The Miami Marlins are feeling better coming off a victory, but the Fish have to still be a little concerned about the possibility of the team being sellers at the trade deadline if they struggle over the next two weeks. Right now, the Fish are already far away from the Wild Card position, and the team has important matchups against fellow Wild Card contenders in the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates coming up within the next two weeks. If the team struggles against them, they could be too far behind to make significant ground this season.
Now, while the likelihood of this happening is fairly decent, there is a good chance the Marlins will just stand pat for the 2012 season if it does occur. But if the Marlins do start fielding offers, what pieces do the Marlins have to trade? Can the team get anything back in return? Let's look at the trade value of various Marlins players that have been discussed at various rumors sites.
We discussed Sanchez yesterday with the idea that he would not fetch enough with his remaining salary and win contribution to be worth a trade. Yes, Sanchez is a good pitcher, and yes, he will be a free agent this offseason, but with the Marlins sure to receive a draft pick if Sanchez leaves town, the value of a trade return just does not seem useful enough. The draft pick is likely to be more valuable than any return we receive.Omar Infante
Infante's name has been floated in rumors, and I can understand why. He is having a good season at the plate and has a reputation (that he can back up) as a high-quality defender at second base. Teams with a need at second base (the Detroit Tigers have been floated as a possible partner) could make sense.
Infante holds trade value as well due to his favorable contract. He is in the middle of the first season of a two-year deal worth just $8 million. Given his above-average value due to almost average bat and above average defensive contribution, any team would be getting great value by paying such a player only $5.5 million or so over the next season and a half.
ZiPS projects Infante to finish the season with 1.0 Wins Above Replacement the rest of the way. That in and of itself has a value of $4.8 million in this market. Tack on an additional $12.5 million in value for being a 2.5-win player next season, and you are looking at a player with trade value worth up to $11.5 million. What could that bring back? Theoretically, that could be worth a lower-end Top 100 prospect as ranked by Baseball America! It could certainly be worth a couple of B-ranked prospects as ranked by Minor League Ball's John Sickels.
The problem is that teams will undoubtedly not see that kind of value in Infante. The reason for that is that, while his bat holds some value, his glove is what keeps his value afloat, and teams have a hard time evaluating defense. The reputation is there, but how much trade value does that reputation bring? Players like Infante are often short-shafted in trades and free agent offers, as evidenced by Infante's meager contract. While he may be worth as much as we listed above, he may never actually get that kind of value in return.
Lee has not had a bad time as the Marlins' first baseman, but his .259/.375/.296 batting line is not exactly impressing anyone. He was picked up to be a "run-producer" for the Marlins in the middle of their order, but so far he has only one extra-base hit in 32 PA. Combine that with his known loss of power and you are looking at an extremely mediocre first base option.
If the Marlins were to consider trading Lee, they do have a cheap contract on their side; the Houston Astros sent the Fish money to pay Lee's deal, so the team can simply ship that money along the way to make sure Lee has any trade value. But what the Marlins gave up to get Lee was probably on the high end, and losing two weeks of season can only drop his already low value.
Lee projects to provide 0.4 WAR in value for the rest of the season. Even without having to pay his salary, that only yields $1.8 million in trade value. Lee simply lacks the trade value necessary to make a deal, so it is unlikely he would leave the team until the end of this season.
It is highly unlikely that Johnson would ever get dealt, but it is also an interesting idea to consider. It seems like he has recovered after a poor early-season start, but the Marlins still have quite a challenging question on their hands with regards to what they will do with him after 2013. If the team believes it can acquire a starting pitcher this offseason, it may be willing to part with Johnson for the right deal.
Considering Johnson to be a 2.3 WAR pitcher for the rest of the season (based on ZiPS's 2.91 projected ERA) and maybe a 4.5 WAR pitcher in 2013 due to potential injury concerns, a team trading for Johnson could be looking at adding 6.8 WAR to their ledger over the next two years. He is owed $19.25 million over the next two years, meaning Johnson could be worth $14.3 million in trade value. In addition, one can tack on the value of the draft pick a team would receive for Johnson leaving for free agency next year, and that pushes the value up to close to $20 million.
That makes Johnson likely the Marlins' most valuable trade asset among players with guaranteed contracts. Acquiring him for the next two years would almost certainly net a Top 100 prospect, and the likelihood that name value alone would add to that return means the Marlins could restock their barren farm system with a Johnson trade within the next two weeks.
The problem with that idea is that Johnson is also the most likely player to help this team for the rest of the season. He has shown to be the best player on this list, and the Marlins are not likely to be so interested in selling in 2012 that they hurt themselves in 2013 as well. Even if the team could get major league talent and valuable prospects in return for a year and a half or so of Josh Johnson, it is unlikely that that talent would assist the major league team enough to be worth the trade. Remember, as shot as the team's chances may be this season, the Marlins are still in the business of competing in 2013. That means that the Fish are not likely to do something to severely hinder their chances in 2013 because of the relative failure of 2012. Thus, despite the trade value of Johnson, the wins he represents hold even more value to the win-now Marlins.
We looked at a number of potentially valuable assets on the Marlins right now that could yield a trade deadline return. Of the four players listed, Infante seems the easiest and most likely to be dealt due to his favorable contract, and even he is very unlikely to switch teams. In the end, the unique situation of being in win-now mode for the foreseeable future but in a logical "sell" mode for 2012 leaves standing pat as the best option for the Marlins this season.