The Best and Worst Trade of the Decade for the Miami Marlins

The decade of the 2010s was a continuation of the latter half of the 2000s for the Miami Marlins: leaving something to be desired. Despite having a plethora of multi-faceted position players, they failed to make the postseason once last decade and are now working on 16 consecutive playoff-deprived seasons.

Miami’s high point was 2017, when they possessed one of the most high-octane offenses in Major League Baseball and finished in second place in the National League East — albeit, that was mostly them benefiting from weak competition in their division. After that season, Derek Jeter became team CEO and several blockbuster trades sending All-Star caliber players out of Miami took place. With that said, not every trade that has been made since 2010 has been a bummer for the Fish.

Over the next several weeks Baseball Essential will be doing a series on the best and worst trade every team in Major League Baseball has made over the last decade. Here is the best and worst trade the Miami Marlins have made since 2010.

The Best Trade the Miami Marlins Have Made Since 2010: Miami acquires Caleb Smith and Garrett Cooper from the New York Yankees for Michael King and $250K International Bonus Pool Money (November 20, 2017)

This trade was the second-most notable player swap between the Marlins and Yankees in 2017, as they agreed to a blockbuster trade which sent 2017 NL Most Valuable Player Award recipient Giancarlo Stanton to New York. However, the Marlins are, ironically, getting more from Smith and Cooper than the Yankees are from Stanton.

Smith began 2018 in manager Don Mattingly‘s rotation and impressed. Recording a 4.19 ERA and 3.96 FIP across 16 starts while logging strikeouts at a high rate, he was a steady force. Unfortunately for the southpaw, his season was cut short due to a lat strain. Smith picked up where he left off the ensuing season.

He began the 2019 campaign on a tear, posting a 2.38 ERA across his first nine starts. Albeit he fell off a bit as the season progressed — perhaps due to a midseason hip injury — Smith flashed ace potential and is part of a compelling, young starting rotation. In his two years pitching at the big-league level Smith has showcased an ability to be a power pitcher and done so with a consistent three-pitch arsenal (four seamer, slider, and changeup).

Cooper finally stuck in the majors last season and made the most of his at-bats. Posting a .281/.344/.446 slash line while posting a 110 OPS+ he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise futile Miami offense. Cooper swings a power bat. He has a lot of pop in his bat and looks like a capable middle-of-the-order hitter.

Cooper has also exhibited defensive versatility, taking starting reps at first base and right field; he’s a player Miami can build around moving forward.

Smith and Cooper are integral parts of the Marlins’ future. King? He has made one appearance at the big-league level with the Yankees. Luis Severino recently underwent Tommy John surgery, and James Paxton recently underwent back surgery; the Yankees could use Smith. Meanwhile, they’ve been a revolving door at first base; Cooper could be the answer to their long-standing issues at the corner infield position.

When this trade took place most fans likely kept scrolling through their Twitter feeds. Little did they know that what they glanced over would become highway robbery for the Marlins.

The Worst Trade the Miami Marlins Have Made Since 2010: Miami acquires Jordan Yamamoto, Isan Diaz, Monte Harrison, and Lewis Brinson from the Milwaukee Brewers for Christian Yelich (January 25, 2018)

It was understood that the Marlins were in full-fledged sell mode after 2017. However, while their return on Yelich wasn’t egregious at face value, it barely scratches the surface of what they should’ve received for the outfielder based on his offensive output with the Brewers.

In his two seasons with the Brewers, Yelich has totaled 80 home runs and 207 RBIs while positing an OPS of 1.000 or above and an OPS+ of 164 or above in both seasons. By the way, those accumulations include him hitting 44 home runs across just 130 games last season. They also include him winning the 2018 NL MVP.

Yelich is as good as any player in the sport. He has a long swing, drives pitches to all fields, is a power machine, and plays all outfield positions well. He has either won or been a finalist for the NL MVP in his two seasons with the Brewers and recently inked a $215 million deal.

Of the high-profile players the Marlins have dealt since their 2017 fire sale (Yelich, Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, Dee Gordon, and Justin Bour) Yelich has experienced the widest growth and is a better all-around player than everyone else has ever been — and many of those players have performed at an elite level in years past.

The early returns of this trade have been a disaster for Miami. Yamamoto pitched considerably well last season in what was his first season pitching against MLB hitting; Brinson has received extensive starting reps and been one of the least productive hitters in the sport, as he has posted an OPS below .600 in each of the last two seasons; Diaz flashed some power last season but also hit .173 across 49 games; Harrison is yet to make his MLB debut.

The official verdict on this trade isn’t in, but can the Marlins or anyone argue that they’ll come close to matching the player Yelich has been in Milwaukee? Let’s say Yamamoto becomes a rotation fixture, and Diaz gets on base more in the ensuing seasons: where does that leave Miami? A reliable starter and respectable infielder doesn’t warrant fair value for an MVP in his prime.

The issue with this trade isn’t Yelich being dealt: it’s the return. Maybe Miami knew that Yelich would be this good. Maybe they didn’t. Who knows? Did we wholeheartedly think he would be this good? It’s a pure hindsight game but one that has the Marlins kicking themselves.

Stay tuned to Baseball Essential over the next few weeks for more on the best and worst trades made by all 30 MLB clubs over the past 10 years.

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