Every MLB team has regrettable trades in its history. You win some, you lose some, right? Over the span of six seasons leading up to the transfer of ownership from Jeffrey Loria to Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter, the Marlins gradually lost almost everything.
This sequence of 18 largely interconnected deals was the epitome of an unhinged organization. Blame must be spread around to Loria and his top lieutenants, who impatiently buoyed between buying and selling. The only constant was their “ability” to get poor value on both controllable and veteran assets.
The Marlins fanbase has deteriorated due to an eternity of losing, but the lack of commitment to recognizable players has hurt local morale, too. This is what baseball operations might look like if you were to intentionally try to screw up a good situation.
The following list is chronological.
1. July 4, 2012: Marlins (39-42) are in 4th place and 9 GB
-Marlins receive Carlos Lee
We begin with somewhat of a benign deal as neither side gained much from it. That is, until we dive slightly deeper into understanding the Marlins’ roster construction.
At the time, Gaby Sánchez was struggling to produce at first base, which is what ultimately led to the trade. What the organization failed to realize was that production was a few days from returning. Justin Ruggiano was a gem in the haystack, and playing himself into All-Star consideration. With Emilio Bonifacio coming back from injury, the Marlins could have shuffled around their internal options: Logan Morrison at first, Ruggiano and Bonifacio in the outfield. No doubt, that would’ve been preferable to the -0.4 WAR that Lee produced throughout his time in Miami.
Dominguez was still a viable trade chip at the time, so it’s a shame he was wasted on an unnecessary, sub-replacement-level veteran.
2. July 23, 2012: Marlins (45-51) are in 4th place and 11.5 GB
Predictably, the Carlos Lee deal did not spark the Marlins into World Series contenders. As such, on July 23, Loria raised the white flag.
Let’s get one hilarious fact out of the way: Rob Brantly (who can be considered the second most important piece in the trade) was out of baseball before Sánchez. Losing such a steady starting pitcher and Infante for three inconsequential players is…unfortunate.
3. July 25, 2012: Marlins (45-53) are in 4th place and 13.5 GB
-Marlins receive Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough
The rebuild is now officially on, as Hanley is traded to the Dodgers, alongside Randy Choate, for Eovaldi and McGough. McGough went on to pitch in 6 games for the Marlins before leaving baseball. As for Eovaldi, he is the first example of a disturbing trend under the Loria-led era (i.e. wasting talented prospects by either mis-using or rushing their development). Eovaldi would later be flipped in a trade for Prado and Phelps; in which Miami also traded away a top pitching prospect alongside Eovaldi (we will get to that shortly). Which means that the Marlins traded away Choate and Hanley for a prospect who they would misuse, and then flip in a later trade. Your cornerstone, in Hanley Ramírez, for a flip. Eovaldi is currently one of the most sought after free agents in baseball…think about that.
4. October 20, 2012: Marlins (69-93) finished in last place and 29.0 GB
-Marlins receive Yordy Cabrera
-Athletics received Chris Young
Their prized free agent closer, who had now grown tired of Ozzie Guillen and the rebuild, was traded to the D-Backs for two things: budgetary relief, and a prospect who would not play a single game above Double-A.
This one should be obvious, but the Marlins botched a decent opportunity by only picking up $8 million of Bell’s $27 million contract. Swallow a more substantial chunk of the money—the next move shed plenty of payroll, anyway—and they could have received a more useful player from Arizona.
Ultimately, the new closer of the franchise was given away for nothing.
5. November 13, 2012 (offseason)
Allow me to take a breath, because this deal is truly something.
Alright, I'm pissed off!!! Plain & Simple— Giancarlo Stanton (@Giancarlo818) November 13, 2012
With the finalization of this trade, the 2012 fire sale had come to its infamous conclusion. In a blockbuster, the Marlins shipped any remnants of their rebranding up north, and brought back a cargo of prospects and vets with promise and hope. In assessing this trade, there is no doubt that Miami adequately addressed holes in their farm system, and executed a fair trade that could help with the incoming rebuild.
However, do you recall that trend that I introduced with Eovaldi? That part where the Marlins would seemingly intentionally waste their returned value. This is the perfect illustration of that trend. Aside from the point that they chose Nicolino over Noah Syndergaard, when given the choice by the Blue Jays, they also end up flipping DeSclafani and Marisnick in questionable—to say the least—deals that result in another negative net-gain for the trade.
On the other hand, the long-term positives from this trade include Alvarez’ tenure with the Fish, as well as the enjoyment of watching Hechavarria sling the glove from short. But with that being said, when you trade Johnson, Buehrle, Reyes, and others—as the big deal in your rebuild—your hope is that you bear more fruit than a slick fielding shortstop and a pitcher who starts 50 games for you prior to finishing his career in the Mexican Baseball League.
6. July 6, 2013: Marlins (32-54) are in last place and 17.5 GB
-Marlins receive Steve Ames, Ángel Sánchez, and Josh Wall
-Dodgers receive Ricky Nolasco
Short and sweet: the combined total of games played for Ames, Sánchez, and Wall? Four.
Nolasco, meanwhile, performed very well down the stretch to earn himself a long-term contract in free agency. The Marlins could’ve simply held onto him and received a real prospect in return by extending a qualifying offer to him that offseason, then recouping a compensation-round draft pick when he declined it to find a new team.
7. December 11, 2013: Marlins (62-100) finished in last place and 34.0 GB
-Marlins receive Carter Capps
That trend? The one about wasting returns and then flipping them for lesser value than their worth? Yes, that one again.
8. June 1, 2014: Marlins (28-28) are in 2nd place and 3.0 GB
-Marlins receive Bryan Morris
-Pirates receive a 2014 Competitive Round A Draft Pick
Read this one!
My hope is that you are reading the entirety of the article, but those who are just skimming through, please stop here.
In this trade, the Marlins feel that they are in contention, earlier than originally expected, in the middle of a meaningful rebuild. As such, they decide that they are going to trade a future draft pick for a middle reliever. For what it’s worth, Morris played solid baseball for the Marlins during his 3-year span in Miami.
But here is the issue: when a team is rebuilding, YOU DO NOT ADD A RELIEF PITCHER AT THE EXPENSE OF AN EARLY-ROUND DRAFT PICK. Want proof? Here are some of the names taken after the 30th pick of the first round in 2014: Michael Kopech, Jack Flaherty, Forrest Wall, Derek Fisher, Mike Papi, Connor Joe, and Jacob Gatewood.
Compounding the error, Miami’s scouting department came away with Tyler Kolek and Blake (not Brian) Anderson. These are the decisions that keep a franchise stuck in mediocrity.
9. July 31, 2014: Marlins (53-55) are in 3rd place and 6.0 GB
-Marlins receive Jarred Cosart, Austin Wates, and Kiké Hernández
Another doozy of a trade for the Marlins and their steps towards a complete rebuild. At this point, the belief is that the Fish—only two games under .500—are ready to compete for a playoff spot. As such, they unload Top 100 talents in Marisnick and Martes, as well as a promising third baseman in Moran. In return, they acquire a controllable young starter in Cosart, and two supplemental pieces in Wates and Hernandez.
Even if Cosart were to reach his ceiling, Martes and Marisnick should not have been a part of this deal. For perspective, Martes is currently rumored to be a part of a possible deal for Realmuto (think about that).
As for the return, Wates never plays an inning of Major League Baseball, and both Cosart and Hernández are later flipped in trades well below the value of when they were originally acquired.
10. August 8, 2014: Marlins (56-59) are in 3rd place and 6.5 GB
-Marlins receive Jose Arias and Tyler Bremer
-Cubs receive Jacob Turner
It’s a broken record at this point, as the trend of wasting talent in returns and losing all of their value continues. Jacob Turner—who was the centerpiece of the Ánibal Sánchez trade—is now traded for Bremer and Arias. Neither ever made it to the big leagues.
11. December 11, 2014 (offseason)
-Marlins receive Mat Latos
-Mark Canha is lost in the Rule 5 Draft
This day saw the Marlins make plenty of moves, all of which pointed to the franchise officially “going for it.” By acquiring Dee Gordon, they were adding one of the most exciting infielders and speedsters in the game. Although reluctant to leave the West Coast, Dan Haren eventually made his way to Miami, where he pitched 21 games prior to being flipped to the Cubbies. Miguel Rojas, the third piece in the trade, is the sole survivor of this transaction, and one of the reasons that this trade is not entirely a minus-minus trade.
There is no doubt that Dee Gordon will always be a positive part of the previous Marlins era, and that his eventual trade led to Nick Neidert , a current Top 100 prospect...but did the Marlins give up too much? Heaney is still projected as at least a middle-of-the-rotation starter, and Barnes played a significant role in the World Series chase for the Dodgers behind homeplate. As for Kiké Hernández, he is also an important player on that same Dodgers team; all pieces that would be significant factors for the current Miami Marlins.
As for the DeSclafani trade: this one is as obvious as can be. Latos flamed out in Miami, while Disco is still a promising young starter, albeit battling some injury concerns. If this day in franchise history could be erased, then you are looking at an offensive core of Stanton, Yelich, and Ozuna possibly being kept together by the hope of pitching prospects such as Heaney and DeSclafani.
12. December 19, 2014 (offseason)
Recall Eovaldi? He was first introduced as an example of how the organization wasted talent and then undersold them at their lowest value. Ding Ding…here is the conclusion. Eovaldi gets paired with a Top 100 talent in Germán, and traded to the Yankees for Prado and Phelps. This trade, similar to the Dee Gordon transaction, symbolized a step forward in the organization; they are trying to compete. And yet, in this beautiful hindsight, we see that they did not do enough, and that instead of adding German and Eovaldi to a potential rotation of Heaney, Martes, and DeSclafani plus others, we are left with no pitching prospects and an unsustainable offense.
These are the types of trades where you begin to realize why Miami was in such a bad place, when evaluating their farm system.
13. December 20, 2014 (offseason)
-Marlins receive Luis Castillo and Kendry Flores
-Giants receive Casey McGehee
In this trade, the Marlins do a beautiful job of acquiring hidden talent in Castillo, and Flores (who would eventually fall out of baseball). But even the small victories didn’t last under this regime, as we’ll discuss shortly.
14. July 30, 2015: Marlins (42-60) are in 4th place and 13.0 GB
-Marlins receive Victor Araujo, Kevin Guzman, and Jeff Brigham
(Braves were also a part of the deal, but this covers the Marlins perspective.)
Less than a year after receiving Latos for DeSclafani, the Marlins flip Latos and Morse, plus a draft pick, for prospects—sans Brigham—who never sees a major league field. We can debate if Brigham is worth Latos, but how about that pesky draft pick that the Marlins love to include in trades?
The Braves turned that into Joey Wentz (40th selection overall). With a career 2.71 earned run average and 26.4 percent strikeout rate as a starting pitcher prospect so far, Wentz would be one of the rising stars of Miami’s farm system right now.
15. October 24, 2015: Marlins (71-91) finished in 3rd place and 19.0 GB
-Marlins receive Richard Mitchel and Jim Benedict (pitching instructor)
-Pirates receive Trevor Williams
Peak incompetency right here. The Marlins, coming off of another failed season, decided that their best bet moving forward was to trade away a top pitching prospect in Williams for the highly respected pitching coach Jim Benedict. In theory, there were questions about Williams, while everyone knew how effective a coach Benedict was.
Here’s the catch: when Benedict arrives to Miami, he quickly learns that there’s no high-end pitching talent left for him to work with. His impact on the organization is minimal. Loria dismisses Benedict before his contract even expires.
Williams can be found leading the Pirates starting rotation, if you’re looking for him.
16. June 30, 2016: Marlins (41-38) are in 3rd place and 6.5 GB
-Marlins receive Fernando Rodney
Paddack had shined in his professional career to that point, but the Loria-led Marlins couldn’t wait. They were just one piece away from completing a super bullpen! With this trade, they gave away a future Top 50 prospect in all of baseball for an aging, rental reliever in Fernando Rodney. Rodney went on to have his worst statistical half of baseball with the Marlins, while Paddack is one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the league.
Keep Paddack, Heaney, Martes, Eovaldi, DeSclafani, Williams and Castillo around Miami’s mighty offensive core, this team would be gearing up for legitimate championship contention in 2019.
17. July 29, 2016: Marlins (55-48) are in 2nd place and 6.0 GB
After medical reviews nullified the Colin Rea and Luis Castillo portion of the trades, the final product is as seen above. Meaning that the Marlins traded a de-valued Cosart and Capps, plus Josh Naylor—a Top 100 prospect—for Cashner and Guerrero. Much like Rodney, and to no one’s surprise, Cashner eventually has his worst statistical half of his career, prior to leaving in free agency.
This means that Guerrero—who has upside as a relief pitcher and potential closer—is Miami’s best hope to salvaging a trade that sent away a Top 100 talent, a pitcher (Cosart) who previously cost the organization Top 100 talent to acquire, and Capps. Again…Loria.
18. January 19, 2017 (offseason)
-Marlins receive Dan Straily
-Reds receive Luis Castillo, Austin Brice, and Zeek White.
This is not a knock on Straily, but consider what Luis Castillo has become in the Reds system. Graduated from Top 100 prospect status, he’s Cincinnati’s best arm as they begin to see the light at the end of their own rebuild.
The lone competent pitching prospect that the Marlins had was traded away as the last “go for it” move that Loria pulled prior to reaching an agreement in principle to sell the franchise in February 2017. How absolutely fitting.