The New York Mets and Miami Marlins are two NL East division rivals who figure to enter the season with similar expectations in 2024.
The Marlins are coming off a playoff appearance in 2023, and will be looking to again factor into the Wild Card conversation. Meanwhile the Mets are coming off a down-year, but will be hoping to bounce back into postseason contention as well.
Neither of these teams figures to compete at the top of the division with the Atlanta Braves or the Philadelphia Phillies, but both should be much better than the Washington Nationals.
Being a little more than a month away from spring training, now is the time for teams to make their final moves of the offseason to round out their rosters before the start of camp.
When looking at the Mets and Marlins, these teams could be good trade partners, given the Marlins abundance of young starting pitching and the Mets top position player prospects who are all getting close to the big league level.
A swap of young talent could be exactly what both of these teams need. So let’s explore the options that could be on the table for new presidents of baseball operations, David Stearns and Peter Bendix,
Will the Marlins Be Trading Jesus Luzardo?
Last offseason, the biggest move the Miami Marlins made was trading Pablo Lopez to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for reigning AL batting champ Luis Arraez. The deal worked out great for both sides, as Lopez pitched great and signed a contract extension, while Arraez won another batting title.
While the Marlins have not done a great job developing position players over recent years, they have been much better finding quality young pitchers. Lopez was one example of that, and once he got into his second year of arbitration, it became time to move him.
For a small market team like the Marlins, once players start to reach arbitration, their impending free agency puts them on the clock to be dealt in a trade. Since Lopez was the closest to free agency, after Sandy Alcantara signed a contract extension, he was the one dealt.
Now with Lopez gone and Alcantara rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, the Marlins do not have nearly the same amount of pitching depth that they did in the past. This could make it harder to contend this season, which has led to speculation that Jesus Luzardo could be on the move.
Luzardo is 26 years old and is coming off a career year in 2023. The left-hander pitched to a 3.58 ERA across 178 2/3 innings pitched, as he made all 32 starts. He struck out 28.1% of the batters he faced and finished the year with a 3.7 fWAR, the highest on the Marlins.
In 2022, Luzardo pitched to a 3.32 ERA across 100 1/3 innings pitched, giving him now a two-year sample size of being a very solid starting pitcher. A super-two player, Luzardo is making his second of four trips to arbitration this year.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, Luzardo is projected to make $5.9 million through arbitration, which would make him the fifth-highest paid player on the Marlins payroll.
Armed with three years of control, the Marlins could get an absolute haul for Luzardo if dangled on the market right now. An argument can be made that Luzardo would be the most attractive pitcher on the trade block, outside of Freddy Peralta if the Brewers decided to deal him.
Now with all of that said, the Marlins could still keep Luzardo for now, or even approach him about a contract extension. Luzardo is from South Florida and grew up a Marlins fan. There is every chance he would be open to signing a deal to be paired with Alcantara long-term, and could even take a hometown discount in that instance.
If the Marlins decide to build around Luzardo further, they could dangle some of their other pitchers on the market to see what they can bring back to help fill roster needs in 2024 and beyond.
Other Marlins Arms Who Could Be on the Move
If the Marlins were to open the season with their present roster, their rotation would include some combination of Luzardo, Braxton Garrett, Eury Perez, Edward Cabrera, Trevor Rogers, Ryan Weathers and Max Meyer.
Luzardo and Garrett solidified themselves as quality big league starters last season, and Perez was one of the more tantalizing rookies we saw in 2023. If Perez can hold down a rotation spot all year, there is every chance he could take over as the Marlins ace. There is no doubt he is the most untouchable pitcher on the Marlins, if not in baseball right now.
Let’s look at the other pitchers on this roster and how close each of them is to free agency.
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Looking through the trade candidates, Braxton Garrett is probably the least likely to be moved from this group. Garrett has been a model of consistency over the last two seasons, pitching to a 3.63 ERA over 47 starts and 247 2/3 innings pitched. His 3.64 FIP and 3.45 xFIP are both in line with his ERA.
Garrett keeps his walks down, has set down nearly one batter per inning on strikeouts in his career and doesn’t get hurt by the long ball. Still under team control for five more seasons, the Marlins are going to hold onto Garrett tight with two hands right now.
Edward Cabrera is another pitcher with five years of control, but his performance has not been nearly as consistent as Garrett’s over the last few years. Cabrera was excellent in 2022, pitching to a 3.01 ERA over 14 starts and 71 2/3 innings pitched.
In 2023, Cabrera was sent down to the minors in August after dealing with issues throwing strikes. While he still kept his ERA at a respectable 4.24, Cabrera saw his walk rate balloon from 11.3% in 2022, to 15.2% in 2023. Across 10 innings pitched in July, Cabrera walked 11 batters and struck out nine. This led to his option down to Triple-A.
Despite his inconsistent command, Cabrera has great stuff with his excellent change-up (36.3% whiffs, 31.4% usage), which he pairs with a hard fastball that averaged over 96 MPH last year and a curveball that got whiffs 38% of the time.
A team like the Mets would love to get their hands on a pitcher like Cabrera, who could slot into their rotation this year and presents plenty of upside.
While the Marlins would be losing a potential rotation fixture by dealing Cabrera, they still have arms to fill that spot, with Max Meyer set to return coming off Tommy John and Ryan Weathers who was acquired at last year’s deadline.
The other starting pitcher the Marlins could look to deal is Trevor Rogers, who hits arbitration for the first time this year.
Rogers finished runner-up to Jonathan India for the NL Rookie of the Year Award back in 2021, when he pitched to a 2.64 ERA over 25 starts and 133 innings pitched. In 2022, Rogers dealt with a sophomore slump that saw him pitch to a 5.47 ERA in 23 starts.
After Rogers suffered a lat injury that ended his season in 2022, injuries continued to follow him into 2023, when he missed most of the season due to a biceps injury. Rogers is still just 26 years old, and has flashed frontline potential in the past.
With three years of control, Rogers would offer the Mets a high-upside arm for years to come, albeit one that comes with plenty of risk. If the Marlins were going to trade a pitcher, Rogers might bring the least back. Compared to Cabrera or Garrett, Rogers has two less years of control. Compared to Luzardo he has the same amount of control left, but has proven far less in recent memory.
Why the Mets Are a Good Trade Fit for the Marlins
If the Miami Marlins are shopping their young pitching to the Mets, they have every reason to be shopping it around the league to the other 28 teams as well. Teams like the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers could all be in the market to acquire a pitcher, and all of them have farm systems on par with the Mets, if not better.
If the Marlins were to trade Jesus Luzardo, all of those teams should be in the mix, and the Yankees in particular have already been linked to him. This is because Luzardo is ready to slide into a championship rotation right now, and these teams are clearly in a window to contend.
What separates the Mets as a trade fit compared to these other teams is that their competitive window is more likely to open in 2025. This puts the Mets in the market to really add any of the Marlins arms via trade, where teams with a more pressing competitive window may shy away from acquiring lesser-proven commodities like Rogers or Cabrera.
Considering the fact that the Marlins have a glaring hole at shortstop, the Mets depth at the position in the minor leagues could lead to an eventual trade.
With Francisco Lindor entrenched at the position for years to come, the Mets can afford to move one of their top shortstop prospects, who are all set to explore different positions when they make their way to the show.
Ronny Mauricio made his debut last year, but unfortunately tore his ACL playing in the Dominican Winter League. While he would not play for Marlins until August at the absolute earliest, they could be intrigued by a player with his skill-set, who could be their shortstop of the future.
Looking more specifically at the Mets top prospects, Jett Williams (No. 55) and Luisangel Acuña (No. 71) are both top 100 prospects who could play the shortstop position at the big league level. Acuña is closer to making his MLB debut, but both finished last year in Double-A and should be up by 2025 at the latest.
Further down the Mets top 10, you will find last year’s first round pick Colin Houck, and also Marco Vargas, who was a Marlins farmhand that was traded to the Mets at the deadline for David Robertson. Both of these shortstops are far away from the show, but present plenty of upside.
Outside of the shortstops, Drew Gilbert was acquired by the Mets in the Justin Verlander trade last year and is now their top outfield prospect. Gilbert is probably untouchable, but the other prospect the Mets got in the Verlander trade is not, as Ryan Clifford presents another intriguing option.
Last prospect of note is Kevin Parada, a bat-first catcher that was a first round pick back in 2022. Parada is not coming off the best season, but he would immediately become the Marlins top catching prospect if included in a deal.
Alright we have talked about each of these teams and why they could be in the market to make a trade. Now let’s explore the options. Here are some mock trades for each of the pitchers the Marlins could look to flip this offseason.
Marlins trade LHP Jesus Luzardo for SS Jett Williams, OF/IB Ryan Clifford and RHP Mike Vasil
Now first off, I want to acknowledge that if I was running the Mets, I would not include Jett Williams in any trade. But also if the Marlins are going to trade Jesus Luzardo to the Mets with three years of control, Williams is exactly the prospect they should be targeting.
Last season, Williams played in three levels, starting the year in Low-A and finishing up in Double-A, where he hit a home run in the playoffs at just 19 years old.
Drafted 14th overall in 2022, Williams showed exceptional plate discipline in his first full season, as he walked at a near 20% rate across his three stops.
Williams is an uber-athletic prospect who could be a plus defender at either shortstop or center field. He stole 45 bases last season and gets on base at a high enough clip that his base-stealing should be a real weapon once he makes it to the big leagues.
If the Marlins are going to trade Luzardo, they are going to want either Williams, Luisangel Acuña, or Drew Gilbert as the headliner. They also will want more on top of that.
Ryan Clifford is a very different prospect from Williams, where his value is mostly predicated on his power. Prior to getting traded to the Mets, Clifford hit .271/.356/.547, with 16 home runs in 58 games played at High-A at just 19 years old. He struggled after the trade, but still presents a very exciting power profile.
Finally Mike Vasil is one of the top pitching prospects in the Mets system. He finished last year in Triple-A, where he pitched to a 5.30 ERA in 16 starts and 73 innings pitched. Prior to his promotion, Vasil had a 3.71 ERA in 10 starts in Double-A.
Giving up any of their top three prospects (Williams, Acuña, Gilbert) is probably a non-starter for the Mets right now. This is why a trade for Luzardo is unlikely at this juncture.
Marlins trade RHP Edward Cabrera for SS Ronny Mauricio, RHP Tyler Stuart and OF Matt Rudick
From a Mets perspective, trading for Edward Cabrera or Trevor Rogers could be more attractive, as it would allow them to hang onto their top three prospects. The packages for Cabrera and Rogers are mostly interchangeable, as their trade value should be rather similar.
Cabrera does come with five years of control instead of three, so we are including a slightly better headlining prospect in this deal with Ronny Mauricio.
The 22-year-old shortstop has already graduated to the big league level and would have been a big part of the Mets this season if not for a torn ACL in the Dominican Winter League. Still, Mauricio posted a .852 OPS in over 500 plate appearances at Triple-A last season.
For the Mets, Mauricio is blocked at shortstop, but he could be the shortstop of the future for the Marlins, with the potential to be at least a 20-20 guy in the big leagues.
Tyler Stuart is a 6-foot-9 right-handed pitching prospect who experienced a breakout last season. Stuart pitched to a 1.55 ERA in High-A, which led the minor leagues at the time, before pitching to a 3.60 ERA in seven starts in Double-A. Stuart is a top-20 prospect in the Mets system.
Finally, Matt Rudick is a 25-year-old outfield, who is a fringe-top 30 prospect in the Mets system. Rudick did however post strong numbers in Double-A last year, as he got on base at a .414 clip and posted a .862 OPS.
Marlins trade LHP Trevor Rogers for 1B/OF Ryan Clifford, RHP Dominic Hamel and RHP Jose Butto
We already broke down Ryan Clifford before as the second piece to Jett Williams in a Jesus Luzardo trade. Now we are featuring him as the headliner to get Trevor Rogers.
While Rogers comes with some injury risk after barely pitching in 2023, he does have a ton of upside and three years of control. Clifford has prodigious power, but still struck out at a 36.4% clip after getting traded to the Mets last year.
There is enough risk in Clifford’s profile where the Mets would consider dealing him in a trade for Rogers, although this is not a deal they would make lightly.
Outside of Clifford, Dominic Hamel is a solid pitching prospect, who has found good success pitching in Double-A. Last season, the 24-year-old pitched to a 4.06 ERA across 124 innings pitched. He does carry some reliever risk, but could thrive in such a role, as he struck out 30.4% of the batters he faced in 2023.
Finally Jose Butto would represent MLB depth for the Marlins, coming off a season where he pitched to a 3.64 ERA in 42 innings with the Mets.
In 19 starts in Triple-A, Butto pitched to a 5.93 ERA. He has a somewhat limited ceiling as likely just a swingman for a big league club, but is not a bad third piece to be thrown into a deal.
Obviously the exact variations of these trades could be different if these teams ever got on the phones, but there is a lot that can be built on between the Mets and Marlins.
Miami has the type of young arms that would really entice a Mets team that has not developed nearly enough pitching in recent years. Meanwhile the Marlins farm system could benefit greatly from acquiring any of the Mets top 10 position player prospects.
Both of these division rivals may decide it is not worth it to deal with each other, but if they put that aside, a trade could be very beneficial to both sides.