down I'm a Marlins fan. You appreciate that. That he has a sense of the history of our franchise and what we've gone through. He's coming from the mountaintop. One thing that we discussed as we talked about him specifically was 'Well, he just won. How hungry is he going to be to do it again because he just won?' So a lot of our time with him was getting a feel for him and how motivated he was. And when I say we were excited when we left the meeting it's an understatement. You talk about a guy who has been to the mountaintop, but wants to do it again in his hometown and wants to be a part of raising that trophy again in South Florida, and will do everything in his power to make that happen. That resonated with both of us."
> Pitcher Dan Haren, acquired from the Dodgers, was invited to attend Friday's introductory press conference at Marlins Park but declined Hill said. Haren has said he wants to play on the West Coast and is still weighing retirement.
"I reached out to Dan and his representatives and respectful to his process he's still working through it," Hill said. "We're going to give him the time he needs. I just continue to stress to him this is a good team and we want you to be a part of it. I left it at that. He'll make his decision. We haven't put any timelines on it."
Hill said he loves the depth the Marlins have in their starting rotation -- even without Haren. "I think we have more than enough to create a formidable rotation and we know we've got a pretty good one on the mend that will be joining us at some point," he said. "We just want to be as strong as we can be coming out of the box. Our goal is to be one of 10 [playoff teams]."
> How is Giancarlo Stanton doing in his recovery since being hit by a pitch in his face? "He's good to go," Hill said. "He's working out. He's in the cage. He's getting ready for hopefully another MVP season. And I think he's happy."
> Hill said pitcher Jose Fernandez is following protocol and progressing the way he should following Tommy John surgery.
> Hill said there's been no progress made yet with extensions for young players Christian Yelich, Adeiny Hechavarria and Fernandez.
"We've been busy, really just focused on the winter meetings and trying to do the deals we were able consummate," Hill said. "We knew those discussions were exploratory and ongoing. They're our players, aren't going anywhere. There won't be something to report until we have something to report."
The Marlins on Friday acquired infielder Martin Prado, right-handed pitcher David Phelps and cash considerations from the New York Yankees in exchange for right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, first baseman Garrett Jones and minor league right-handed pitcher Domingo German.
The Yankees will also send a total of $6 million to the Marlins, general manager Brian Cashman told reporters in New York.
Eovaldi struggled through the second half of last season finishing 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA. His 223 hits allowed were the most in the National League. Even though his fastball has been clocked in the upper 90s, he's struggled to establish his secondary pitches. Jones hit .256 with 15 homers and 53 RBI and had his worst season defensively at first base.
Prado, 31, split 2014 with the Diamondbacks and Yankees, batting .282 with 26 doubles, four triples, 12 home runs and 58 RBI in 143 games. He missed the final three weeks of the season after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on September 16. The Venezuelan native and 2010 All-Star is a career .291 hitter in nine seasons with Atlanta (2006-12), Arizona (2013-14) and the Yankees (2014).
The Marlins badly wanted Prado back in 2010 when they traded Dan Uggla to Atlanta for Mike Dunn and Omar Infante. Acquiring Prado likely means third baseman Casey McGehee will be on his way out the door. Prado is owed $11 million each of the next two seasons.
Phelps, 28, went 5-5 with one complete game and a 4.38 ERA in 32 appearances with New York last season. He established career highs in innings pitched (113.0) and games started (17), and over his three-year Major League career has gone 15-14 with a 4.21 ERA in 87 games (40 starts). Phelps was selected by the Yankees in the 14th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
SAN DIEGO -- Dee Gordon, the Marlins' new second baseman, said he has long admired the power of Giancarlo Stanton from afar. Gordon, who was formally introduced at a press conference on Thursday on the final day of the Winter Meetings -- only hours after coming over to the Marlins in a 7-player trade with the Dodgers, recalled he a home run he once saw Stanton hit when the two were still in the minors.
"I know him well, to the extent of when we were in Double A, he hit the farthest home run I think I've ever seen in my life," Gordon said.
Gordon said he is looking forward to joining the Marlins.
"Being on a team on the rise is amazing, because me and these guys are pretty much the same age, and we can be a core group together," he said. "I’m not trying to be ‘the man’ or anything. I’m just coming in and being a part of what they’ve already established. They already had a dangerous team. I want to be part of this youth movement."
Check out more of what Gordon had to say:
SAN DIEGO -- Giancarlo Stanton structured his 13-year, $325 contract in such a way so that the Marlins could have money to build around him now. On Wednesday, the Marlins began that process by acquiring Dee Gordon and Dan Haren from the Dodgers.
"He was thrilled," said Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who texted back and forth with the slugger after the trade was consummated. "I let him know what we did -- and a couple of the other guys, too."
The Marlins are hoping Haren doesn't retire and instead joins their rotation. Haren told ESPN.com last month that he would prefer to retire rather than be traded to a team outside of southern California, where he is from.
Haren issued a statement Wednesday that read: "I have been notified of the trade to Miami. My strong desire to remain in southern California has been well-documented. I will have to evaluate my options carefully before making any decisions."
Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill, as well as Loria, said it was their hope Haren would play out the final year of his contract in Miami.
"I have spoken to Dan Haren," Hill said. "We just told him we are excited to have him as a Miami Marlin. I talked to him about the talent we assembled down in Miami, and how we thought he'd be a great fit with what we're trying to do. He said he needed to talk to his family, and he would get back to us."
Said Loria: "We hope he's going to play. We expect he's going to play. He'd be very helpful in that rotation, especially with that experience."
As part of the deal, the Dodgers are paying the Marlins the equivalent of Haren's ($10 million) and Gordon's (projected $2.5 million) salaries for 2015. The Marlins will receive that money whether or not Haren retires.
The Marlins can't wait to add Gordon to the top of the lineup.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Loria said of Gordon, who led the majors with 64 steals last season. "We had that in '03 (with Juan Pierre leading off). It was great to watch."
Said Hill:"It allows us to move (Christian) Yelich deper into the lineup, in front of Stanton. I think it'll put a lot of pressure on opposing teams and allow us to score more runs.
The Marlins aren't done upgrading. They are expected one, and possibly two, more deals on Thursday on the final day of the Winter Meetings. They are believed to be closing in on a deal with Colorado for first baseman Justin Morneau. They're also looking to add another starting pitcher.
SAN DIEGO -- The Marlins acquired a speedy leadoff man and -- maybe or maybe not -- a starting pitcher on Wednesday when they completed a deal with the Dodgers for Dee Gordon and Dan Haren.
In return, the Marlins sent pitching prospect Andrew Heaney and three other players -- reliever Chris Hatcher, infielder Kike Hernandez and minor league catcher Austin Barnes -- to the Dodgers.
Not counting their trade with the Royals for reliever Aaron Crow, it marked the first major acquisition for the Marlins since the signing last month of Giancarlo Stanton.
Though there are obvious concerns about his relatively low on-base percentage, Gordon provides the Marlins with a leadoff hitter, allowing Christian Yelich to drop into the No. 2 spot in front of Stanton. Gordon, 26, was an All-Star last season with the Dodgers, leading the league in stolen bases (64) and triples (12) while hitting .289.
Gordon is a converted shortstop, and the reports on his defense are strong.
The question is whether Haren ever throws a pitch for the Marlins. The 34-year-old starter told ESPN.com last month that he would prefer to retire (and forego his $10 million contract) rather than be traded to a team outside of Southern California, where he is from.
"My signing with the Dodgers last year and my decision to exercise my player option were based on my desire to play in Southern California near my family," Haren told ESPN in an email. "I had other opportunities, but at this point in my career, I have no interest in playing in a city away from my family."
A source with knowledge of the situation said the Marlins did not receive any assurances from Haren beforehand that he would pitch for them if included Wednesday's deal. So we'll have to want and see how it all shakes out.
If Haren rethinks his position, he would represent a solid addition to the rotation. Over his 12-year career in the majors, Haren has gone 142-122. In 32 starts for the Dodgers last season, he was 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA.
The Marlins are giving up two solid prospects in Heaney and Barnes. But they're receiving a young second baseman who is in his first year of salary arbitration and would not become a free agent until after the 2018 season.
Speaking in general about the desire for a swift leadoff hitter (ala Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo -- and even Chuck Carr for Marlins old-timers), Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters on Tuesday that the Marlins "have always liked the (speed) component. I would like more."
On Wednesday, the Marlins got it in the form of Gordon.
The news of the trade broke shortly after word leaked that the Marlins had come up short in their bid to trade for Arizona Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley. According to sources, the Marlins thought they were closing in on a deal for Miley before the Diamondbacks suddenly backed out and elected to hold on to their pitcher.
There are still some details -- mainly involving Haren's status -- that still need to be cleared up. But, from what is known so far, tell us your thoughts.
What do you think about this trade?
SAN DIEGO -- Another Marlins trade with the Detroit Tigers can now be written off as a complete bust.
That means all three players the Marlins acquired in that Detroit deal are no longer in the organization. Pitcher Jacob Turner was dealt to the Cubs late last season while pitcher Brian Flynn was shipped to Kansas City in the trade for reliever Aaron Crow last month. While it doesn't rank with the Miguel Cabrera trade disaster with Detroit, the 2012 deal with the Tigers represents yet another mistake for the Marlins in their Motor City dealings.
When the Marlins acquired Brantly, they were counting on him to become their catcher of the future. But it soon became apparent that wasn't going to be the case. While Brantly was the Marlins' opening day catcher in 2013, he hit only .211 and struggled defensively. He spent all of last season at Triple A New Orleans after the Marlins went out and signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a 3-year deal.
And with the budding emergence of catcher J.T. Realmuto, Brantly became expendable.
With Monday's move, the Marlins created an opening on the 40-man roster in case they decide to take a player in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft.