NL East Notes: Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Kendrick

With the Marlins reaching the vaunted 100-loss mark, CEO Derek Jeter spoke on Friday about his team’s approach to the impending offseason, with the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson speculating on what the winter may hold. This season, the club ranked second-to-last in payroll, dishing out just $70MM in total salary expenditures. However, with Martin Prado slated to hit free agency and the team likely to decline Starlin Castro’s club option, a considerable portion of that number will come off the books following the season, leaving the Marlins with just about $31MM in guaranteed contracts for the 2020 season, per Roster Resource. That number will rise as the team inks players under team control, but the point stands that the Fish will have significant room to seek upgrades in the offseason. After a trade deadline that saw them bolster the farm system through the acquisitions of Lewin Diaz, Jazz Chisholm, and Jesus Sanchez, the Marlins now find themselves with one of the Majors’ better farm systems, featuring a solid crop of position-player prospects, though few in that group will be ready to contribute in the coming season. With that in mind, Jeter sees his team as needing to strike a balance between seeking positional upgrades and developing youngsters: “You want to give [prospects] enough time to continue to develop but you don’t want to block their way,” he said on Friday. The team has needs all over the diamond, though outfield, first base, and the bullpen stand out as perhaps the most glaring. Jackson lists a number of potential free-agent targets to keep an eye on, including big-name hitters with south Florida roots like Jose Abreu and Nicholas Castellanos; however, it remains uncertain whether the team will target big fish, since projections of increased revenue have yet to actualize, though attendance-related issues may be remedied by making a splash in the offseason.

Here are the latest tidbits from the ever-competitive NL East…

  • Just over a week ago, the Mets found themselves at the heart of quite a controversy when Mets starter Noah Syndergaard expressed his proclivity for catchers not named Wilson Ramos, who has been the most productive hitter out of the Mets’ catching group. For the first time, Ramos offered his thoughts on the situation, as relayed by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Evidently, the veteran catcher isn’t bothered by the drama, understanding that there are times when pitchers feel a heightened comfort with a particular catcher. Ramos, who’s been around since 2010, is certainly no stranger to the dynamics of a big-league clubhouse and is instead choosing to focus his energy on getting the Mets into the postseason. Coming off a win last night, his club finds themselves 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot with nine games left to play—a deficit that, while not insurmountable, makes them a longshot to play in October. After making a pair of starts with Ramos behind the dish, Syndergaard got his wish on Wednesday, when he threw to Rene Rivera, though that combination didn’t yield much better results. With his next start scheduled to come on Tuesday, it will be interesting to see whether Mickey Callaway turns again to Ramos.
  • One of the unsung heroes of the Nationals bid for the postseason has been veteran Howie Kendrick, who has excelled as a pinch-hitter and occasional infielder. As Todd Dybas of NBC Sports writes, he’s enjoying a career year that might not have happened if he weren’t under contract for 2019 following an Achilles tear suffered early last season. Of course, the free agent market has been notoriously cruel to players in their 30s, and Kendrick, 36, may not have gotten another chance in the Majors after such a significant injury. However, with a $4MM salary already in place for 2019 after inking a two-year deal with Washington, Kendrick has carved out a nice role and now projects to play an instrumental part in a potential Nats playoff run, all while setting himself up to draw interest for yet another contract this coming offseason.