clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Miami Marlins can thank New York Yankees for keeping them in NL Wild Card race

The 2014 trade that returned Martin Prado and David Phelps (plus cash) may propel Miami into the playoffs.

Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

It’s always tempting to rush to judgment after a trade is completed. Deadline acquisition Andrew Cashner, for example, is an easy punching bag after underwhelming again in Wednesday night’s loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The impending free agent is here to be a quality innings eater on an injury-depleted pitching staff, and so far has failed to fill that role (5.48 ERA, 4.69 FIP, 5.27 xFIP in 21.1 IP).

But the Miami Marlins remain relevant in the NL Wild Card Race. Cashner will receive more opportunities to validate the move down the stretch, and we still have no clue if the assets that the Marlins moved for the right-hander will come back to haunt them.

Meanwhile, 20 months removed from being traded by the Marlins, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi announced that he’s headed for a second Tommy John surgery:

The 2016 season has the potential to be one of the most memorable in franchise history if the team can make some noise in the playoffs. Regardless, Eovaldi’s setback is enough to award the Marlins a different sort of title—undisputed winners of their December 19, 2014 trade with the New York Yankees.

On that date, Miami flipped an expendable young starter, a replacement-level first baseman and a low-level prospect for Martin Prado, David Phelps and cash. You would be hard-pressed to find a single transaction that contributed more to the current team’s success.

Let’s review how it went down...

The 2014-15 offseason was a desperate time in Yankees Universe. For the second straight summer, the Bombers had missed the playoffs with a negative run differential. Their big-money signings from the previous offseason—Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran—fell short of expectations. Oh yeah, and Derek Jeter just said goodbye.

More specifically, their starting rotation was a mess (61 games started by rookies in 2014). One of their second-half stars, veteran right-hander Brandon McCarthy, agreed to a long-term deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers at the winter meetings. The Yankees’ 2013-14 spending spree prevented them from competing on the free-agent market. So their search for a controllable starter intensified.

The Yankees prioritized Eovaldi in an effort to improve without ballooning their payroll.
Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Miami’s aggressive moves made the two teams ideal trade partners. During the winter meetings, the Marlins hauled in Dan Haren (from the Dodgers) and Mat Latos (from the Cincinnati Reds). There was some doubt as to whether Haren would actually pitch for them, but there was a rotation spot waiting for him if he reported to spring training. Plus, Jose Fernandez—in the midst of Tommy John rehab—would be ready to reclaim his ace status by midseason and add to the surplus of arms.

This was a case of both sides trying to sell high: Eovaldi posted strong peripherals in his first full MLB season (career-best 3.37 FIP, 3.78 xFIP, 5.0 BB%); Prado rebounded from a sluggish first half to slash .316/.336/.541 (147 wRC+) in 37 games for the Yankees.

The full trade involved five players.

Marlins receive: RHP David Phelps, INF Martin Prado and $6 million

Yankees receive: RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Domingo German and 1B/OF Garrett Jones

In 2015-16, the Yankees spent $19.9M on the transaction ($13.9M for Eovaldi’s and Jones’ salaries, $6M to cover part of Prado’s contract). They have 3.4 fWAR to show for it. During those two seasons, the Marlins spent the same $19.9M for 8.5 fWAR (as of August 18).

Prado continues to defy Father Time at age 32. He’s been thrashing left-handed pitchers—MLB’s best batting average (.443) and second best wRC+ (197) against them—and manned third base throughout Miami’s record infield errorless streak. He’s been one of the National League’s most consistent hitters in 2016. The offense simply wouldn’t be the same had (incumbent third baseman) Casey McGehee remained in that spot.

Prado’s hot hitting and steady defense have made him one of the most valuable Marlins this season
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

As for Phelps? Michael Jong has the in-depth breakdown about his successful transition back to starting duty. He was a key cog in the bullpen from April through July when the team lacked a late-inning formula, and now he’s helping the thin rotation tread water. Phelps ranks fifth on the Marlins in innings pitched while owning the staff’s lowest earned run average (min. 20 IP).

There are still a few loose ends of the trade that haven’t been tied up yet. Domingo German might make an impact in the big leagues someday, though he only reached High-A ball last month. On the other hand, Miami could come out even further ahead if Prado ultimately commits to the club for the long term.

For now, Marlins fans can thank the Yankees—and their questionable judgment—for contributing so much to this year’s team.