The Miami Marlins still have relievers available in the trade market heading into the 2013 MLB trade deadline, but one of the interesting players who could be available is Mike Dunn. Dunn is the only left-handed reliever on the team who has been mentioned in trade rumors, and the left-handed factor holds inherent value. The fact that he has been thrown into the fire as an eighth inning pitcher rather than a lefty specialist also has to be appealing.
But are the Marlins willing to trade Dunn? Just like with Steve Cishek, the team's willingness is an important factor.
Mike Dunn has not been rumored to be discussed with other teams as of late, but previous rumors have stated that the Marlins would rather hold onto both Dunn and Cishek this season. The reason for that is in the price; both Dunn and Cishek are heading into their first arbitration seasons, and both are expected to pull decent, but palatable salaries next season. It is likely that Cishek will pull around $2 million, while Dunn should break $1 million in salary.
The Marlins feel as though having a back end of the pen in Dunn and Cishek would help solidify the bullpen and make sure that young pitchers retain their pitcher wins if the team plays well enough to take a lead. But Cishek is the far more important pitcher in that job, and Dunn making around $1 million may scare the Marlins off enough to trade him if the price is right. The Fish have some newfound bullpen depth in the minors after the Ricky Nolasco trade, and the team now has two other lefties in the major league pen in Dan Jennings and Duane Below, as mediocre as those two are.
The depth on the roster and the availability of lefties makes Dunn a little more subject to trade, but the Marlins' affinity for him as a closer-type pitcher will probably keep him here as long as Cishek's future is in question.
One would suspect that teams interested in Dunn would be teams interested in relievers in general. The fact that Dunn has back-end bullpen stuff may make a club like the Boston Red Sox or Detroit Tigers interested in acquiring for the prospect of being "closer depth." But the part that is different for Dunn is that he holds extra interest from teams interested in left-handed help. When looking at team pitching staffs versus lefty hitters, the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels, and Texas Rangers stood out as teams that had not done well versus left-handed hitting. Whether that is the fault of the starters or the bullpen is difficult to tell without further digging, but among those teams, the Orioles stood out as one team that needed pen help and help versus lefties.
Because of the left-handed factor, Dunn's market is higher than guys like Ryan Webb and Chad Qualls, even though his performance is not all that much better. Teams in need of lefty help and teams in need of help in general can get a little of both when they acquire Dunn.
Dunn may sound like an intriguing trade candidate, but when you look at his numbers, you end up highly disappointed. The Marlins could sell Dunn as a late-inning reliever who can be used as a lefty specialist but does not need to pulled when facing right-handers. Unfortunately, while both of those claims have some truth in them, the numbers paint a lesser picture. Dunn has a career 3.62 ERA and 4.01 FIP, and while he has been better this year (3.00 ERA, 3.58 FIP), he has not greatly improved on the areas that need help. His walk rate is down from last year, but it is only at the level of his 2011 season, so it is not as though he has made a major improvement in that area. He is also just two seasons removed from giving up homers at a 3.3 percent clip as well.
The idea that he can face righties is true, but his splits are more apparent than expected for that type of pitcher. He is not at the level of Steve Cishek, but his performance versus left-handers is still equal to a typical platoon split. For his career, he has allowed a .303 wOBA versus lefties opposite a .329 wOBA versus righties. To get an idea of what that means, Mike Dunn has made lefites look 2013 Justin Ruggiano (.269/.303/.390) while he has made righties look like Hunter Pence (.265/.307/.452).
Dunn has value, but it is difficult to see him having the value the Marlins likely envision. He is better than Webb and Qualls, but not nearly the level of Cishek, yet he is being held with similar availability because the franchise believes he can put it all together and become a closer-type reliever. Dunn's career ERA is at 3.62, and his career FIP is 4.01, while his projections have those numbers at around 3.60 to 4.00. If you take an estimate of a 3.80 ERA, Dunn would be worth 0.4 wins over the course of a season. That production would have a value of $7.7 million over the next three years if you tack on half of this season. Given a modest arbitration salary structure, an asset like Dunn would be worth $2 million in surplus value.
What could that get you? A relief or low-minors prospect from another team, at a C-ranked level. The Marlins would be wise to take such an offer, but given how much they think of Dunn, do not expect anything on that front.