It is difficult to peg a team like the Miami Marlins. Led by the best pitcher in baseball right now in Sandy Alcantara along with a pair of All-Star position players with Jazz Chisholm and Garrett Cooper, the expectation would be that the Fish should finally be buyers of some sort.
An up-and-down season so far, with the taste of a sweep by their division-rival Phillies heading into the All-Star Break, has the Marlins front office in an interesting spot. Now sitting 5.5 games out of the third Wild Card spot, the Fish are looking up at the Phillies, Giants and Cardinals.
What is for certain is that the General Manager Kim Ng will not be interested in rentals. While the Marlins may look to make additions to the roster, those additions will almost certainly be with at least 2023 in mind.
There’s a few different directions this team could go and the next two series against the Pirates and Reds could play a huge part in determining that.
Let’s start with a positive angle. The Marlins have a makeup game against the Texas Rangers before the aforementioned seven games against the Pirates and Reds. If the Marlins go 5-2 in that stretch, we could see them right back to within three games of the final playoff spot and things may feel a bit different. That’s just how fluid things are with the expanded postseason.
Even with that nice imaginary stretch, the Marlins would still be a game under .500. Trading away any contributing players would send a bad message to the team and fan base, but at the same time, the team should not be parting with assets for rentals.
A controllable bullpen arm would absolutely make sense for Miami for this season and beyond. The Marlins controversially did not add an established reliever during free agency heading into the 2022 season, but did make a trade with the Orioles for the team’s current closer Tanner Scott as well as reliever Cole Sulser.
There should be no shortage of reliever arms available on the trade market over the next couple weeks and the Marlins could look to add an arm with multiple years of control, much like the Scott/Sulser deal. Even if the Marlins fall apart in the second half, you can check high-leverage reliever off of the 2023 offseason checklist with a trade before August 2nd’s deadline.
Of course, a more impactful move for the Marlins would be to upgrade their outfield situation, specifically in centerfield.
After a strong 2021 season that showed plenty of promise, the Marlins decided to hand the reigns to Jesus Sanchez in center. Sanchez has struggled both at the plate and in the field for a team that has been starved for offense at points. Factor in the performances–or lack thereof–of offseason additions Avisail Garcia and Jorge Soler and you have one of the least productive outfields in baseball.
In the eyes of fWAR, the Marlins are baseball’s third worst outfield, just edging out the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers. Unfortunately for the Marlins, Garcia is locked up for four more seasons and Soler’s poor performance is trending towards him opting in on his player option.
How the Marlins navigate the two struggling outfielders will be interesting, but it’s obvious that the team desperately needs an upgrade, particularly in centerfield. The Marlins could try J.J. Bleday, however his struggles to consistently find his footing in the Minors make a call up of their former first round pick a trial period at best.
Regardless of what happens with the Marlins 2022 season, the outfield situation seems to get more worrisome as the days go by. Realistically, the Marlins best bet is to swing a trade for a controllable outfielder.
The team has been tied to Bryan Reynolds and Ramon Laureano dating back to the offseason, however the price for Reynolds was ridiculously steep the last time the Marlins checked in and it is fair to question if Laureano will truly move the needle for the prospect price that he will likely command.
Beyond the aforementioned two controllable outfielders, options are somewhat limited. Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs has been great this year and is under control through next season. The issue with Happ is that he is likely stretched a bit thin in centerfield and has hardly played the position at all this season.
Realistically, Happ would not be a worse defender than what the Marlins have yielded from Sanchez and Bryan De La Cruz and there’s no doubt that the switch-hitting All-Star would instantly upgrade the offense.
Just 27 years old, Happ has enjoyed a breakthrough season from the right-side of the plate after entering the year with an OPS more than 100 points higher from the left-side. The Marlins have been far-and-away baseball’s worst team against southpaws, posting a .601 OPS. Happ’s breakthrough against lefties would surely help Miami and its inability to hit left-handed pitching.
As we saw with the Cubs 2022 draft approach, the organization is in need of pitching and the Marlins have plenty to offer. Beyond Laureano and Happ, the list of outfielders the Kim Ng could target that are capable of playing centerfield is extremely short.
With 2022’s free agent class looking pretty thin when it comes to centerfielders outside of Aaron Judge (likely moving to a corner long-term and way too expensive) and Brandon Nimmo, a trade still looks like the best option for Miami.
If Miami continues to flounder on the other side of the All-Star Break, it will be likely that the team looks to cash in on impending free agents with some trade value. I say “soft seller” because the Marlins are not going to break out the clearance rack and scream, “everyone must go” like they have in years prior.
Sandy Alcantara isn’t going anywhere. Jazz Chisholm isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Joey Wendle, Garrett Cooper or Tanner Scott. I’d frankly be shocked if any of those names are dealt in even the ugliest scenario.
Where the team could look to cash in is on impending free agents like Anthony Bass and Jesus Aguilar, as well as players with one more year of control such as Brian Anderson, Dylan Floro and Jorge Soler, though Soler has a challenging contract structure with player options.
Bass has been dynamite and could net a mid-level prospect while Anderson, Aguilar, Floro and Soler would each likely bring in a light return. A trade of the aforementioned names wouldn’t do much other than signal imminent change and open up roster spots for Marlins prospects and 40-man spots for the team to make moves in the offseason.
This is the most boring of scenarios, but if the Marlins feel like a move would be forced over the next 10 days, it is very possible that we see the team stand pat for the most part while getting what they can for a couple free agents to be and/or players who don’t seem to be in the 2023 plans.
Buyers AND Sellers
This would be the most wild and risky scenario, but could also be the Marlins best shot at getting the impact bats they need. Pablo Lopez continues to be the one name that Miami seems to be at least open to the idea of trading. We’ve seen reporters all over highlight Lopez as a name that could surprisingly be dealt over the last year and a half and I doubt they’ve pulled it from thin air.
It’s rare for a team that is looking to compete in the next year or so to trade young, controllable pitching, but the Marlins have a litany of exciting rotation pieces and could sell Lopez at the peak of his value. Similar to what the Rays did with Blake Snell in 2020.
The 26-year-old is pitching at the highest level of his career and is under control through the 2024 season. Lopez has battled some arm issues throughout his young career and while it would be difficult to replace his value in the rotation even with the arms the Marlins have, selling high on Lopez could open up some doors that would normally be shut.
The emergent Orioles all of the sudden seem keen on keeping the young core together, however an opportunity to attain a proven arm who is young with control could make the O’s more willing to listen on Austin Hays or maybe even Cedric Mullins.
Are the Pirates more realistic with their valuation of Reynolds if Lopez is dangled?
Maybe the Jays are willing to part with Teoscar Hernandez and Danny Jansen for an immediate upgrade in their rotation. This is all speculative, but the larger point is a player like Lopez opens the door to buyers in a thinner trade market than we’re used to with baseball’s expanded postseason.
It is hard to stomach the idea of trading a pitcher like Lopez, but with no help in sight internally outfield wise and a thin outfield trade market and free agent class, it might just be a risk worth taking.
Considering the fact that the Marlins have no shortage of arms projected to battle for innings in 2023, including the recently promoted Max Meyer, the surprising Braxton Garrett and one of baseball’s best pitching prospects Eury Perez, it may just be worth hearing what kind of proven offense the Marlins can attain by dangling their No. 2 starter.
There’s no way around it, Kim Ng and the Marlins are in a tough spot. A ton of pitching depth, a good farm system and some legitimate talent at the big league level all colliding with a disastrous free agent signing (Avisail Garcia) and inconsistent performance from the team as a whole has Miami in a spot where difficult decisions have to be made.
The craziest part about it all is that the final dozen games of July could impact which door the Marlins chose.