Derek Jeter experienced the days leading up to a trade deadline for the first time as a Major League Baseball owner.
And keeping an eye toward the Marlins’ future, Jeter reiterated Wednesday night the team’s stance on adding talent in the hopes of long-term success.
Jeter said for him, All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto remains firmly a part of those goals.
“I’ve told you guys before that J.T. is one of the guys at the top of the list as far as being one of the best all-around catchers in baseball,” Jeter said speaking to reporters during the Marlins’ game Wednesday night against the Cardinals. “It’s something I don’t ever like to talk about specific players in terms of their futures, but he’s a guy we’d love to have long term.”
Realmuto, a first-time All-Star this season and the Marlins’ lone selection, is having a career season in several offensive and defensive categories.
Realmuto, 27, will enter his first year of salary arbitration after this season, but will not be a free agent until after the 2020 season.
While the Marlins have not yet sat down with Realmuto about a potential contract extension, the team views him as a potential cornerstone player as the team moves forward.
“The way he’s been able to improve year in and year out, especially this year, he’s taken some strides offensively, but even more so defensively,” Jeter said. “He’s someone that consistently continues to improve.”
The Marlins set a high price when fielding offers for Realmuto prior to the trade deadline and kept him and other controllable assets such as relievers Kyle Barraclough, Adam Conley and Drew Steckenrider.
Both trades the Marlins did make — sending reliever Brad Ziegler to the Diamondbacks and outfielder Cameron Maybin to the Mariners — involved players with expiring contracts. The Marlins received prospects in return in each deal and international pool money as part of the Maybin trade.
Jeter said he was involved in all final decisions involving potential trades approved or refused.
“Every move we make in this organization is always to make us better,” Jeter said. “We’re not in the position to just give players away. We’re happy with what we acquired at the trade deadline but we’re also happy with what we were able to keep here.”
Jeter also said in his opinion right fielder Brian Anderson deserves the National League’s Rookie of the Year award.
Anderson, who is hitting .285 after Wednesday’s game and switched defensive positions from third base to right field in late April, leads all rookies in hits (127), runs (63) and RBI (53) and has played the most games (115).
Anderson figures to face stiff competition for the award from Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto, who has hit .308 with 14 home runs and 39 RBI in 69 games.
“He should be at the top of the list when anyone talks about Rookie of the Year,” Jeter said. “It’s the bottom line. What he’s been able to do from day 1 in this organization and the consistency he’s shown. You have to realize he’s a third baseman and he’s playing right field. That’s not easy to do.”
The Marlins fell to 47-69 after Wednesday’s defeat and dropped their eighth game in their past nine.
While Jeter said he’d love to take an eraser to the team’s poor start to the season when they opened with a 5-17 record and the recent rough stretch, he said he remained encouraged by the strides the organization has made as a whole.
“We continue to compete,” Jeter said. “There’s been a lot of improvement. As part of a long season, I don’t care how good you are you’re going to have struggles and we just went through that. I’m happy with the effort the guys have shown. They’re competing and we still have a long season.”
Jeter said he’s been pleased with the improvement of the team’s minor-league system, which ranked among MLB’s worst a year ago.
Baseball America had rated the team’s organizational talent 19th out of 30 teams earlier this season, but this week dropped the Marlins to 24th overall stating the struggles of recent pitchers taken in the first-round of the draft the past three seasons for different reasons.
But the Marlins have had pitchers such as Pablo Lopez, Trevor Richards and Sandy Alcantara make their debuts in the majors this season and pitch effectively while notable position player talent such as 18-year middle infielder Jose Devers continue to fast-track their way through the Marlins’ system.
“We have some guys in the minor leagues that we’re excited about and obviously they need to continue to develop, but they have bright futures,” Jeter said. “It’s much better. There are a lot of things we’ve done better.
“We’ve invested in our analytics department which is huge. From a player’s standpoint, I played pretty much before the analytics era and I’m learning about analytics as well, but that’s something we’ve increased and don’t want to use analytics the most but we want to use it the best. We’ve added to the analytics department and we’re happy with that and our player development, our educational program, there’s a lot of things that we’ve added to add value to the baseball side of our organization.”