It is well known that the Miami Marlins are looking for starting pitching help along with a starting second baseman. THe Marlins, despite their apparent interest in Jon Lester, are also primarily searching for help that will stick around. Miami wants team-controlled talent and would like for any acquired players to be under control through 2015.
For starting pitching, that market appears to be running dry. Two names of interest connected to the Fish are Tommy Milone and Wade Miley (whom we considered in this article), but Arizona is not that interested in trading Miley and Milone may just not be good enough to be considered a significant upgrade. Lester and David Price are the biggest names on the market, but Miami does not have the talent for a package for Price and will almost assuredly just get two months of Lester barring a late-season miracle. The Fish may be aware of their 2014 limitations and may be looking to add to their core rather than try for a stretch run.
So the Fish have to happy about this news coming out of Houston. Here's Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Earlier this season, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told me that he was not interested in trading left-hander Dallas Keuchel or righty Collin McHugh, indicating that both could be part of the team’s future.
A shortage of available quality starting pitchers is creating a seller’s market as the non-waiver deadline approaches at 4 p.m. ET Thursday. And now Luhnow is open to trading Keuchel, McHugh or right-hander Jarred Cosart for the right return.
"We do seem to have an excess of pretty good young starters so we wouldn’t rule anything out," Luhnow said Monday. "We’d have to get back a big-league piece, preferably a bat, in a package that makes sense for the future and present."
Keuchel, McHugh and Cosart all have less than two years of major-league service. Any one of the three presumably could bring a hitter with comparable talent and service time in return.
-- Ken Rosenthal
Keuchel, McHugh, and to a lesser extent Cosart all fit Miami's desire to find quality starting pitching under team control for the long haul. Keuchel is under control through 2018, while McHugh is controlled through 2019. That means that both pitchers will be extremely cheap for some time, and both have been excelling so far this season. Keuchel made the Final Vote for the 2014 All-Star Game and has posted a 3.11 ERA and 3.02 FIP thus far this year. His game has been worth almost three wins so far for the Astros, and Miami had to be impressed with his most recent start against them. He struck out seven Marlins while walking none and allowing two unearned runs in seven innings.
McHugh also got a piece of the Fish on Saturday in the Marlins' sweep of the Astros. He struck out nine Marlins in 6 1/3 innings, but also gave up four runs and two homers en route to a loss. Overall, he has a 3.46 ERA and 3.62 FIP, and his new style has increased his strikeout rate to an egregious 27.9 percent after a low-strikeout start to his career.
The team control for the Marlins is highly appealing. Both players would be under pre-arbitration salaries next year, making them huge assets if they continued to pitch this well. Of course, neither is expected to be this good. Keuchel is projected for 1.8 wins per 180 innings according to ZiPS. Still, an almost league-average starting pitcher who could eat up a lot of innings on the cheap is exactly what the Marlins would like to have. Both would be fantastic fits for the club.
Which is exactly why there is no chance either player will be traded. Houston is in the same situation as the Marlins; on the cusp of being a playable team, with young talent coming up the pipeline. The Astros would like to have their versions of Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez supporting their versions of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez. In that case, the team just cannot afford to send out players under extremely cheap contracts like Keuchel and McHugh unless they get tremendous returns. Remember, a two-win player is worth $10 million to $12 million per season on the open market, and teams would line up to get that kind of asset for likely $10 million across four seasons.
The trade value for guys like Keuchel or McHugh at this point is probably too high for the Marlins. They would have to send two of their middle-tier pitching prospects and Jake Marisnick to get a discussion going, and that may be more than Miami would like to risk. It may still be a good move for the Fish, but at this stage, Miami may not want to pay the hefty price.