The first move that the Miami Marlins should accomplish under the 2014 Fish Stripes Marlins Offseason Plan is to secure one of their own. The Marlins should lock up Giancarlo Stanton at right field for the long haul, but this would be the last year the team could realistically do it on the cheap.
But while Miami would then be set in right field, they would still be lacking in other positions. The team is clearly lacking talent in the up-the-middle defensive positions in the infield, as catcher, second base, and shortstop should be considered major needs for the franchise. The Marlins have a few options in the minors at second base, but as of right now they feel they are stuck with Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop and Jeff Mathis and a set of mediocre minor league prospects at catcher.
In one fell swoop, the Marlins could fill two of those three needs in the short- and long-term with a little talk with the Los Angeles Angels.
The Marlins have a plethora of starting pitchers on their team, starting with the untouchable Jose Fernandez and continuing into a trio of solid young starters who appear at least league average and a set of five pitching prospects at the Double-A level or higher in 2014. Pitching is the one of the two positions where Miami can claim it has depth, and it also happens to be the position where the Angels have the most need. The Angels are offering Howie Kendrick and his somewhat expensive contract along with one of their two catchers in an attempt to get cost-controlled pitching and get under the luxury tax threshold.
Enter the Marlins and their surprising amount of salary space.
The Marlins could offer one of their three young starters in Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, or Jacob Turner in order to grab the Angels' assets in a deal. They would also likely have to trade one of their pitching prospects to acquire both assets, and it is possible they could sweeten the pot with one of their relievers. That leads to the following proposed trade:
Marlins trade: Henderson Alvarez, Steve Cishek, and either Brian Flynn/Adam Conley/Anthony DeSclafani
Angels trade: Howie Kendrick, Hank Conger
Let's look at the pieces in terms of expected value and expected salary. For this, we'll use Steamer projections that are currently available.
The addition of the pitching prospect may be worth something like $7.3 million or more, according to this Sky Kalkman Beyond the Box Score article citing various sources from 2009. Since then, the price has likely gone up and should be inflated in the evaluation of the deal.
As you can see, the value of Henderson Alvarez and Hank Conger is unlikely to be all that different. Both players are slightly above average players who are cost-controlled for an extended period. A swap between them might have been enough to pull off a deal on its own.
Why Alvarez? Alvarez is the best pitcher projected for next year among the trio of starters, but he also likely has the lowest ceiling of the three. At the same time, a better performance and recent history point to Alvarez being the most attractive option; after all, he did just throw a no-hitter on the final game of the regular season. But Turner has better pedigree and could become a more dangerous pitcher with better control, and Eovaldi has a wicked fastball that may have surpassed Alvarez's sinker as a pitch. Both players have better chances of becoming stars. Alvarez depends a lot on ground balls, which makes him dependent on the whims of any given stadium and its home-run tendencies. He does not bring strikeouts or great control to the table.
Meanwhile, trading Cishek or, if possible, Mike Dunn would be ideal for the Marlins. Both players are coming off of their best season and will only get more expensive as relievers in the coming years. Cishek, in particular, figures to pick up a lot of money as a Super Two player, with a ceiling of near $10 million in his final team control year. With the Marlins not competing next year, they do not need the luxury of a good pitcher for just 65 innings and could use either him or Dunn as trade bait.
The final piece of the puzzle would be one of the pitching prospects. The Marlins in this case would give up only their three lower-tier prospects in either Flynn, Conley, or DeSclafani. Flynn would not be ideal because the Fish would like to test him in the majors this year, as he is the only one of the three to throw a full year in Triple-A. Conley is the next in line for a Major League spot, and that may entice the Angels more than DeSclafani, who is a few months older and only at the Double-A level.
On the other side, the Marlins get a chance to fill two positions of need. Kendrick is the better current player, as he is projected to be decently above average and is very likely to deliver on that promise. For the last three seasons, Kendrick has hit .289/.333/.434 (.333 wOBA), and that compares very similarly to his career line (.292/.329/.429, .330 wOBA) and is only a bit better than his expected line next year (.276/.321/.416, .321 wOBA). He is a relative metronome compared to what the Marlins have run out there after Dan Uggla. Kendrick would only be under control for two more years at around $9 million a year, but those are a pittance compared to what an above average player should be paid in the bigs nowadays, and the Marlins would still get about $9 million in surplus value in acquiring him.
Conger is the prize of the deal, however. The Marlins may one day have to choose between Jacob Realmuto or Rob Brantly at catcher for the long haul if they do not make an acquisition, and neither player at this point inspires confidence. Jeff Mathis is a black hole of value, as he is consistently a replacement-level player. But Conger is both acceptable at the plate (projected .245/.310/.394 line in 2014) and behind it (two runs below average by DRS in 1120 innings caught). Plus, there is the potential that Conger has some talent in pitch-framing that could contribute significant numbers of runs that we do not credit the catcher.
How does this trade package look in terms of surplus value?
|Angels Receive||Surplus Value ($mil)||Marlins Receive|
|Total: 57.6||Total: 57.6|
Despite the fact that the numbers were fudged a little thanks to the use of older studies on value, it is possible this deal is as even as it appears. Both teams would certainly get what they want. The Angels getting cost-controlled Major League starter and another potential one to fill out their lower rotation. The Marlins would get answers at second base and catcher while trading from need.
How does this deal fit the team's budget? Alvarez and Conger are essentially a wash, and the Marlins would pick up only $5.8 million in salary this year. Next year, the addition would likely cost the Fish only $4.5 million over Cishek's salary. As we noted before, Miami may have up to $16 million to spend this offseason, so the addition of just $6 million should do very little to their salary status. If the Angels insist, they may even get a cheaper reliever like Dunn (scheduled to make $1.4 million this year) if they do not want the closer salary burden. That would change the addition to the Marlins' payroll to $7.6 million. The Fish may even consider taking on a smaller dead salary on the Angels if need be.
What do you Fish Stripers think? Is this a good move for Miami or a bad one? Who blinks first with this offer on the table? Let us know in the comments!