The Miami Marlins are facing a tough question this upcoming trade deadline. With the team far behind in the standings and unlikely to catch up to any playoff contenders, the club has to consider what to do in what should shape up to be another interesting deadline of acquisitions. Do the Marlins participate in the events, and should they be looking to be buying up talent for a 2016 (or 2015?) run or will they be better off selling parts for a better future? President of baseball operations Michael Hill will have to make a careful decision about the future of this team.
Can he make the right choice? What is the right choice for the 2015 Miami Marlins? Buy or sell?
The Choice: Sellers
The choice to sell is the best choice for Miami. After all, the Marlins are floundering in 2015 and they need an infusion of talent into the roster. The 2015 squad was marred by injuries, yes, but at this point, parts of the roster are simply no longer fits for the future. Acquisitions like Dan Haren and Mat Latos were one-year moves geared toward contention this year, but with the Marlins well out of contention at this point, those types of players seem expendable.
The lack of contention point cannot be understated here. The Marlins are officially out of any chance to compete in 2015. The team is second to last in the National League, ahead of only the lowly Philadelphia Phillies (who just swept them in a three-game series, by the way). The Phillies are on the downside and have veteran players, so their plans are clearly to sell. However, teams above the Marlins have also begun the process of entering the seller's market. The Cincinnati Reds are 3.5 games better than the Marlins but are looking to offload a number of players, not only in the short-term rental side (Johnny Cueto) but the decent upside long-term players (Jay Bruce). Ditto for the Milwaukee Brewers, who are at least listening to offers for star talent like Carlos Gomez despite being 2.5 games ahead of Miami. The San Diego Padres made big overhauls this past offseason and are 6.5 games out of the Wild Card, but they too plan on sending out veterans like Justin Upton and even Craig Kimbrel.
Those teams see their current situations and realize that their teams could use the influx of young talent over the slim chances to compete. The Marlins are even worse off, both from a future talent standpoint and from a contention point. They are further behind than those clubs and their farm system is now completely depleted of talent. Due to the dependence of the team on minor league talent and their recent trades of two former first-round draft picks and top-100 prospect talents, Miami has little in the way of reinforcements, especially in the position player department. If the club wants to build for a future around Giancarlo Stanton, it may need to find future talent that is not currently on the roster, or at least bolster depth in case of injury.
How Far to Sell?
The question then becomes how far the Marlins have to go in their selling. Traditionally, when Miami is a seller, it sells hard. Witness the 2012 deadline trades and subsequent offseason teardown of a roster that, while flawed, may have worked with tweaks in 2013. Miami has rarely decided to send some players away while keeping a majority of others as part of a basic core.
Could the Fish go that 2012 route this season? It seems unlikely. Miami will not trade Giancarlo Stanton or Jose Fernandez anytime soon, and Christian Yelich appears more than safe after signing a long-term extension. There are no other core talents of whom the Marlins could rid themselves. Too many players who have value are too injured or ineffective to deal at this low-value situation. The rest of the Marlins are low on talent and may not fetch much of significance for Miami. Beyond that, the club has very little in the way of replacements for those players at the big league level.
The more likely (and smarter) gameplan would be for the Marlins to pursue a strategy that sees them sell any short-term assets for smaller gains. Players like Dan Haren and Mat Latos serve no purpose for the 2015 Marlins because they do not figure into the team's 2016 plans. Those players are better served elsewhere, and the Marlins are better served cashing in on potential future pieces. An excellent example of this was when Miami squeezed value out of half a season of Casey McGehee and acquired Kendry Flores in the deal.
Who is Available?
The question now becomes who is available on Miami for sale. There is a spectrum of players that extends beyond the one-year rentals of Haren and Latos who could be available for trade offers for Miami, and they would hold various levels of interest from other teams. In the next few days, we will go over some of those players and what Miami should expect out of them as we approach the trade deadline.