Miami Marlins Looking to Buy At Trade Deadline, But How?

April 14, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria before a game against the Houston Astros at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The Miami Marlins have struggled through a terrible June, having won only five of the team's 22 games this month. However, unlike last season, this team was built to win now and owner Jeffrey Loria is intent on improving the squad by making moves if necessary, at least according to Peter Gammons.

Credit Loria for at least saying he wants to improve the team after years of us knowing he had no interest in doing so due to budget concerns. There is at least something to be said about the interest of the team in improving its talent, in particular the offense, right now in 2012 for a potential stretch run.

The problem with trying to acquire talent by the 2012 trade deadline, however, is that the team needs to have talent to trade. But years of promoting from within combined with lackluster draft choices have left the Marlins light on depth and with few chips on the trading block table.

The Farm Is Barren

The first place teams who are looking to buy at the deadline look to utilize is their farm system. Many farm systems are full of players whom teams can trade without fear of future losses in order to acquire present talent. With enough depth in the farm, teams can afford to send a prospect or two of importance to gain a little help at the deadline.

Unfortunately for the Marlins, that just is not the case. In past seasons, the team has had a dual problem in that they have not developed many top prospects and the few that have been developed are in the majors contributing to the team. The Marlins' most recent drafts have almost all failed to produce high-end prospect talent for whatever reason. Whether the team's drafting personnel or the player development and minor league organizations are to blame is irrelevant, because the bottom line is that very few high-end talents have run through this organization in the last four or five seasons.

This can be easily discerned by looking at just a few of this past season's organizational rankings by the top names in prospects. FanGraphs' Marc Hulet and company ranked the Marlins' system 26th in baseball. John Sickels of SB Nation's Minor League Ball ranked the Fish 29th in the league. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus ranked the club 21st, which is perhaps the rosiest ranking on the internet.

Now that does not mean that the Marlins are bereft of top talent so much as there is not as much as there once was. But any top talent the Marlins do boast will soon be needed at the major league level. The Marlins' two top prospects right now are undoubtedly outfielder Christian Yelich and starting pitcher Jose Fernandez. Yelich is already in High-A Jupiter and Jose Fernandez has joined him recently, and both players have thus far destroyed their competition at their respective levels. But the Marlins have carefully laid out their plans such that, by the time these players are major-league ready, the team will have a spot in which to insert them. With their kind of talent, the Fish are undoubtedly hesitant to let go of any of them via trade, and those are just the players in whom sellers at the deadline are interested.

What prospects could the Marlins trade? If there is any sheen left on Matt Dominguez, he would be the first name on the block. Unfortunately, the league as a whole has caught on to the idea that Matt Dominguez may never hit well enough to play in the bigs. After being young for his level and league average at each minor league stint through 2010, he struggled through a relatively poor Triple-A season last year (.258/.312/.437, .323 wOBA, 78 wRC+) and has just been awful this season (.217/.272/.335, .266 wOBA, 50 wRC+).

The other name who could get squeezed out for depth reasons is Yelich's outfield teammate Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna was ranked in the top five of the Marlins' prospects and is a power-hitting prospect in Jupiter. He is having a second consecutive good year, batting .251/.324/.478 (.365 wOBA, 127 wRC+) with 15 homers in 287 PA in Jupiter. But with the Marlins likely to settle Yelich down in left field in a few years and Giancarlo Stanton locked into right field for hopefully years to come, Ozuna may be an odd man out, and the Marlins could use him as potential trade bait.

Lacking Major League Depth

This lack of minor league depth has translated into a thin major league roster as well. The Marlins have very few positions of depth in terms of major-league ready players, and that was no more evident than when Emilio Bonifacio was injured and the Marlins demoted Gaby Sanchez, leaving the team with two holes to fill. Last season, Bonifacio provided depth, but this year he was expected to man one position and when he was hurt, the team had to turn to a number of options who simply did not perform.

The only position of depth at the major league level is first base, and even that depth is a challenge for the Marlins. Before the season, the Marlins had two first basemen in Logan Morrison and Sanchez, with Morrison masquerading as a left fielder. At the time, both were reasonable options at first base, and had the Marlins been so inclined, they could have traded one for parts at another position and committed to using the other, with Morrison being the desired keeper candidate. But now, with Sanchez batting just .194/.231/.294, no one wants to trade for Sanchez and the Marlins would prefer to keep Morrison, who is not exactly impressing either. As a result, the team is stuck with both of them in the interim.

With no players are the major league level to trade without just breaking even and few options in the minors with which to add pieces, the Marlins will be hard-pressed to make this season's trade deadline a successful one. If the team does pull off a trade, it seems unlikely to do more than tread water for the Marlins rather than outright improve the squad.

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