The Miami Marlins may have some trades on their mind in addition to considering smaller options out of free agency. The team could acquire a few players for a run next season, especially if they find free agency too weak to utilize or the options too limited. If the Marlins do that, we already considered a few trade targets earlier today on the site.
But recall that the Marlins may yet turn to another direction, especially if they do not feel that they can acquire players worthy of a contract past 2013. Rather than try and trade for another asset for 2013, the Marlins could also use trades much like they did at the midseason mark of 2012. The team could instead trade a few of their remaining large one-year deals to interested parties looking for a one-year rental and receive a prospect load or salary relief in return. This is an option in case the Marlins do not feel 2013 is a worthwhile endeavor or if the team cannot acquire the pieces required to improve the team for next season.
With that said, which players do the Marlins have who can be dealt for current or future parts to help the club? These are some of the names most likely to be traded if the team does look for a move.
The Marlins have a big decision to make involving Johnson, and it will hinge on whether the team wants to extend him beyond next season. If the Marlins think Johnson is a foundation piece for the next four or five seasons, the team should work hard to extend him to a long-term contract this season before risking losing him to free agency. Had the team considered themselves significantly interested in contending, it may have been worth keeping Johnson for one season with no desire to sign him long-term, but with the team's decreasing payroll, it seems unlikely that the Marlins can make enough moves, even with Johnson on board, to push the team into contention. As a result, one year of Johnson without possibility of extension is not particularly useful to the team.
Johnson would be the most realistic attractive "seller" trade option on the Marlins, as the team has no other major players of interest whom the team is interested in trading. If the Marlins make a move, there is a strong likelihood that Johnson could net them one top-100 prospect in return in a one-for-one trade. It is less likely that, even after a healthy season, Johnson will net the Marlins someone like Mike Olt, who was involved in trade rumors with Johnson earlier in the year. But like the deal for Hanley Ramirez, it is very possible the Marlins can come up with a good prospect who is close to major league-ready without much effort or any salary returning from the Marlins.
The Marlins are more willing to trade Nolasco, who is entering his final year with the team for $11.5 million, but teams are a lot less willing to acquire the righty starter after three straight seasons of struggles despite good peripherals. At this stage, it would not be surprising if he was more of a salary dump to open up a rotation spot and financial flexibility for free agency in 2013 than a trade option who could net the team assets. Still, a team looking for a fifth starter with some upside could look to the Marlins provided they would be willing to take most of Nolasco's salary off of their hands.
Christian Yelich / Jose Fernandez
These two players are the Marlins' absolute best prospects, and the likelihood is that the team would not trade either of them unless the club can find an elite return. But if the Fish want to pursue one of the bigger names in the trade market such as Chase Headley, David Wright, and Justin Upton. If those players, all of whom are immediate and major upgrades to the current roster's options, become available in a trade involving one of the two major prospects on the team, it would be hard-pressed for the Marlins to not consider the move fair. Both Yelich and Fernandez hold similar trade value close to $15 million, so trading one makes definitely makes sense for any one of the three players listed there.
The only question is whether the Marlins are interested in acquiring a more expensive asset with known qualities for 2014 and on versus keeping one of their young prospects who could develop into a star at reduced prices fairly soon. There is no way to tell whether Fernandez will turn into the next Josh Beckett or Yelich into someone like Giancarlo Stanton, so the Marlins would not be blamed for chasing after the more "sure thing" option. At the same time, Yelich and Fernandez are the best non-Stanton prospects the Marlins have had in years, and both seem like they have the best chances to pan out starting as early as 2014. Should the Marlins consider trading one of their potential future centerpieces for a more guaranteed 2014 option?