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Fernando Rodney trade: Marlins once again give up too much for reliever

The Marlins trade one of their best pitching prospects for Fernando Rodney, a good but inconsistent reliever. Was it too much?

San Diego Padres v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Miami Marlins traded one of their few interesting prospect names in pitcher Chris Paddack, a former eight-round draft pick who has had a fantastic recent run, in order to acquire San Diego Padres reliever Fernando Rodney. Rodney, the 39-year-old closer who just signed a one-year rehabilitation deal with the Padres this past offseason, was having a spectacular year in San Diego. He is boasting a 0.31 ERA and 2.32 FIP with a resurgent 30.3 percent strikeout rate that now makes him look more like the guy who suddenly was legitimate again for the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners a few years ago.

To acquire a bullpen piece like this, the Fish dealt one of the best prospects in the system and one of the few promising names in their farm. Paddack was an eighth-rounder but immediately established himself as a fast-riser. Based on our consensus rankings from before 2016, Paddack was ranked 13th in the system, but FanGraphs had him second only to Tyler Kolek before the year. It’s clear FG’s Dan Farnsworth had it nailed, because Paddack should be approaching top-100 status by year’s end. He is having a terrific year in Low-A Greensboro, posting a 0.95 ERA and 1.55 FIP with an absurd 49 percent strikeout rate versus just two walks in 28 1/3 innings. That’s bananas.

On one hand, you can understand the Marlins’ impatience. The team is 41-37 and currently holds a Wild Card spot in the National League, a statement that would have surprised most fans before the season. The big league roster is flawed, but it has a great chance to succeed even more once some of its talent returns to form, most notably the recovering Giancarlo Stanton. You cannot fault the Marlins for going for it in 2016.

But we knew they would have a hard time acquiring impact talent with a broken-down farm system ranked 29th in baseball before the start of the year. It is really hard to buy talent when you do not have a lot of farm guys to give up, and the Fish shot perhaps one of their best remaining bullets to acquire not half a season of a starter like Rich Hill (suggested earlier today), but half a year of a relief pitcher.

And we’re not talking about Aroldis Chapman, a guy with an ironclad track record for success. Rodney spent last season posting a 4.74 ERA and 4.92 FIP in 62 2/3 ugly innings. Rodney has really only been a great reliever for three-plus seasons in his entire career.

Let’s not forget that the Marlins have done this before. They once traded Adrian Gonzalez, at the time a top-50 prospect, for half a year of Ugueth Urbina to take over the closer role from a competent Braden Looper. It helped; Urbina dominated the second half, the Marlins made the playoffs and won their second World Series. It may be a reason why the Fish feel so confident that a reliever can make the difference in 2016. Urbina, oddly enough, had a similar short-term track record for dominance like Rodney, though he was 10-plus years younger than him at time of acquisition.

Miami is favoring the present, and the honest truth is Paddack is still a relative unknown, though he was probably close to the best relative unknown in the team’s system. Rodney is a dirt cheap player earning only $2 million in total this year. This move does make the Marlins better in 2016, but the question is whether it was enough to warrant dealing their best shot at a top-100 prospect. Like last time, the visceral reaction is probably "no." Miami may have been better off saving this type of bullet for a starting pitcher who can make more of an impact over a larger span of innings rather than a reliever who was bad as recently as seven months ago.