The Miami Marlins have a decimated roster after last season's debacle, but that does not mean the Fish still do not have trade bait available to other teams. As we mentioned in yesterday's roster stability report, a number of Marlins have reached a point where they could become interesting trade options due to salary concerns, and there is always a lingering chance that Giancarlo Stanton declines a potential extension and immediately becomes the biggest name in the trade market before 2014.
So which players are the most important trade assets to watch this season? Let's take a look.
Stanton obviously represents the Marlins' biggest fish to send out in a potential deal. We have heard Stanton trade rumors all season long, but very few have come to the point where the Fish would be interested in a deal. Furthermore, Miami wants to build around Stanton in 2014, so the team seems adamant that it will not deal Stanton this offseason.
But the reality is that there will be a time to trade Stanton in the next year and a half, and if Miami does not get a contract extension commitment from him within that time frame, the Fish simply cannot avoid another Miguel Cabrera trade situation. Remember, Cabrera reached arbitration for the first time in 2007 and was dealt after that season as it became apparent Miami would be unable to lock him up long-term. The Fish have said that they will make an offer in due time, but they have either shuffled their feet or are concerned about him rejecting the offer. This is a critical season for Stanton trade rumors.
Who would be among the teams who could acquire Stanton? Familiar names like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers may still be in play. A number of other teams may show interest, and the Marlins have a lot of needs at multiple positions. If the Fish are to shore up their roster in a hurry, trading Stanton would be one efficient way to do it.
Cishek is entering his first season of arbitration and will only get more expensive after his expected $3.2 million salary this year. Cishek is a Super Two player, meaning he has three more arbitration years left after this one and could end up earning in excess of $26 million over the next four years. He is coming off the best season of his career and his first year as a full-time closer was a smashing success. There is no better time than now to capitalize on Cishek's trade value.
There are a few teams such as the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics who could use a closer, but the issue in the 2013-2014 offseason is that the free agent market is flush with options as well. Names like Grant Balfour, Rafael Betancourt, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, and Joe Nathan are all available, and there could be a smaller number of teams looking for upgrades at the position. The Marlins' Cishek is likely better than most, if not all of those players, but they would definitely demand a steep price in return for the team control of a two-plus win closer. The team could have to wait until the market plays out to see what teams still have bullpen needs.
Dunn essentially works as a lesser version of Cishek. He only has three years of team control, but they are likely going to be at cheaper prices. He is a left-handed reliever but can face both lefties and righties with decent effect, meaning he could be tried in a late-inning setup or closer role if needed. He has the velocity to impress people, and he too is coming off his best season. Teams looking in particular for a lefty late-innings guy could take a look at Dunn, who would command far less in return than Cishek.
The Marlins have the luxury of having four outfielders who could represent their starters in 2014. Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Jake Marisnick each hold various levels of promise and could play important roles next season. That leaves last year's center field starter, Justin Ruggiano, on the outside looking in. He is expected to earn $1.8 million in his first season of arbitration, and the Marlins are unlikely to want to pay money for a bench bat or fourth outfielder.
Then again, there is zero chance Ruggiano is simply let go, and other teams are well aware of his weaknesses at the plate. He is a solid defender at all three outfield spots and can hit for power, but teams know he has a penchant for strikeouts and has plate discipline issues as well. How much would they be willing to send back for a marginal starter?
Starting Pitching Depth
This is one interesting trade asset for the Fish because it is the only one that promises to improve the franchise for next season. Most of the other players are established pieces whose losses would hurt the 2014 Marlins, but the team could potentially plug a position of dire need with its excess starting pitching.
In addition to the untouchable Jose Fernandez and the likely untouchable Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Jacob Turner, the Marlins have a plethora of B-rated or better pitching prospects to offer in a deal. Andrew Heaney, Adam Conley, Brian Flynn, Justin Nicolino, and Anthony DeSclafani are all at varying levels of development, but each should be pitching at least in the Double- or Triple-A level next year. Two of those players could be traded away as part of a package to attain a prized middle infield or catching prospect if the Marlins were so inclined.
What teams would be interested in such depth? That is a little more difficult to find, given the fact that the franchise first needs to find a catching or middle infield prospect. Look to teams like the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres who have extra catchers on hand to be the first teams to whom the Marlins speak about a deal.