Editor's note: Today, we're beginning our official 2013 MLB trade deadline coverage with a series of articles discussing the Marlins' goals, targets, and needs for the 2013 season. Enjoy!
As we head into July, we also head into the busiest time of the month for those who make their living mongering trades. And when it comes to trade mongering, it does not get a whole lot busier as an organization than the Miami Marlins. Every year, it is assumed that the Fish might have something to sell, in part because of the team's general lack of competitiveness in most seasons and in part because of their well-known frugal nature. In some seasons, it actually makes little to no sense. In other years, the Marlins are (or at least should be) clear sellers at the deadline.
This year is more of the latter than the former, but as is often the case when the Marlins are labeled as "sellers," the situation has been exaggerated. There is no doubt that the Miami Marlins are sellers at this year's trade deadline. The question is whether select pieces will be on sale or whether it is a clearance free-for-all.
Why the Marlins are selling
The Marlins are obviously selling at the trade deadline because they have nowhere to go but up at this point. Despite a solid 15-10 month of June, the Fish are tied for the worst record in baseball with the Houston Astros. Neither team is going anywhere close to, well, anywhere this season. The Marlins are far from contention and appear to be in that spot for at least another year or two after this season.
The Marlins also have little need for short-term assets as a result, and they conveniently have a few of those assets in players like Ricky Nolasco and some of their relief pitchers. While the Fish have a number of players under team control for the next few seasons, they officially have one salary obligation past this year, which is Jeff Mathis's $1.5 million in his final year of a two-year contract. The Fish have a team option at $1 million for Jacob Turner for the next two seasons, and the other players are pre-arbitration or arbitration controlled. With no players assured of their future on this team, why would the Marlins latch on to any player with a short-term contract like Nolasco, given that they are not certain about this core's future beyond this season?
The Marlins are also notoriously cheap on their players, and salary plays a clear role in at least one potential trade target. Nolasco is still owed $6 million or so for the remainder of the season, and while the Marlins would like a good prospect in return, they appear to also want salary relief more than a better name in return, according to Fox Sports's Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi. Financial pseudo-obligations to players like Ryan Webb and Logan Morrison in arbitration could play a role in their potential departures as well.
Why the Marlins are not selling everything
The Marlins may be in the business of attracting shoppers to their store, but they are not advertising that the place is going out of business. The team is interested in trading Nolasco, and it may even consider pieces like Webb, Morrison, Steve Cishek, and Michael Dunn, but the Fish will not go overboard with trading everyone away.
Part of the reason is simply that the team is pretty barren as it is. There is a reason why the Marlins are tied for the worst record in baseball, and a good deal of that is due to a lack of talent. The Fish already stripped the cupboard bare before the season, so there is not a lot left to pick. This covers players like Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, and Greg Dobbs who hold little trade value.
Of course, there is one prized possession that the Marlins are also unwilling to sell. Giancarlo Stanton may be the talk of the trade rumor mill, there is no chance the Marlins trade him this season. Stanton is too valuable to the Fish to be dealt this year and the team is holding out hope that he could still be enticed to be the centerpiece of this organization.
The same goes for many of the other prospects whom the Marlins recently promoted and are featured. Guys like Marcell Ozuna, Jose Fernandez, and Derek Dietrich are more valuable for a young and cheap team like the Marlins and are thus not in trade danger.
Thus, it is obvious why the Marlins are sellers and, at the same time, why some things are still bolted down. If the goal of Jeffrey Loria is to build a contender, then the Fish need to be able to retain at least one star on their roster. The team is pegging Giancarlo Stanton as that star and they will try (hopefully) to retain him. The rest of the Marlins' players are simply too young and valuable or too old and unusable to be traded this season.
The Fish have a select few players available, much like all teams. This season, more so than the previous offseason, is much clearer in terms of who those players are. It is extremely unlikely the Marlins will blindside any team with offers for Stanton, but Ricky Nolasco and some of the bullpen can be had at the right price.