The Miami Marlins are firmly established as sellers in this season's lead-up to the MLB trade deadline. But just because the Fish are selling, it does not mean that they are willing to take back anything in return. The Marlins too would like to fill needs if at all possible, even if the return is focused on acquiring prospects. While talent would be the primary thing that the Fish will chase this trade deadline season, the Marlins would also be interested in acquiring players of certain types.
So what are those players and types? Let's take a look, in order, at the priorities that the Marlins would like to achieve in acquiring players back from their trades.
It almost goes without saying, but talent comes first and foremost in any acquisition the Marlins make. The Fish cannot be too picky in trying to figure out whom they should acquire in return for players like Ricky Nolasco. Often times, the types of players are limited to the teams interested in acquiring the Marlins' players and the prospects they have available at the right level. The Fish can pick and choose among that list, but there is a limit on how many prospects are at the right talent level and on the right team to be picked up.
That is why the Marlins will chase talent before anything else at the trade deadline. When in doubt, the Fish will probably always pick a player whom they feel is the best player available, regardless of position. Much like in the draft, where you cannot draft for need because of the high variance of MLB draft picks, the Marlins cannot trade for position because of the limitations involved and the variance even in somewhat known prospects. The Fish will be making their decisions based on scout evaluations and other internal rankings, but those evaluations will rank on talent before any mention of positional needs.
For Nolasco: Money
The Marlins have a separate, important need for the Ricky Nolasco trade. The Fish are banking on the acquiring team to provide salary relief by taking the remaining $5.5 million or so left on Nolasco's final contract year. Previously, Miami had indicated that, in the right circumstances, it would consider paying part or all of Nolasco's salary for the right talent, but it seems the holdup in the seemingly impending trade from last week was the issue of prospect talent versus paid money. The Los Angeles Dodgers were previously unwilling to surrender the kind of talent the Marlins were looking for and provide them full salary relief. In fact, Miami had to decrease its price just to make sure that the team could make a trade.
Obviously, money is a very important factor in anything the Marlins do, so this should come as no surprise for fans. It should not come before talent, however, and that is why fans are frustrated that the team seems unwilling to pony up Nolasco for better players with his salary paid by Miami. There has to be a middle ground somewhere, especially if talent is indeed the thing the Marlins are most interested in acquiring. Miami has to either offer to pay some amount for better players or lower its prices, and that will show where their loyalties lie.
Beyond the simple assets of talent and money, the Marlins have a few needs and interests of their own in the types of players they would like to acquire. The first type of player should not surprise anyone either: starting pitching is the Marlins' favorite asset. Despite the fact that the Fish are fairly deep in potential starters between the four young starters they have in the rotation now and players like Justin Nicolino, Andrew Heaney, Adam Conley, and Brian Flynn coming up in the near future, the Fish are always interested in acquiring new pitchers to add to their depth.
It helps that the primary depth on a lot of the teams that are discussing trades with the Marlins involve pitching. We already looked at the Dodgers and their potential return for Nolasco, and it all seemed to surround pitching talent. Similarly, other teams have a decent amount of unready pitching talent in the mid- to low-minors into whom the Marlins could invest in return for the team's trade assets.
The other aspect is simply that the Fish like pitching prospects. All they did for a while was draft prep pitchers (to no avail), the team cannot get enough of pitching depth, and it has wanted to brand itself as a "pitching and defense" team for more than a decade. The Marlins finally have the potential pitching talent that was not there in 2006 going forward, but the team knows that even top draft picks (Chris Volstad, anyone) fail.
The Marlins have very few players who can reliably slot into the future middle infield. The club has one low-minors prospect in Avery Romero who could play second base in the future. Austin Barnes may stay at second base, or he may be moved back to catcher permanently at some point. But the team has zero talent at shortstop behind Adeiny Hechavarria, with the majority of their shortstop prospects being expected to move off of the position by the time thy reach the majors.
The Marlins will not admit that Hechavarria and Derek Dietrich are not the future at their positions, but there are glaring question marks about both of them. Dietrich is an acceptable player with some power, but he is strikeout-prone and has shown poor plate discipline thus far. Hechavarria is a flawed offensive player on almost all fronts at this point. Neither has a great ceiling.
The Fish would be looking not necessarily to acquire impact talent in these areas, but rather to fill up their depth. At some point, the hope is that one of those young talents will figure it out and turn into a major leaguer.
The last focus for the Miami Marlins should be on a first baseman. The future of Logan Morrison is unclear with the team, and he could be on his way out as early as next season depending on his play and arbitration salaries. If the Marlins decide to trade him, they will find that they also have very little depth in that department. The only player in the team's minor league organization who has any sort of prospect status is Mark Canha, and he is 24 years old playing in Double-A and not hitting all that well, especially in terms of power. Like in the middle infield situation, the team could look to acquire depth, but the difference here is that there are almost no first base prospects that are the middling level whom the Fish could acquire.