In an offseason full of unexpected but welcome developments, one stands out above the rest.
The Marlins are ... kind of interesting?
After a few dark years in the NL East cellar, the Miami club appears ready to at least put up a fight in 2020. Over the weekend, the Marlins made their latest improvement this winter, adding free agent outfielder Corey Dickerson on a two-year, $17.5 million contract, per MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
Dickerson was limited to 78 games between the Pirates and Phillies last season but hit .304/.341/.565 with 12 homers when on the field. He's a career .286/.328/.504 hitter who owns a 117 wRC+ in nearly 3,000 plate appearances for his career.
In Miami, the 30-year-old should hit in the middle of the club's lineup. Unfortunately for his fantasy prospects, any potential gains from that move have to be considered with the fact that Marlins Park has been one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game since it opened. New dimensions in center and right-center in 2020 -- moving the walls in 12 feet -- could mitigate some of that advantage, especially for the left-handed hitting Dickerson.
For the Marlins, the move is the latest in what's been a reserved but productive offseason for the team thus far. Along with Dickerson, they've added projected starters Jonathan Villar and Jesus Aguilar to man shortstop and first base, respectively, and signed veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli to bring some experience to the clubhouse. The team also signed reliever Yimi Garcia and selected Sterling Sharp from the Nationals in the Rule 5 Draft earlier this month.
Add that to returning solid regulars like Brian Anderson and Jorge Alfaro, and intriguing youngsters such as Isan Diaz and Lewis Brinson, and the Marlins should be entertaining, if not overly competitive, in 2020. The team also returns all five of its starting pitchers, none of whom are over the age of 28.
They may still be a few years from being serious players in the National League, but it at least appears as though they'll come to play this summer.
Hernandez, Indians Hook Up On One-Year Deal
The Indians needed for a second baseman.
Cesar Hernandez needed a new home.
It seemed almost serendipitous that the two would find each other this winter.
They did just that Sunday, finalizing a one-year, $6.25 million contract that gives the Indians a capable second baseman as they attempt to retool their roster without losing any ground in a competitive AL Central. Hernandez will replace Jason Kipnis, who had his $16.5 million option declined by the Tribe in November.
On the surface Hernandez had another fine offensive season in 2019, batting .279/.333/.408 with 14 homers, 71 RBI, 77 runs scored and nine steals in 161 games. A closer look reveals that he got on base at a clip nearly 20 points below his career average and he also stopped running relative to years past, bad signs for a player who will turn 30 during the season's first half.
Even so, in the Indians lineup -- and, depending on how their offseason plays out, possibly at or near the top of said lineup -- Hernandez's skills should play up and make him a fantasy-worthy consideration. For his career he's a .277/.352/.381 hitter with 46 homers and 80 steals in 832 games played.
The next question for the Indians will be whether they're done, and if not, whether they're adding or subtracting. Francisco Lindor's name continues to be bandied about, at least in the media, and even Mike Clevinger's name has been mentioned during updates on possible movement.
The Hernandez deal suggests they're reloading, not rebuilding, to take another shot at the AL Central title again in 2020.
Jays Bring Yamaguchi Over From NPB
The Blue Jays are scouring the globe -- literally -- for starting pitching help in 2020.
Days after signing South Korean-born Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year, $80 million contract, the club finalized a two-year, $6.35 million contract with 32-year-old Shun Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi has spent the past 14 seasons with Yokohama and, more recently, Yomiuri of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball organization.
Last season, Yamaguchi led the Central League with 15 wins and 188 strikeouts while posting a 2.91 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 170 innings of work. For his career, the right-hander owns a 3.35 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 8.77 K/9.
He and Ryu are not the only newcomers to the Jays staff, and the team is shaping up to have a competition for starting spots this spring. Along with Yamaguchi and Ryu, the club has also signed free agent veteran Tanner Roark and traded for the Brewers' Chase Anderson to compete with returning starters Matt Shoemaker, Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki, possibly among others.
If the Jays can find five serviceable starters out of that group they could make some noise in the AL East this year given their formidable lineup of young talent. After cutting their teeth at the major league level last season, up-and-coming position players like Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel and Cavan Biggio top a lineup with some serious upside in 2020.
Quick Hits: Orioles signed RHP Kohl Stewart to a one-year, $800,000 contract. Stewart is a former No. 4 overall pick but has never pitched like it. He's always struggled to miss bats and holds a 4.79 ERA and 34/26 K/BB ratio over 62 innings at the major league level. The 25-year-old will try to win a spot in the Orioles' rotation ... According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Braves are not aggressively pursuing a trade for Rockies' superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado, at least not yet. The Braves preference is still to bring back Josh Donaldson, and it sounds like they aren't going to seriously pursue other options until he signs. If Donaldson lands elsewhere though -- like with the division rival Nationals -- all bets are off and the Braves would certainly become more aggressive in their talks with the Rockies ... Jon Heyman of MLB Network believes the Rangers "could be in play" for free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Heyman said the Rangers might also have interest in fellow right-handed hitting outfielder Nicholas Castellanos, whom fellow MLB Network personality Jon Morosi linked to the Rangers a few days ago. Ozuna's market has been quiet despite the fact that he's arguably the top hitter left on the board, but he'll likely still fetch nine figures when he does put pen to paper with a team. The Cardinals, Braves and Reds are among the teams who have been connected to Ozuna in recent weeks ... Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Tigers have asked about minor league outfielder Brandon Marsh in discussions with the Angels about Matthew Boyd. Morosi notes that the two sides don't appear to be making any progress toward a deal. Marsh, 22, was the Angels' second round selection from the 2016 draft and considered to be a fringe top-100 prospect around baseball. He spent the majority of the 2019 season at Double-A Mobile where he slashed .300/.383/.428 with seven homers, 43 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 96 games ... Peter Gammons of MLB Network reports that Steve Cishek "would like to sign with Boston," but the reliever "may be out of their pay range." It would be a homecoming of sorts for Cishek, who is from Falmouth, MA. However, it's been well documented that the Red Sox are looking to cut payroll this offseason and it doesn't sound like they're anxious to sign anywhere until they have that sorted out. Cishek has posted a sub-3.00 ERA each of the last four seasons ... Free agent outfielder Shogo Akiyama is believed to have three-year contract offers on the table. Previous reports indicated the Japanese import was likely to get a contract in the neighborhood of two years and $10 million. This report from Jon Heyman of MLB Network seems to up the ante with a third year. The Reds and Padres have emerged as potential favorites for Akiyama's services. The 31-year-old is a true free agent and is not affected by the rules of the posting process. He has played mostly center field throughout his career but his advancing age has faded his fielding prowess somewhat. He is an all-fields hitter who gets on base at an elite rate and has shown good power as well. Akiyama batted .303/.392/.471 with 20 home runs, 62 RBI, 112 runs scored and 12 steals last year for the Saitama Seibu Lions in 143 games ... Rakuten Eagles signed RHP JT Chargois.