Breaking Down the Marlins Return in the Luis Arraez Trade

What can we make of the prospect return that the Miami Marlins received in their trade with the San Diego Padres for Luis Arraez?

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 03: Luis Arráez #3 of the Miami Marlins meets with Pablo Lopez #49 of the Minnesota Twins prior to the game at loanDepot park on April 3, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jasen Vinlove/Miami Marlins/Getty Images)

The Miami Marlins wasted no time waving the white flag on their 2024 campaign, sending reigning batting champion Luis Arraez to the San Diego Padres in exchange for prospects Dillon Head (OF), Jakob Marsee (OF) and Nathan Martorella (1B) as well as reliever Woo-Suk Go (RHP).

The fact that President of Baseball Operations Peter Bendix is keen on resetting the organization he inherited is not a complete surprise but starting the process in May, a year off of a playoff berth, is understandably jarring to much of the baseball community.

Arraez was acquired by the Marlins during the 2022 offseason in exchange for Pablo Lopez and a pair of lower level prospects after pacing the American League in batting average. He was the team’s best hitter last season, hitting .354 with a 132 wRC+ in its’ surprise run to the playoffs where they were bounced by the Phillies in two lopsided Wild Card games.

Optically, it’s another tough look for the Marlins who have a long rap sheet of trading away beloved talent and Arraez was just that for a fan base that has desperately awaited offensive reinforcements since the team’s last tear down in 2018.

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The writing was on the wall the second the Marlins hired Bendix away from the Rays to spearhead their baseball operations. The team’s owner Bruce Sherman has long been infatuated with the way that the Rays operate and understandably so; they don’t spend much and generally win a lot.

Is it the Rays model duplicable? Time will tell, however for a small market team to be sustainably successful, one of baseball’s worst farm systems is probably the first thing that needs to be addressed…especially when the big league club is off to one of its worst starts in franchise history.

Considering the fact that the Marlins are also covering nearly all of Arraez’s $10.6 million salary this season in order to maximize the prospect return (will get to that soon), there’s no question of the support Bendix has from ownership.

Over the last five years, the Marlins have been one of baseball’s worst operations when it comes to drafting and player development. Since Bendix has taken over, he has overhauled those departments with tangible changes to the infrastructure.

The case could be made that the Marlins should have extended Arraez–the team’s best hitter in some time–but he is also one of their few valuable trade chips.

Under control through next season and with a bit of injury history, Arraez theoretically became less valuable the more games he played in a Marlins uniform, likely explaining the decision to move him in the first week of May.

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Arraez will be far from the only player the Marlins move this season, but it’s unlikely any player they move commands a larger return aside from Jesus Luzardo, who is currently on the shelf with a mild flexor strain.

The Padres Angle

AJ Preller can restock a farm system with the best of them which is likely why he is consistently willing to ship out prospects for big league talent.

A couple months after trading two top 100 prospects and a quality third piece for Dylan Cease, Preller pushed the chips forward again by trading his most recent first round pick and a preseason top 100 prospect in Head along with two upper-level bats in Marsee and Martorella.

While Preller parted with plenty of talent, he is able to add a pair of All-Star caliber players without parting with the crown jewels of the Padres system: Jackson Merrill (OF), Ethan Salas (C), Robby Snelling (LHP), Dylan Lesko (RHP) and Leo De Vries (SS).

It’s a unique fit for Arraez, who will presumably DH for the Padres with Jake Cronenworth and Xander Bogaerts anchoring the right side of the infield. The Padres are already a tough team to punch out, sporting the sixth-lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 20.1%, a figure that will surely improve with the presence of baseball’s best bat-to-ball hitter.

Now that Manny Machado’s arm is healthy enough to play third base, the Padres had a gap at the DH position that was previously being filled by rookie infielder Graham Pauley and Eguy Rosario. It goes without saying, Arraez is an exciting upgrade for an offense that was already among the 10 best in baseball in wRC+ at 110.

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Beyond this season, Arraez is an excellent insurance policy if the Padres are not able to retain impending free agent Ha-Seong Kim; a likely scenario considering the franchise’s financial constraints.

The Marlins Angle

Years of bad drafting and development has left the Marlins with as barren a farm system as you’re going to find in the sport. Heading into the season, there were various reports of the Marlins entertaining trade offers for Jesus Luzardo as well as Luis Arraez.

While nothing came to fruition, it was clear that it would require a hot Marlins start to prevent Bendix from zeroing in on upgrading the farm by eventually moving the few healthy, valuable assets he inherited.

Preller may have been the only executive calling on Arraez at this point of the season, but that would not necessarily sway the leverage in his favor as Bendix could have opted to wait until the middle of the summer where there would likely be no shortage of inquiries.

As the Padres sit at 17-18 at the time of the trade, there was clearly some urgency from Preller to upgrade the ball club and the Marlins felt as though that urgency facilitated a steeper price for Arraez than what would have come later, even with teams bidding against each other.

The headliner of the deal is outfielder Dillon Head, the 25th overall selection in last year’s draft out Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School in the Chicagoland area. Checking in at No. 88 on Just Baseball’s preseason top 100 prospect list, Head is an electrifying athlete in center field who turns in double-plus run times with a good feel to hit and some sneaky impact.

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Still just 19 years old, Head is still relatively raw and can get expansive at the plate, but he instantly becomes the Marlins best position player prospect.

The Marlins double-dipped on athletic center fielders with Jakob Marsee coming over as well. He’s not quite the burner that Head is, but he’s a good runner who has great instincts in center field and on the base paths. He was a preseason top 10 prospect in the Padres system.

A sixth round pick in 2022, Marsee broke out in a big way last season, hitting .274/.413/.428 between High-A and Double-A with 16 home runs and 46 stolen bases. He then went on to win the Arizona Fall League MVP, standing out in my live looks out there.

There’s a question of how much impact Marsee may provide, as his exit velocities are fringy. The counter-argument is that the 22-year-old has a knack for elevating consistently and generating carry to the pull side, sporting a ground ball rate of just 35% last season.

An extremely patient hitter, Marsee walked as much as he punched out last season, running a chase rate around 16%. He has the floor of a fourth outfielder, but the Marlins are hoping there’s enough there for Marsee to be an everyday center fielder.

First baseman Nathan Martorella is the third piece headed to Miami. The 23-year-old quickly proved to be a steal in the fifth round of the 2022 draft, mashing to a 131 wRC+ in 112 High-A games last season with a 15% walk rate and 18% strikeout rate.

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He’s enjoying a great start to the season in Double-A, where he is putting up similar numbers with an even lower strikeout rate through 25 games.

Martorella hits the ball hard, running a 90th percentile exit velocity of 105.5 mph (MLB average is 104 mph) in 2023 on his way to 19 home runs in 135 games if you include the postseason. He’s also selective in his own right, running a chase rate below 20% on his way to a 14% walk rate.

Being a first base-only prospect puts plenty of pressure on the bat, but Martorella’s above-average power, average feel to hit and good plate discipline give him a chance to shoulder the offensive load required to be an everyday first baseman. Especially if the trend of him driving the ball in the air more consistently continues.

Right-hander Woo Suk-Go was a surprising inclusion in the deal given the fact that he signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the Padres this January to make the leap from the KBO. Go endured a rough Spring Training, allowing 13 hits and nine earned runs in six innings of work before being assigned to Double-A San Antonio.

Probably more of a salary dump than anything for the Padres, Go has looked better of late, compiling four consecutive scoreless outings while sitting in the mid 90s with his fastball. His 90 mph cutter has a chance to be an effective pitch at the highest level and he will mix in a decent sweeping curve.

Assigned to Triple-A Jacksonville, Go gives the Marlins some pitching reinforcement in the short term in what could ultimately be a flip piece if the 25-year-old throws well. He is owed $2.25 million in 2025 with a mutual option at $3 million in 2026.

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Unfortunately for Marlins fans, this is the beginning of what has become a far too familiar movie. The hope is that this tear down actually comes with a subsequent blueprint, rather than the pile of rubble that has repeatedly been left for the next person in charge.