Earlier today, we discussed the Miami Marlins' lack of interest in selling at the trade deadline as of right now, because the Fish believe that the roster is not entirely lost and that the team will receive reinforcements midseason once a number of pitching injuries are overcome. Particularly, the return of Jose Fernandez should be a significant bump for the Marlins, who have been struggling to find pitching in his stead
The Fish have clear problems on their roster, problems that had been present before they began 20-31 on the season and been labeled a disappointment. The infield was always a question mark for seasons beyond 2016, as three of the four positions had no real prospective talents beyond that season. The depth of minor league pitching was used to acquire infield starters, but the Marlins went from long-term pitching options like Andrew Heaney or Anthony DeSclafani to shorter-term players like Mat Latos and Dan Haren, thus limiting their future rotations.
All of these weaknesses are compounded by the struggles in the early part of the season. As the team plays through June, it will have to ask itself whether it should be sellers at the deadline and, if so, what kind of players could even be sold from this roster. Interestingly, the Marlins have a unique roster blend that makes selling at the deadline difficult but also portends a scary future with a lack of minor league depth.
On the one hand, the Marlins have set core pieces who simply cannot be moved. Giancarlo Stanton is signed to a long-term contract that will keep him for at least six seasons, and Stanton wants to be in Miami provided they offer competitive teams. The team has surrounded him with two amazing young outfielders in Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, who themselves could be future All-Stars very shortly. Jose Fernandez, provided he recovers well from Tommy John surgery, is the team's second bonafide star. Given the team's acquisition of four years of Dee Gordon and his current early play, he may be entered into the mix as a core young player.
Those players are not likely to be traded. Thanks to a combination of team-friendly contracts or arbitration / pre-arbitration salaries and effectiveness, the Marlins would rather use them as foundational pieces rather than send them in a deal. Each would fetch a significant haul of various sizes, but they hold good present and future value for the Marlins on the roster.
Ineffective and Short-Term
On the far other end, the Marlins have ineffectiveness littering the rest of the roster. At first base, the team still has significant question marks in Justin Bour and Michael Morse. Adeiny Hechavarria is still a questionable, if not improved, player. Martin Prado represents certain value, but only for 2015 and 2016. The pitching staff is now in relative disarray behind Fernandez, with Henderson Alvarez injured and other pitchers failing to impress.
Of the players listed, very few of them are available as trade options at the deadline. Prado makes the most sense as someone who is performing passably right now and is on an affordable contract. Dan Haren would make sense as well given his current performance. However, the rest of the group is too ineffective or questionable to be considered either trade bait for a selling team to dangle or a future long-term piece.
Lack of Depth
Normally, a roster would have at least minor league avenues to address those holes. The Marlins, however, have depleted their minor league depth through various questionable means. The team's top prospects were dealt in separate trades to try and acquire Major League talent. Andrew Heaney was dealt along with a litany of other players, useful or not, in the Gordon deal. Both Jake Marisnick and Colin Moran were traded last season to acquire Cosart.
In Heaney and Moran, the Marlins sent away two first-round college draftees from their last two drafts. The team already promoted their previous two first rounders, Fernandez and Yelich, to the big league roster. In fact, the Marlins were forced to deplete much of their minor league system to either support the main group or send off on trades. As a result, the Fish owned the 29th-ranked system in baseball according to Minor League Ball's John Sickels heading into this season. The team's fast promotions and deals to get singular Major League contributors or other short-term players leave the club incapable of promoting new talent to fill current holes or trade any remaining talent to acquire new players.
Win Now Team
Very few teams are organized in such a fashion, but due to this difficulty in improving the roster via minor league promotion, the club is now stuck in the opposite direction by default. With so many young, valuable assets, the Marlins would be hard-pressed to tear down and sell off for the umpteenth time in the team's checkered history. The club's only real option is to try and contend right now.
Usually, team's with a lacking farm system and a need to contend now are left with the proposition of using free agent signings to fill gaping holes. Unfortunately, that has never been the Marlins' modus operandi, as Jeffrey Loria has always been loathe to spend money on the roster. However, with no farm depth and no realistic assets to use to gain that depth, that may be Miami's only option for the short term.