The Miami Marlins are at an interesting crossroads for the organization. On the one hand, they are unlikely to be able to stay competitive in the NL East in 2014 despite all of the positive vibes the team has elicited during their surprising first half. On the other hand, those positive vibes have probably been good for the organization and its young, developing players. Losing begets losing, or so the old thought goes, and perhaps it would be best for Miami to at least remain respectable for the rest of the year to teach their core talents on how to win.
The Marlins made the decision on whether to become buyers or sellers at the 2014 MLB trade deadline by not having enough talent to trade for impact players or to acquire young assets. Miami's best players, non-Giancarlo Stanton division, are young, cost-controlled players who will be on the roster for a few more seasons at least. Its older or more expensive players are not good enough to draw trade interest or expected to fill roles in future seasons.
The lone potential exception is Casey McGehee. The veteran third baseman, cast aside to Japan in 2013, has had a resurgent season in 2013. He fell just shy of a bid for the 2014 All-Star Game, but he posted worthy numbers thus far. He is hitting an impressive ..319/.387/.392 (.347 wOBA) and has been a two-win player for the Marlins thus far this season. He has upped his projection just enough that, going forward, Miami can expect one more win going forward. That would leave Casey McGehee, who just two seasons ago was a abject disaster, is now a three-win player this season.
McGehee is the exact combination of player for a team like the Marlins to trade. The Fish are sufficiently out of contention that it would require an absurd hot streak and two teams faltering or treading water for Miami to catch up. They are not talented enough to do that in 2014 in half a season. And McGehee is playing over his head, even with some of his real improvements, meaning that the Fish could get a heftier return with trade demand at its highest now more than ever.
But would Miami trade McGehee? And what could they get?
The Trade Value
McGehee right now is expected to put up a win going forward, and a big part of his value comes from his cheap salary. He would only make the prorated amount of his $1.1 million salary this season, meaning he'd make something along the lines of half a million for the rest of the year. Even if his bat regresses some, one would expect the power to perk up at some point; guys who hit 29 homers in Japan and own 62 career homers in 2444 plate appearances do not have power disappear overnight.
Let's assume he continues on this one-win pace per 237 plate appearances. That mark gives him at least $4.5 million in trade value this year, depending on how much you value a win in 2014. That's a deal, and worth a C-ranked prospect right now.
But the kicker is that McGehee has a secret year of team control left. He signed this contract on what would have been his second arbitration year. He made $1.5 million in 2012 in his first arbitration campaign, and after a fantastic year this season, you expect that number to jump. Let's say he would be slated to make $4 million next season. McGehee projects as a 2.2-win player, a little better than league average, in 600 plate appearances. A contender would be getting a total of $12.6 million in surplus value in picking up this year and a half of McGehee.
What is that worth? With that value, a deal could snag Miami a B-rated prospect, and Miami would ideally look for someone in the infield. Players of that caliber in the middle infield according to John Sickels of Minor League Ball before the 2014 season include Alen Hanson of the Pirates, Alexander Guerrero of the Dodgers, and Micah Johnson of the White Sox.
The market for third basemen is not great in 2014. Most teams who are competing have a better option than McGehee. But there are a number of teams who may be interested in McGehee under control for next year too, which could pull in some fringe contenders as well. This includes the bottom-barrel Phillies as well as other division rivals like the Atlanta Braves, who could use an upgrade over the awful Chris Johnson. The New York Yankees could be interested, with their hole at third base completely unfilled. The Royals are similarly both competing now and bereft of options after top prospect Mike Moustakas flamed out. The Angels' solution of David Freese clearly did not work.
Of the teams listed, the Royals and Angels may pose the most interesting candidates. Both teams have real shots at the playoffs, with the Angels just footsteps back of the Oakland Athletics and the Royals holding a decent chance at either the division or second Wild Card. Both teams need the upgrades and are not in the National League, where they might affect Miami's play in 2015.
Ultimately, the Miami Marlins will not trade McGehee. Despite the successful signing, the Fish have either designated him a centerpiece of the offense in the next year and a half or are simply holding onto him to appease Giancarlo Stanton to sign a long-term extension. With the team performing above expectations, Miami is afraid to send the wrong message to Stanton by trading his cleanup man behind him.
It would be a smart move for a franchise that might turn to Colin Moran at some point in the next year or two. But the Fish have the option of holding McGehee and seeing if he can keep up this performance. It is a losing bet, but the club could do worse than league average at third base next year after years of suffering at the position.