Earlier today, Eric Ely made the case for the Miami Marlins retaining Gaby Sanchez. It only makes sense for me to play devil's advocate here and give the reasons against retaining Sanchez and, more importantly, for trading him for resources. What is the argument for such a move? Well, I introduced the idea of trading one of the team's first basemen before, so this should not be too foreign a concept for Fish Stripes readers. However, let us delve into the reasons why trading Sanchez in particular would not be a bad idea.
What are those reasons, you ask? Ironically, many of the reasons for keeping Sanchez that Eric E. mentioned earlier today are also reasons for trading him.
Sanchez currently has four seasons of team control remaining, including one season at pre-arbitration prices. That in and of itself makes him a valuable asset given that he is also a decent player. However, at age 28, Sanchez is not young enough to be a "core" member of the team for more than his team-controlled years. He is one of those players that teams like the previously cash-strapped Marlins would hold onto for their team-controlled years and let go to free agency when his time is up.
Of course, the only other option with a player like Sanchez is to trade him before he becomes expensive so that you can attain the most trade value. After all, his arbitration years are likely to net decent surplus value and his final pre-arbitration season is going to add even more gravy to his trade value. Again, the cost-controlled aspect provides a significant trade asset to the Fish. If you project Sanchez to be a two- to 2.5-win player over the next four seasons, here is what you might see for surplus value right now:
|Sanchez, Year||WAR||$ Value ($Mil)||$ Salary ($Mil)|
This sort of setup yields a surplus value of $24.8 million over the next four seasons. With some guesswork involved, I would say the range in value is between $20 to 25 million for Sanchez's trade value.
The First Base Surplus
Of course, the Marlins would be silly to do this if they did not have a first baseman already in line, as it would just be transferring a hole from one position to another. But the Marlins do have a first baseman waiting in the wings in the form of Logan Morrison, whom many believe is not athletic enough to remain at the first base position. If the Marlins are in agreement with that position, they could move Sanchez and simply slide Morrison to a more appropriate position. This move would not only replace a terrible defensive black hole in left field, but would also move a "solid defender" at first base to replace the good defense from Sanchez.
More importantly than moving Morrison for defensive purposes, the trade likely also allows the Marlins to keep Morrison healthier and more comfortable working at an easier position, which could pay off with extra PA over the next five seasons of team control. Last season, he suffered a lisfranc strain in his left foot and missed more than 20 days, and he also lost a few more days here and there with minor leg injuries involving his defensive play. He is a good enough hitter than he can still be valuable while missing time, but combine that with his potentially terrible defense and it may be a wise move to put Morrison at a position where he will likely be average. Saving two to four runs on defensive and positional value is nice, but getting Morrison to 600 PA and beyond may add an additional three runs of impact, totaling more than half a win in additive value to the move.
Then What About the Outfield?
Of course, moving Morrison simply opens up a hole in the outfield, but unlike in the case of pitching, there are even cheaper or attractive options available in the outfield for the Fish. There are two center field names the Marlins could consider in case of a Gaby Sanchez trade: Yoennis Cespedes and Coco Crisp.
In the case of Cespedes, the Marlins are already involved, as the team should be more than interested in bringing in a Cuban-born player to a franchise trying to establish its deep Miami roots. Despite Cespedes's likely high price tag and multi-year commitment, you can expect the Fish to be more than interested in nabbing him as part of the team's future core, no matter what the potential downside may be. As I have mentioned numerous times, Cespedes is likely worth the risk for the Fish, though certainly the number of years he is looking for will have a significant impact on that statement.
If risk is not your cup of tea, then the Marlins can at least consider a shorter-term player in Crisp. Take a look at his numbers since 2009:
|Crisp. 2009-2011||PA||AVG||OBP||SLG||wOBA||Avg WAR|
The batting numbers may not look fantastic, but they are more than acceptable for a player who is known for good center field defense. Despite missing significant playing time, Crisp still averaged more than two wins a season over the last three years. He would likely be seeking a three-year contract for a somewhat similar value to David DeJesus's two-year, $10 million deal. In essence, Crisp would probably cost the Marlins no more than $8 million a season for the next three years, which would be a small price to pay to solidify center field for the next few years while waiting for Christian Yelich to be ready.
So the Marlins have at least two outfield options available to them in free agency that would allow them to keep Emilio Bonifacio and Bryan Petersen as third and fourth outfielders (not necessarily respectively) and not require both of them to start at the same time.
What Can They Get For a Trade?
The Marlins can find adequate offensive replacements for a Sanchez trade; signing one more free agent contract will likely give the Fish equivalent production for Sanchez on the position player side. The question, again, is whether they can find the appropriate return for Sanchez. As we pointed out above, it turns out Sanchez is still quite a valuable piece, but I have yet to hear anyone offer a significant return for the first baseman. As of right now, one suspects that the Marlins could have a deal in place with the Tampa Bay Rays for Wade Davis and other parts if they want it. Outside of that, I have yet to see any interested parties, and I suspect teams with significant first base gaps will not be interested until after Prince Fielder is signed.
With the Marlins' steadfast refusal to move pieces from their starting lineup, it looks like the more logical conclusion would be to sign a three-win free agent starter and improve the club in that respect. However, given the right return, the Marlins should not pass on the idea of trading Sanchez given the availability of useful replacement parts in free agency.