If you have been living under a rock all winter, don’t worry, you haven’t missed too much. One thing that you may want to know, however, is that the Miami Marlins are rebuilding — again — but they’re going all the way this time. Earlier this offseason, we saw the National League’s Most Valuable Player, Giancarlo Stanton, shipped off to the Bronx for a pair of high-upside arms, salary relief, and Starlin Castro; Marcell Ozuna was traded to St. Louis for a package of rather promising prospects; and more recently, Christian Yelich was sent over to the Brewers for a king’s ransom including Lewis Brinson.
While there are still a number of rather valuable chips still in Miami’s cupboards, the spotlight has shifted to catcher J.T. Realmuto. Realmuto has long been linked to the Washington Nationals, but Mike Rizzo has not been too keen on the idea of moving uber-prospect Victor Robles in a trade for the catcher. Furthermore, behind Robles, the depth in the Nationals system, while decent, isn’t nearly enough to give the Marlins what they want for their young and controllable catcher.
Let’s turn our attention to another team that seems like a match made in heaven. I’m talking, of course, about the reigning World Series champions, the Houston Astros. As of right now, the ‘Stros have Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, each with one year of team control, able to play catcher; however, after next season, all they have is Max Stassi. While Stassi was once a good prospect and seems like a solid backup at this point in time, his game is not the quality that a world series contender can afford to start.
How would a trade with Houston work?
The package that I have been toying with: Rogelio Armenteros, J.B. Bukauskas, Jorge Alcala, and Gattis for Realmuto. While the Marlins will shoot for Kyle Tucker and/or Forrest Whitley, the Astros have considerably more system depth than the Nationals and can present a much more appealing package without mortgaging their future.
While you will see my full reports on the Astros system soon, I have Armentaros and Bukauskas ranked among my top five with Alcala falling just outside the top ten.
Bukauskas inexplicably fell to the Astros at 15 during last year’s draft and looked rather promising in a rather small sample size of three starts. He has very good velocity, average to slightly below average control, good polish, and good make-up. The biggest issue with him is his size. He is generously listed at 6’0″, which brings questions in regard to durability, especially considering how hard he throws the ball. Based on his draft status, he seems likely to remain in a rotation for the time being, but longterm, I see him as a multi-inning setup man like an Andrew Miller type. He could be up by 2019.
While many would consider Bukauskas to be the prize of the deal, Armenteros is one of my favorite players in the minor leagues. At 23 years old, Armenteros made the Pacific Coast League look easy posting a 2.16 ERA over 58.1 innings pitched with 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings and just 2.9 walks per nine. While those numbers would be good anywhere, the fact that he posted statistics like that in the Pacific Coast League is mind-blowing. Some analysts have him as a middle reliever long-term, which I think is absolutely insane. He looks to me like a 2018 rookie of the year candidate.
Alcala is a 22-year-old righty who spent the season between Class A and High-A. He’s not very hittable and his fastball-slider mix is exceptionally encouraging as well. Unfortunately, he has control issues that he really needs to work through. While I think he will struggle a bit right out of the gate upon reaching Double-A, he’s young enough to be handled patiently. His performance over the next year or so should dictate his projection.
The inclusion of Gattis in this deal serves the same purpose as Castro’s inclusion in the Stanton deal. He will give the Marlins a major leaguer to eat some at-bats and to serve as a potential midseason trade candidate. In this scenario, Gattis would take over as the full-time catcher for the Marlins while either Chad Wallach or Tomas Telis would serve as the backup, depending on spring performance.
For Houston, this move seems ideal. First of all, with the retirement of Carlos Beltran, the Astros could slide incumbent catcher Brian McCann to the designated hitter position, while allowing Realmuto to become the everyday catcher. Realmuto keeps the Astros covered behind the plate for the next three seasons, which certainly help keep the window open for a little while longer.