In a move many expected in recent weeks, the Marlins traded reliever David Phelps to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday in exchange for four prospects.
The Marlins acquired 19-year-old Venezuelan center fielder Brayan Hernandez, as well as three right-handed pitching prospects in Brandon Miller, Pablo Lopez and Lukas Schiraldi.
“This is obviously something we hoped we could have avoided,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “As we look toward the rest of the season, we wanted to see if we could get value for certain assets. As we approach the trade deadline relievers often carry a lot of value, and we had several calls on Phelps.”
Phelps, 30, has shown value as a starter and reliever during his career, although he has pitched primarily as a setup man over the past two seasons with the Marlins. Phelps is 2-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 47 innings (44 appearances) this season.
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The Mariners are expected to pick up the remainder of Phelps’ one-year, $4.6 million deal he signed before the season. Phelps is arbitration eligible next season and would become a free agent after the 2018 season.
The Marlins’ bullpen has collectively not lived up to expectations this season, posting a 4.18 ERA, which ranked 19th out of 30 teams going into Thursday’s games. The Mariners’ bullpen is ranked 13th overall in ERA (4.05), and Seattle was only 1 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot in the American League as of Thursday night.
“Unfortunately, even the best relievers in the game have occasional hiccups,” Hill said. “Our hiccups this season came at the most inopportune times.”
The Marlins likely aren’t done dealing members of their relief core, with closer A.J. Ramos continuing to draw interest from multiple clubs.
“A.J. has been one of the best closers in the game over the past few years and done a great job for us,” Hill said. “I expect there to be interest in A.J. leading up to the deadline.”
Hernandez (6-2, 175 pounds), ranked sixth in the Mariners’ system, according to MLBPipeline.com, is the highest-rated among the prospects in the five-player swap.
Hernandez hit .252 with two home runs and 15 RBI in 112 appearances in short-season Single A ball for the Mariners, and he is likely still a few years from the majors.
Hill said Hernandez would report to Batavia (New York), the Marlins’ short-season Single A affiliate.
Hernandez earned Dominican Summer League All-Star honors in 2016 after hitting .278 with six doubles, two triples, five home runs, 15 RBI and 12 steals in 31 games. He did not commit an error in 30 games in center field.
The Mariners signed him in 2014 to a $1.85 million bonus as an international prospect.
Miller (6-4, 210), ranked 16th in the Mariners’ system, is a starting pitcher from Ephrata, Pennsylvania, drafted by Seattle last year in the sixth round. The 22-year-old righty went 9-4 with a 3.65 ERA at Single A Clinton (Iowa). Miller will report to Single A Greensboro (North Carolina).
Lopez (6-3, 196), a 21-year-old Venezuelan, is ranked 22nd for Seattle and went 5-8 with a 5.04 ERA pitching at Single A.
Schiraldi (6-6, 210) was not ranked among the top-30 Mariners prospects. He is a 23-year-old from Austin and a 15th-round pick in the 2014 draft who has pitched mainly as a closer at Single A. Schiraldi, who has an upper-90s fastball, went 2-1 with three saves and a 4.58 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 28 appearances for Single A Modesto (California).
Hill said Lopez would report to Single A Jupiter and join that club’s rotation, and Schiraldi will go there as well as a reliever.
“Our goal was to get as much talent as possible,” Hill said.
“We like the package [Hernandez] represents, being the top player coming out of Venezuela a few years ago. Lopez and Miller are two starters that can go immediately into our system that project as future major-league starters.
“Schiraldi already has pretty electric stuff, a little command challenge, but we think it can be straightened out and keep him on track to the big leagues.”