Will the Marlins trade J.T. Realmuto?
If you’re in Las Vegas and see a swarm of reporters awkwardly cornering Major League Baseball executives and agents by the elevator bank, you’ve found the Winter Meetings.
From Sunday-Thursday, Mandalay Bay will play host to the annual event. The Winter Meetings feature power players from all 30 MLB teams — from owners to front-office executives — as they try to work out trades and lock up key free agents.
While the most-coveted free agents will be Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and Dodgers infielder Manny Machado, the Marlins figure to feature prominently as the hot stove heats up.
Here are three storylines to keep an eye on for the meetings:
Ever since the All-Star Break, trade rumors have been swirling around the Marlins’ All-Star catcher and that buzz has only grown since the season ended. Take a quick look on Twitter and you’ll likely find Realmuto linked to a dozen potential teams.
While the Marlins have Realmuto under club control for the next two years — meaning they have no obligation to trade him — it’s been made clear he doesn’t want to be in Miami long-term. Realmuto’s agent, Jeff Berry, publicly said in October his client won’t sign an extension with the Marlins.
Miami can opt to stand firm for now, either keeping him for the duration of his contract or trading him, but his trade value will never be higher than it is now. This past season, he was unquestionably the team’s MVP and established himself as arguably the best catcher in baseball.
The 27-year-old notched career highs in multiple offensive categories, with a .277 batting average, .340 on-base and .484 slugging with 21 home runs, 30 doubles and 74 RBI in
125 games. With two years left on a favorable contract — he made just
$2.9 million this year and is arbitration-eligible — he’s extremely attractive candidate for teams looking to make a playoff push.
With executives from all 30 teams in one spot, this would be the prime time for the Marlins to potentially make a deal.
Will the Marlins make free agency moves?
After a 98-loss season, in which it had trouble scoring runs, Miami has plenty of room for improvement. The main potential targets could be first base, catcher, outfield and bullpen.
The Marlins have three internal candidates at first — Peter O’Brien, Garrett Cooper and recently signed Pedro Alvarez — but could look to add another bat if there’s an available player who makes sense.
If Realmuto is dealt, Miami will return Chad Wallach and Bryan Holaday behind the plate. Neither of those players come close to matching Realmuto’s production — to be fair, not many catchers in baseball do — so Miami might look for a stopgap option. The team’s catcher of the future is Will Banfield, who was selected in June with the team’s Competitive Balance B selection. But at 19, he’s likely a few years away from making an impact in the majors.
Like every MLB team, the Marlins could use more bullpen depth. Drew Steckenrider, Adam Conley and Tayron Guerrero figure to be the most prominent late-inning arms, but the team needs to find a replacement for erratic right-hander Kyle Barraclough, who was dealt to the Nationals this offseason.
Rule 5 Draft
On Thursday, the Winter Meetings will conclude with the Rule 5 Draft. Any player left off his team’s 40-man roster who was signed at 18 or younger with at least 5 years professional experience or 19 and older with four years are eligible to be chosen.
Any team that doesn’t have a full 40-man roster can make a selection. Currently, the Marlins have a full roster, so they can’t make a pick. However, if Realmuto or another player is taken off the roster, then they can participate.
Two of the most prominent Miami Rule 5 selections were Dan Uggla and Justin Bour. Last season the Marlins snagged Elieser Hernandez from Houston and Brett Graves from Oakland.