The Marlins have rid themselves of Giancarlo Stanton’s onerous contract. But the payroll slashing is not done yet.
Even after dumping the combined $35 million due Stanton and Dee Gordon next season, the Marlins still must shed $25 million more in salary to reach ownership’s payroll target of $90 million.
That $90 million was the figure that new owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman shared with other owners when they were going through the approval process. But the Marlins are not required to reach that figure and could ultimately fall several million dollars above or below that target.
The Marlins can achieve that $90 million payroll target in several ways. The most plausible: trading second baseman Starlin Castro, who was acquired in the Stanton trade with the Yankees, and by dealing either outfielder Marcell Ozuna or Christian Yelich and a veteran relief pitcher.
Castro is owed $10 million in 2018 and $11 million in 2019. So shipping him off without taking back a big-league contract would leave the Marlins about $15 million short of the $90 million target.
Ozuna is expected to command about $11 million in arbitration this winter. If the Marlins can cajole a team to pick up the $9 million due reliever Brad Ziegler or the $7 million due reliever Junichi Tazawa in an Ozuna trade, that deal — combined with trading Castro — would leave the Marlins below the $90 million payroll target.
The Marlins would prefer to trade third baseman Martin Prado instead of Ozuna, but that would be extremely difficult because Prado was limited to 37 games because of injury last season and is due $13.5 million and $15 million over the next two seasons.
If the Marlins are able to attach Tazawa or Ziegler to an Ozuna deal — and if they can deal Castro for prospects — they probably would not need to trade Christian Yelich, who is due $7 million, $9.75 million, $12.5 million and $14 million over the next four seasons, with a $15 million team option in 2022.
Ozuna is eligible for free agency after 2019.
Incidentally, the St. Louis Cardinals reportedly have interest in Yelich, Ozuna, Tazawa and Ziegler.
▪ Right-handed pitcher Jorge Guzman is the more highly regarded of the two prospects acquired from Yankees in the Stanton trade.
Guzman, 21, is 11-11 with a 3.67 earned run average over three seasons in the low level minors, with 171 strikeouts and 143 hits allowed, plus 65 walks, in 162 innings.
Last season, he was 5-3 with a 2.30 ERA at Single A Staten Island, with 88 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings.
He was rated the Yankees’ ninth-best prospect by mlb.com and routinely reaches 100 miles per hour on his fastball, according to mlb.com. Last season, he touched 102 mph on at least one occasion.
The Yankees obtained Guzman, along with right-hander Albert Abreu, in a November 2016 trade that sent veteran catcher Brian McCann to Houston.
Here’s what MLB.com said about Guzman: “Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Astros in 2014, Guzman compiled a 4.63 ERA in Rookie ball during his first two years as a pro. He can light up radar guns like few other pitches can, however.
“With an extremely fast arm and without an excessive amount of effort in his delivery, Guzman can work with a 97-103 mph fastball as a starter. The downside is that he sometimes doesn’t know where his heater is going, especially when he crosses into triple digits. He also throws a power slider that lacks consistency and a changeup in its nascent stages.
“Though Guzman’s control and command require more refinement, they have improved significantly since he focused on his mechanics during extended spring training this year. That will give him a better chance of remaining a starter, and he’ll be a potential closer if he winds up in the bullpen.”
The other Yankees prospect acquired by the Marlins, Jose Devers, is a raw 18-year-old middle infielder who hit .245 with one homer, 16 RBI and 16 steals in 53 games in his only minor league season for a Yankees’ rookie league team.
One scout raved about Devers and his ceiling. He played shortstop this season but can also play second base.
He signed with New York in the summer of 2016 as an international free agent.
▪ The Yankees are covering $265 million of the $295 million owed Stanton. And according to the New York Post, the Marlins must pay the remaining $30 million only if Stanton does not opt out of his contract after 2020.
▪ If the Marlins deal Castro and Ozuna or Yelich, their lineup next season would include an outfield of Ozuna or Yelich (whichever of those two isn’t dealt) and likely Derek Dietrich, with a third cheap starting outfielder needed, plus a projected infield of first baseman Justin Bour, second baseman Miguel Rojas, shortstop J.T. Riddle and third baseman Prado, and J.T. Realmuto catching.