The Miami Marlins could have some interesting players to trade before the 2016 season in this sort of middle-ground year in which the team does not expect to be competitive but does not plan to sell out entirely. The team could gather prospects for the coming seasons, when the club might be expected to be better. Martin Prado and A.J. Ramos prove to be intriguing names for more competitive teams who could bring future talent to the roster.
What kind of talent? Let's identify some teams interested in second or third basemen or relief pitchers for the back of the pen and see what players they have available.
Remember from our articles regarding Prado and Ramos. A reasonable team may see both players worth about $8 million in surplus or trade value in the market. That may be enough to snag a player just outside the top 100 prospects.
The in-division Mets would be a questionable choice for trade partner given the team's rivalry. However, the Mets fit the needs for both players. Prado would be an excellent addition for a club that might lose Daniel Murphy and suffered through a season's worth of David Wright injuries. Prado would add fantastic depth and a regular starter with a similar mold to Murphy, a consistent contact presence but at a fraction of Murphy's eventual cost. The Mets also could use more bullpen depth behind Jeurys Familia.
Of course, this would depend on the Mets not acquiring Ben Zobrist, and they seem to be the frontrunners for the elite utility star. But if they don't acquire him, there are not a whole lot of better options outside of Prado for utility-capable starters.
The problem with the Mets is that they do not have the type of players the Marlins are looking for, mostly pitching talent. The Marlins might buy low on a guy like Rafael Montero, who spent all of 2015 injured with rotator cuff surgery. Outside of that, too many of their starters are either elite talent already in the majors, like Steven Matz or Noah Syndegaard, or coming off bad or injured seasons. Miami could pursue a position player like Brandon Nimmo, though that may be over their heads with their bait. It might just be a tough match.
The Angels are always in need of current talent to support the elite Mike Trout. The problem with the Angels is a lack of talent available to trade. Years of failing to develop big names and using every player possible to augment their roster have left their system almost as bare as Miami's.
The best bet for the Marlins might be Nicholas Tropeano, a right-hander rated as a B- prospect by John Sickels of Minor League Ball last season. He is no barn-burner, as he throws in the low 90's with his fastball from the right side. However, he can garner strikeouts, as he whiffed 24.4 percent of batters he faced in Triple-A last year thanks to a deceptive changeup. He may be a nice piece to the cadre of depth back-end starters like Justin Nicolino that the team has.
The Royals have a clear need at second base, with the team's incumbent Omar Infante struggling in the second year of his three-year free agent deal. Getting Prado from the Marlins and moving Infante back to a super-sub role on the bench would give the Royals tremendous flexibility in case of injury. Prado is likely a two-win upgrade from Infante, depending on how you feel his second base defense might turn out.
The Royals have two interesting pitching prospects previously ranked right outside the top 100. Kyle Zimmer is a former first-round draft pick who recovered from shoulder surgery the previous year and worked half of his time in the bullpen last season to good results. Zimmer has the talent but has had major durability questions, but he might be a swing-high candidate for the Marlins, as he has the talent to be a front-line starter and may end nicely in the bullpen if he cannot stay healthy enough.
The more floor-conscious move might be for right-hander Miguel Almonte. Almonte sits low- to mid-90's on his fastball and is effective with three pitches. He has flashed decent strikeout totals all throughout his minor league career that match the good stuff, which includes a nice curveball that is still developing. He moved quickly from Double-A to Triple-A to the bigs out of the pen last year and could be a nice back-rotation piece as early as this season for Miami, giving the team some immediate present value.
If the Blue Jays want some additional help in their bullpen, Ramos would be a strong addition to that back end and could support Roberto Osuna or take over at closer if Osuna is to be moved to the rotation. Either way, such an acquisition would bolster a difficult bullpen situation for a contending club.
The Jays have dealt a lot of their interesting names, as the team made two major blockbuster trades at the deadline last year for David Price and Troy Tulowtizki. One prospect to keep an eye for the Fish would be Sean Reid-Foley, who is a hard-throwing prep right-hander drafted in the second round in 2014 who has decent upside either in the rotation or pen. The downside is that he is a straight-thrower of the Nathan Eovaldi variety and would be something of a project, as he still walks too many hitters right now despite a strong year in Low- and High-A.
The Twins badly need bullpen help, and the Marlins could capitalize on that by dropping off Ramos and Mike Dunn in one fell swoop, acquiring prospects in return. Both players would be great support pieces for closer Glen Perkins, and Ramos could be pegged to replace him as the younger righty may be the better option at this point.
The Twins might be able to trade one downtrodden relief option in return for Ramos. Alex Meyer is a former top prospect, but he was moved to the bullpen after struggling in Triple-A in a repeat campaign one year after doing a good job at that level. Meyer has command issues but easy right-handed velocity, and the Marlins could always re-mold him into a starter after a wasted season with Minnesota.
If the Marlins wanted to go bigger, they could capitalize on another questionable season from a top prospect in former first-rounder Kohl Stewart. Stewart had a Nicolino-esque good year in terms of ERA and bad in terms of peripherals, and maybe that would be enough to pry him out of Minnesota's hands. He has lost some ace shine and is far more likely to be a mid-rotation workhorse, but the Marlins could use that as well.