Trade Deadline Preview 2019: Miami Marlins

While we’re only about six weeks into the 2019 season, the field of sellers vs. buyers is beginning to form. This year’s trade deadline will bring a new level of intrigue, as there is only one deadline this season. This is the first part of a series that will profile expected sellers, in an effort to take inventory of who will be available come deadline time.

The Miami Marlins currently sit in the basement of the MLB standings, sporting a 13-31 record, good for a .295 win percentage. Under new ownership, the perpetually rebuilding Marlins have quite a way to go before they are competitive again, meaning that they are a near-certain seller this summer. All players are listed in order of prospective likelihood of a trade.

First baseman Neil Walker

Age: 33

Stats: .293/.374/.431 (.805 OPS), seven doubles, three home runs, six RBIs, two stolen bases

Contract: 1-year contract worth $2 million (free agent after the 2019 season)

Estimated chance of a trade: 90%

Walker has worked out like a charm for the struggling Marlins and should generate a significant amount of interest on the market. While he has played first base exclusively in the 2019 season, he played second, third, and the corner outfield spots as recently as last season for the Yankees. Other attractive qualities that make Walker marketable include his low salary, which is down to just under $1.4 million, and his four seasons of postseason experience. One thing to note, however, is that he is riding a .369 BABIP, which means that the Marlins would be best served flipping him as soon as possible. While he’s not bringing back any top prospects, I could see a player who ranks between 15 and 20 within an organization headed to Miami. His versatility makes him marketable to more teams, which could drive up the bidding.

Outfielder Curtis Granderson

Age: 36

Stats: .179/.269/.368 (.636 OPS), seven doubles, five home runs, 12 RBIs, no stolen bases

Contract: 1-year contract worth $1.75 million (free agent after the 2019 season)

Estimated chance of a trade: 80%

I described Granderson’s potential trade value in an article about a week ago, and my opinion hasn’t changed:

As a side note, despite the poor batting average, Grandy has had some absolutely abysmal luck this season with a .213 BABIP. Regardless of all that, however, he’s still a source of runs, having driven in 11 runs and scoring 12 while hitting four homers. On top of that, he’s one of the most respected veterans in the league with a ton of postseason experience. Based on all of this, I expect there to be a reasonable level of demand for his services come June/July, and while the return won’t be anything to write home about, the Fish should be able to get a minor leaguer who ranks in the 30’s within an organization’s prospect rankings. I could see the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, and Los Angeles Angels serving as potential landing spots. These are some speculative returns that Grandy could draw:

  • Cleveland: Right-handed relief pitcher Dalbert Siri (Double-A, 23 years old)
  • Boston: Starting pitching prospect Alexander Montero (Short Season, 21 years old)
  • Seattle: Right-handed relief pitcher Collin Kober (Class A Advanced, 24 years old)
  • Los Angeles (AL): Center fielder Brandon Sandoval (Double-A, 24 years old)

Right-handed reliever Sergio Romo

Age: 36

Stats: 5.40 ERA, 5.36 FIP, 15 innings pitched, 1.467 WHIP, 7.8 H/9, 1.8 HR/9, 5.4 BB/9, 9.6 K/9

Contract: 1-year contract worth $2.5 million, (free agent after the 2019 season)

Estimated chance of a trade: 70%

Honestly, Romo hasn’t been quite as bad as his numbers suggest. If you remove his first outing in which he allowed four runs over a third of an inning, he has posted a 3.07 ERA. With this in mind, I fully anticipate Romo suiting up for another organization by the time August rolls around. We’re looking at a very well-respected veteran reliever on an inexpensive salary who has seen playoff innings in four different seasons, sporting a very solid 3.09 ERA including six scoreless World Series innings. At this rate, the Fish may get a rookie league lottery ticket and salary relief for him.

Utility player Martin Prado

Age: 35

Stats: .260/.282/.337 (.618 OPS), five doubles, one home run, ten RBIs, no stolen bases

Contract: $15 million salary for 2019 (free agent after the 2019 season)

Estimated chance of a trade: 55%

While I expect Prado to be in a different uniform on August 1, he still seems likely to take up a rather significant amount of the Marlins’ payroll. The veteran utility man has hit for reasonable average this season with plus splits against left-handed pitchers, slashing .314/.324/.400 (.724 OPS) over 37 plate appearances. While his versatility isn’t quite what it used to be, he represents a plus-to-elite glove at third base, sporting a 3.25 RF/9 (league average is 2.52) and an average glove at first with an 8.54 RF/9 (league average 8.57). The return for Prado will be entirely dependent on how much money changes hands. I would imagine that the return could range from a low-end tier-three prospect if the Fish ate his entire salary, to a lottery ticket in rookie ball in the opposite scenario. A comparable situation could be the Howie Kendrick trade from the Phillies to the Nationals that brought back McKenzie Mills.

Infielder Starlin Castro

Age: 29

Stats: .225/.269/.290 (.559 OPS), two doubles, three home runs, 12 RBIs, one stolen base

Contract: $11,857,142 salary for 2019 with a team option for 2020 worth $16 million (with a $1 million buyout)

Estimated chance of a trade: 45%

Castro was a savings bond addition to the Giancarlo Stanton deal, and the Marlins had intended to flip him for additional prospects. Unfortunately, holding him this long has been just one of a myriad of missteps for the Marlins over the past few seasons, as he has not been able to replicate his success from 2018, in which he slashed .278/.329/.400. On a more encouraging note, however, Castro’s struggles can be largely attributed to bad luck, based on a well below average .240 BABIP, which seems likely to level out. Personally, if Castro’s luck doesn’t improve as the season presses on, I would hold him and exercise the team option. While it may represent something of a costly gamble, the Marlins don’t have much in terms of salary commitments beyond the 2019 season, with just Wei-Yin Chen earning guaranteed money. Otherwise, the arbitration raises don’t figure to be exorbitant, and they don’t seem likely to be in play for any expensive free agents. It could be worth the higher quality of prospects that they could potentially get for Castro.

Right-handed starter Jose Urena

Age: 27

Stats: 4.44 ERA, 4.56 FIP, 52.2 innings pitched, 1.443 WHIP, 10.3 H/9, 1.2 HR/9, 2.7 BB/9, 5.8 K/9

Contract: 1-year contract worth $3.2 million, controlled via arbitration through 2021

Estimated chance of a trade: 30%

With Urena, it’s essentially what you see is what you get.  While I would anticipate his results to improve over time, despite the peripheral statistics, he’s a reasonable back-end starter who can eat innings efficiently and limit damage. That being said, the Marlins have no need to trade him right now. Urena is under team control for two and a half more seasons, and his performance in 2019 hasn’t been quite good enough to warrant a significant raise via arbitration. Furthermore, his trade value is as low as it has been in about three years. Obviously it would make sense to listen on the young starter, but for a team that needs innings eaten, selling low would make little to no sense, so they should only move if impressed.

Infielder Miguel Rojas

Age: 30

Stats: .237/.299/.281 (.579 OPS), six doubles, no home runs, 12 RBIs, three stolen bases

Contract: $3.16 million salary for 2019 and controlled via arbitration through 2020

Estimated chance of a trade: 30%

Rojas certainly carries some level of value as a defensive oriented utility infielder with two minor league options (one before he attains veteran service time). Unfortunately, his value is hampered by a mediocre bat and a high monetary price tag for a guy who would probably serve as an all-glove injury replacement on most contenders. If the Marlins get an opportunity to get something for Rojas, they should certainly take it and give the younger guys such as Rosell Herrera, JT Riddle, and possibly Isan Diaz the opportunity to see an increased number of major league plate appearances. There is no guarantee that the Marlins find a taker for Rojas, however, and if they do, expect a lottery ticket in return.

Left-handed starter Caleb Smith

Age: 27

Stats: 2.25 ERA, 2.93 FIP, 48.0 innings pitched, 0.917 WHIP, 5.6 H/9, 1.1 HR/9, 2.6 BB/9, 12.0 K/9

Contract: 1-year contract worth $557k, arbitration eligible after 2020, free agent after 2023

Estimated chance of a trade: 20%

Smith is the most valuable piece that the Marlins have. The 27-year-old has quietly turned in one of the best showings of any major league starter through the first two months of the 2019 season and is under team control through the 2023 season, without hitting arbitration until after next year. While late bloomers are difficult to really rely on, all of his peripherals suggest that the success is sustainable. While Michael Hill and company should definitely listen, they shouldn’t trade the impressive lefty unless they are getting back an absolute haul. Anything less than an overpay wouldn’t be enough for the Marlins’ to justifiably trade him this summer, and if they decide that they are set on trading him, they should wait until the offseason when more teams would have interest.

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