The Miami Marlins will be making some critical personnel decisions leading up to Monday afternoon’s non-waiver trade deadline. They have already begun to sell veterans in an effort to resuscitate a weak farm system, but must be particular about the minor league prospects coming back in return. These young players could wind up as core pieces on the next great Marlins team! After all, both of the franchise’s World Series championships were made possible by previous deadline deals, which we will revisit below.
This conversation focuses on trades completed during the peak of player movement, defined here as the window between the beginning of the All-Star break and the non-waiver deadline (usually July 31). The Marlins have been involved in dozens of transactions that fit this criteria. I did the dirty work of narrowing it down to three that were heavily one-sided in Miami’s favor.
Refresh your memory with the summaries of these trades, cast your vote in the poll, and let’s hope the Fish can eventually cherish one of their 2017 moves as much as these heists.
Marlins acquire 2B Craig Counsell from Colorado Rockies for RHP Mark Hutton (July 27, 1997)
Exactly 20 years ago, the Marlins ran out of patience with Luis Castillo. In the midst of the first legitimate pennant race in franchise history, the former top prospect showed no signs of overcoming his brutal slump (slashing .183/.261/.204 during the previous two months). They couldn’t afford to continue giving away at-bats as the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants threatened their hold on the NL Wild Card.
Counsell had been thriving for the Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate (.335/.409/.489, 12 SB in 96 G). Then again, lots of 26-year-olds spending a third straight summer in the Pacific Coast League would do the same.
It’s rare to see a contender like the Marlins subtract from the major league roster, but Hutton wouldn’t be missed. Manager Jim Leyland had been using the tall Australian in a mop-up role throughout June and July. So this was a low-key deal all the way around.
Immediately, Florida’s new second baseman exceeded expectations. Counsell reached base in 15 of his first 16 games with the Fish, slashed .299/.376/.396 with a 109 wRC+ through season’s end, dominated the first two rounds of the 1997 postseason, and came up clutch again with a World Series title on the line.
Counsell was one of the few meaningful contributors to survive the 1998 fire sale. He provided approximately league-average production that year (97 wRC+, 1.8 fWAR) before being dealt the following June.
Marlins acquire RHP Don Levinski, LHP Graeme Lloyd, IF Mike Mordecai, RHP Carl Pavano and RHP Justin Wayne from Montreal Expos for OF Cliff Floyd, UT Wilton Guerrero, RHP Claudio Vargas and cash (July 11, 2002)
The front office sold high on Floyd, an impending free agent coming off what would be the only All-Star selection of his career. It was an emotional and unpopular decision, however, as the 29-year-old had been the only remaining member from that championship team. Floyd spent most of his post-Marlins career with the Mets, and fortunately, he was not particularly successful in matchups against his former employer.
Most of the other moving parts in this trade had a very limited impact, with the exception of Pavano. Looking beyond his hideous 2002 performance in Montreal (6.30 ERA, 5.57 FIP, 51 K in 74.1 IP), the Marlins still believed in his talent. After all, the right-hander twice ranked as a top-20 MLB prospect by Baseball America while working his way through the high minors.
Despite totaling just 485 regular-season innings before departing South Florida in free agency, Pavano ranks 10th among pitchers in franchise history with 8.8 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs. He contributed primarily out of the bullpen during the 2003 postseason run, but capped it off with an eight-inning gem against the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the World Series.
That dominant start clearly left an impression because the Yankees emerged as the highest bidder for Pavano’s services when he hit the open market one year later. In hindsight, the Marlins should thank them for biting the $38 million bullet — a series of injuries wiped out the rest of his prime.
Marlins acquire RHP Kyle Barraclough from St. Louis Cardinals for RHP Steve Cishek (July 24, 2015)
By putting this reliever swap in the same article as the previous two trades, I’m asking you to dream a little. And there’s plenty of time for that — Barraclough is controllable through the 2021 season.
Cishek has been a decent late-inning option since Miami dealt him, but let’s remember the context. The sidearmer spent a couple weeks of 2015 in the minors after suffering five losses in April and May. His once above-average strikeout rate had dipped below 20 percent. Due a raise on his $6.65 million salary headed in 2016 via arbitration, he was a clear non-tender candidate (essentially an impending free agent) on a team far out of contention.
Meanwhile, Barraclough is the best strikeout artist this team has ever had. He can be retained for approximately the league minimum in 2018, a season he might spend in the closer’s role (with AJ Ramos being shopped around). It’s not so difficult to imagine new ownership steering the franchise back on a competitive course in several years, snapping the current postseason drought with Barraclough regularly sealing their victories.
Highest Career Strikeout Rates in Marlins History (min. 100 IP)
Now, we want to hear from you...
What do you consider to be the best trade deadline deal in Marlins history?
This poll is closed
Mark Hutton for Craig Counsell
Cliff Floyd for Carl Pavano package
Steve Cishek for Kyle Barraclough
Other (comment below)
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