The Miami Marlins have a number of holes to fill in their potential 2013 roster, as we detailed yesterday. While the team may be available to sign free agent options this offseason, that is not the only route to filling the problem areas on the team. The Marlins could look to be even more aggressive and pursue a trade target rather than worrying about finding someone in a slim free agent market.
The advantage of pursuing a trade target for the Marlins is that the team can find more available options than those seen in one of the weaker free agent markets in recent years. This is especially true for a Marlins team that is suddenly less interested in top-tier targets thanks to a decreased $80 million payroll. A number of potential trade targets are on far more affordable deals than the top free agents that are in the market this season, and depending on the players involved, some of those trades may even involve the Marlins ridding themselves of a remaining undesirable contract as well. If anything, it opens up more options for the Marlins.
The downside, as we will detail later today, is that the Marlins lack the trade assets that are really required to go after some of the supposedly premium talent available in the trade market. Even if the team wanted to acquire those players, they may not have the assets necessary to make a deal possible.
The following players are available for trade for their respective teams or will be available under the right circumstances, but by no means are they the most likely deals so much as they are the ones at positions of need for the Fish.
Many teams thought Chase Headley would be available at the trade deadline in 2012, but with the surge of the San Diego Padres and Headley's breakout campaign, the Padres decided to hold on and allow him to finish building value before deciding whether he would be a windfall trade candidate or a future core part of their franchise. You cannot blame them given Headley's season, as he put up an amazing .286/.376/.498 (.378 wOBA). When you account for the effect of Petco Park, his offensive line ranked as the ninth-best in 2012, behind only MVP candidates and elite sluggers.
Headley did hit .289 with a .374 OBP in 2011, which is very similar to what he did this season. But he also added a ton of power to a previously pop-less game, achieving a .210 ISO after never hitting more than a .151 ISO in his career. Headley hit a career-best 31 home runs in one of the worst power parks in baseball and still maintained his classically good walk rates. He is also considered at worst an average defender at third base.
The problem with this name is that the Marlins, along with any other team, may have to overpay massively to acquire Headley, as the Padres may very well find him a piece around whom to build their team after his career year. Right now, his value with two years of team control remaining is at its very highest, and he has never come close to performing at this level, so trading the farm to acquire him may be a risky proposition.
Opposite Headley is the Cadillac of trade candidates at third base, David Wright. Wright has only one season remaining in his first contract extension with the New York Mets, and while New York is more than interested in signing a long-term extension with him, the team may still have to trade him if they cannot get an extension done. Any team trading for Wright would have to give up the house to get him, even with only one guaranteed season remaining. But unlike in the case of Headley, teams generally have an idea of whom they will be receiving in Wright, In 2012, he hit .301/.391/.492 (.376 wOBA) after a career line of .301/.381/.506 (.380 wOBA). Even after Wright's curious second-half collapse, it is generally accepted that acquiring him is more of a "sure thing" than chasing Headley.
But of course, the problem with acquiring Wright is the same issue the Mets have right now: there is no guarantee that any team would secure an extension. It is unlikely that Wright's trade value would be as high as it likely is right now without the guarantee that they will have him for the next five or six seasons as well. Wright's trade value is at most $15 million for his final season, so no trade should include the sort of top-tier prospects whom the Mets are likely requesting. In addition, the Mets may specifically have issues with trading within the division to the likes of the Marlins.
Upton has $38.5 million remaining through 2015 thanks to a six-year, $51.25 million extension. He is also coming off of a season very typical to his poor campaign from two years ago, the first season in which Upton trade rumors became en vogue. Upton's decrease in strikeouts from 2011 remained, and his walk rate actually increased from that season. He also hit a respectable .280 batting average with a fairly typical .355 OBP. The problem is that he lost a good deal of power, hitting only 17 home runs and hitting a .150 ISO.
Upton's trade value has vacillated with his performances from season to season, but this may be the best "down year" that he has had in his career, so the trade talks should involve similar players to the ones we heard about last season. The Marlins have been tied to trade talks about Upton in the past, and if he would be willing to move to left field, the team could at least consider a move if it involved only one of their two big prospect names.
Choo is a major trade target for a number of teams, if only because he only has one season left with the Cleveland Indians and remains one of the better right fielders in baseball. For the Marlins, he would have to move to left field, but he would fill an outfield spot fairly easily for the team. He is coming off of a bounce back season after a poor 2011, having hit .283/.373/.441 (.359 wOBA), and while the defensive statistics did not think of much of him this past season, he was never as bad as he was recorded this season and it is possible that he will return to being an average corner outfielder.
The addition of Choo may cost an acquiring team a lot less than the three other major trade targets due to his contract situation. However, there is a question of whether it is worth going after a one-year rental for the corner outfield. Then again, if the team can promote Christian Yelich by 2014, the Marlins may think trading some decent but unspectacular assets and paying Choo's final arbitration salary may be better than spending $10 million on a more chancy option for one year. However, given the one-year nature of this move and the likely cost that Cleveland will demand, Choo seems like a less likely deal for the Fish.