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Mat Latos trade: Marlins do not pay salaries, likely to get lesser returns from Dodgers

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The Miami Marlins gave up Michael Morse and his currently dead-weight salary along with promising starter Mat Latos to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but with no money paid, chances are the Fish will not receive much in return.

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Once again, the Miami Marlins make offseason moves before the year with the plan to contend, and once again the team's actual outcomes are bad enough to force a sale of the players they acquired.

This time around, the Fish were able to get out of salary commitments for starting pitcher Mat Latos and first baseman Michael Morse by trading them to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Fish also sent over their competitive balance pick in 2016; this is the third straight season in which Miami has forfeited its competitive balance selection. In return, the Marlins will receive three pitching prospects in the minors, though their names have yet to surface.

Earlier last week, we went over the trade value of Mat Latos, and we found that he was probably worth a low-level prospect at this point in the season. With likely $4.5 million remaining in salary for the rest of the year, Latos would have been worth about $3 million in surplus trade value. That would not have been enough to net someone of interest without Miami chipping in with some salary relief.

The Fish were never going to do such a thing, and they turned to the Dodgers instead to find salary relief in the form of dumping off Michael Morse. The Marlins were committed for another $11 million through 2016 for Morse, and clearly the club felt buyer's remorse for making what appeared to be a reasonable move at the time. Since then, Morse has struggled mightily and lost his starting job to Justin Bour, making him dead weight much like Garrett Jones was at the end of last season. In this case, the Marlins are using Latos's value to try and rid themselves of Morse and his contract and unburden their salary load for next year.

All of this points to one likely scenario: much like the Ricky Nolasco trade of 2013, the Marlins are unlikely to receive an interesting package of players in return.

Two years ago, the Fish dealt Nolasco to the (guess who?) Los Angeles Dodgers but declined to pay any of the remaining $6 million left on Nolasco's deal. The nouveau-rich Dodgers took on all of Nolasco's salary, but traded back three nondescript prospects in return. Two years later and only one of them is still with the Marlins' organization.

The likelihood of something like that happening this season with this trade seems even more possible. Miami did deal a legitimate, if small, trade piece in the improving Latos, but they also sent Morse, who at this point is owed more than he is worth. To alleviate some of that displaced value, the Marlins had to send yet another competitive balance draft pick, which seems like the opposite of what a team trying to rebuild a farm system would want to do. Still, Latos and the draft pick likely only come close to offsetting the cost of sending Morse. The draft pick alone could be worth something like $6 million or $7 million in surplus value based on research done elsewhere.

What does that mean for Miami? It means that the primary value of this trade for the Marlins was getting rid of Morse's contract. The return of prospects may end up being a marginal afterthought for the Fish. Miami paid up to get rid of Morse's deal, so now they may take any number of mediocre lottery tickets to try and get any value. The odds of them receiving value, however, is likely very low, even for a deep organization like the Dodgers. Just like with Nolasco, the team emphasized saving money over adding better players, and the infusion of minor league talent is unlikely to make a dent on the team's already-poor system.

The return itself has yet to be announced, so this could be wrong depending on whom the Marlins acquired. But given the financials of the situation, it seems like the Fish pulled a salary dump deal again and are likely to get very little talent in return.