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Marlins Trade Little Value At Trade Deadline, Acquire Potential In Return


The Miami Marlins completed two deals in the trade deadline today, trading reliever Edward Mujica to the St. Louis Cardinals for third base prospect Zack Cox, and dealing first baseman Gaby Sanchez and minor league reliver Ryan Kaminska to the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez and the Pirates' competitive balance draft pick.

Neither of these trades had the sort of team-wide magnitude that the deals the Marlins made last week had. Trading Mujica and Sanchez was not anything like trading Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, and Hanley Ramirez, three starting players on the major league roster. Mujica is a reliever, and in 2012 he was not a particularly good one. Sanchez struggled so badly in his first 196 PA in the majors that he lost a lot of major league potential that he had built up with his first two seasons as a starter. Neither player was going to make or break or even contribute significantly to the Marlins of 2012 or 2013 and beyond.

What is interesting about these otherwise uninteresting trades is that the Marlins did turn assets that had little value into potential for 2013 and beyond. That potential could easily turn into absolutely nothing, and there is a strong likelihood that it will. But the Marlins took two players with almost no trade value and turned them into potential future pieces, which is exactly what a selling team should be doing.

Mujica to St. Louis for Cox

The first trade of the day was a classic trade deadline sellers deal. The Marlins have done a number of these before from both sides, so the team should be familiar with the terms of the trade. On one end, the buyer is looking for a relief arm of some kind. On the other end, the seller is looking to pick off a prospect, perhaps one that is on a downturn in terms of perception, a name that one could see being tied to a reliever.

The Marlins came out decently ahead in trading Edward Mujica to the Cardinals for Zack Cox, if only because Mujica was going to mean nothing to the team very shortly. Mujica was entering his final season of arbitration and had already made $1.6 million in 2012 in his second arbitration year. It was very likely the Marlins would have to pay him $2 million or more as a final arbitration raise, and at that point the Fish would have simply chosen to non-tender him. That means in a few months, the Marlins would not even have Edward Mujica, meaning he provides no value to the team when they need it. Even for an acquiring team, you are getting almost replacement-level talent according ZiPS projections, and at best you may pick up one win total in one season and change, yielding surplus value of $2 million or less.

In return, the Marlins received Cox, who was a former first-round draft pick who has fallen on hard times but is just one year removed from a good season in High-A and Double-A combined. Cox hit a combined .306/.363/.434 in two levels in 2011, including a ,293/.355/.432 line (.350 wOBA) in Double-A. This was good enough to place him in Baseball America's top 100 at 88th, which means he still had some pedigree after his first real taste of professional baseball. This year's .254/.294/.421 line (.311 wOBA) in the Pacific Coast League is extremely disappointing, and because he had been passed over in the Cardinals' organization, they saw him as expendable. The Marlins did a good job of just buying low here on a first-round pick from just two season ago.

The Sanchez Trade

With the Sanchez trade, the Marlins dealt a former All-Star who never an All-Star level player but was once an average first baseman. After his terrible season line. his projections fell to just a .257/.332/.407 line (.324 wOBA). Such a player, even with his average or better defense, would only be worth 1.4 Wins Above Replacement as a first baseman, and the Marlins did not want to risk having to potentially pay such a player arbitration money by letting him arrive at Super Two status. In addition, with Logan Morrison likely requiring a move to first base next season, the Fish did not have a place for Sanchez and decided to get value however they could.

The return for a player like Sanchez, who may have somewhere between $2 million and $5 million in surplus or trade value, ended up being a backup, defense-only outfielder in Hernandez and the draft pick the Marlins will receive. Given that Hernandez is a former top prospect himself, one would think he would hold some trade value, but he has not been close to valuable in the last two seasons and did not make any prospect lists this year. He could turn out to be a more defensive version of Bryan Petersen or Scott Cousins, but without any hitting skills to speak of.

The Pittsburgh trade is really anchored by the acquired draft pick. The Marlins pick up the 33rd pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, and that selection is nothing to sneeze at. It is similar in value to the "sandwich" picks acquired for free agent compensation, and it does allow give the Marlins a bonus selection to help replenish their tattered farm system. Such picks held an average surplus value of $2.6 million in 2009 according to this 2009 Beyond the Box Score article. It is not much, but that draft pick makes up a decent chunk of what Sanchez was likely worth going forward. For the Marlins, they were in a position to take anything of value, so the Pirates rightfully snatched up a potential bounce back piece for very little in return.


The Fish probably came out with a fair return for Sanchez, and they did a good job in getting something of potential future value for a reliever in Mujica who held no value to the team anyway. Really, the club's two moves could easily be extremely inconsequential, as we could see no return for Cox or the draft pick we received. But for the Marlins, the victory here is for making some potential out of nothing and having a proper mindset amid a disappointing season in which the team was forced to turn "seller." If you are going to sell, at least do it right, and the Marlins did just that by ridding themselves of a reliever of no interest and a downfallen player not in their future plans. From that nothing, they built lottery tickets and some much need third base depth, at least.