The Marlins will behave unpredictably leading up to next week’s 2018 non-waiver trade deadline. Other sellers have already pounced—mostly by unloading rental players—while this team is only loosely linked to contenders in what appear to be very preliminary negotiations.
I polled the Twitter crowd to get a sense for what volume of moves they expect, and the results were surprisingly conservative:
POLL: How many of their major league players will the Marlins trade before the July 31 deadline?— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) July 21, 2018
Swapping veterans for prospects sends a frustrating message to a club that’s been playing competitive ball for an extended period, but don’t lose sight of the fact that this is still an early stage of the rebuild. The improved farm system must improve even more to support the steady winner fans have never had. And deadline deals will be critical to achieving necessary organizational depth for the long haul.
The “veteran on the market” label applies to any Marlins player with multiple years of major league experience who other teams would even consider acquiring this month. Don’t bother with Wei-Yin Chen or Martín Prado; they need superhuman production just to emerge as August trade candidates (when shopping players involves placing them on revocable waivers).
Most of the following Marlins have seen their names directly mentioned in reports from baseball industry insiders.
Without further ado, my predictions...
RHP Kyle Barraclough
Going in alphabetical order means beginning with the trickiest trade candidate.
Barraclough had an extraordinarily successful/sort of fluky first half of the season. A .160 BABIP was critical to his 1.28 ERA, covering up for his reduced fastball velocity and a strikeout rate well below his career norm. This looked like the ideal opportunity to “sell high” on the Marlins closer.
However, a sickness coming out of the All-Star break made Barraclough unavailable last Friday and perhaps contributed to his struggles on Saturday and Sunday (1.2 IP, 6 ER, 2 HR). Even beyond that excuse, the 28-year-old showed signs of regression earlier in the month, too.
This might go down to the wire, with potential trade partners hoping to see a couple clean performances from him before the deadline and the Marlins pushing for multiple impact prospects in return.
1B Justin Bour
Bour is rocking a career-high walk rate in 2018 while playing noticeably stronger defense in recent weeks.
He’s just not hitting enough. Bour’s offense has been basically league average relative to other MLB first basemen. In particular, his production against left-handers—.204/.328/.259, 1 HR in 128 PA—has dipped, undoing the progress he made in that department last season.
I can’t envision contending teams valuing Bour as an everyday player right now, meaning their offers to the Fish would be too weak to motivate a move.
2B Starlin Castro
It’s difficult to find a fit for Castro considering his not-so-cheap contract and lack of versatility. Both the Red Sox and Brewers have received disappointing production at second base, but the market has several rentals for them to choose from who would demand a lesser prospect package (like Asdrubal Cabrera or Brian Dozier).
Isan Diaz just made the leap to Triple-A New Orleans and will make a case for a September call-up. That doesn’t force the Marlins to ship Castro away at the deadline, however.
This can wait for the winter.
LHP Adam Conley
What a gorgeous graphic from Mike Petriello over at MLB.com:
You can understand why somebody would want to take a flyer on Conley, who’s showing dramatically improved stuff from the left side. But the Marlins have no reason to make him available at a “take a flyer” price if they trust this is sustainable.
Conley remains under club control through 2021. Finishing 2018 in the ballpark of his current 2.73 ERA/3.42 FIP/3.24 xFIP performance would put him among the top tier of relievers on the offseason trade market.
I thought Aram’s Andrew Miller comparison was a bit aggressive, but we’ll learn more about Conley during the second half.
UTIL Derek Dietrich
The Marlins released a new hype video Monday morning to promote ticket sales down the stretch. It’s well done!
On the other hand, this leads to more speculation about which players will actually be there down the stretch.
The club’s standout relievers are noticeably absent as is steady starter Dan Straily (though pitchers generally aren’t very marketable, anyway). Dietrich makes a brief cameo at the 54-second mark.
Intentional or not, seems like they’re de-emphasizing the longest tenured player on the roster, who also happens to be batting .289/.355/.466 (125 wRC+).
Dietrich has been a terrible left fielder, but proved to be a more adequate defender at various infield positions. The willingness to move around is valuable, as is his lack of a multi-year contract (arbitration eligible in 2019 and 2020).
OF Cameron Maybin
Maybin seemed wholly undesirable to contenders until his bat conveniently caught fire in July. Enjoying an everyday role in Lewis Brinson’s absence, the 31-year-old has blasted all three of his 2018 home runs during this month.
Mark Simon and Spencer Harrison of Sports Info Solutions called Maybin a “boring solution” for the Mariners or another contender that’s hemorrhaging runs with their center field defense. He has also seen significant time in both corner spots.
However, the Fish praise Maybin’s intangibles, Mike Persak explains for the Sun Sentinel. Brinson is expected back from his hip injury next month, and it’d be important to have a big brother figure still in the clubhouse to offer advice.
The 12-year veteran profiles more as an August trade candidate, and even then, the modest return might not be enough to justify a transaction.
C J.T. Realmuto
Take a look around Major League Baseball and you’ll find a dearth of decent catchers. FanGraphs ranked Realmuto as the Marlins’ most valuable asset heading into the deadline and it isn’t close, thanks in part to how the 27-year-old has separated himself on the field.
Realmuto can test free agency following the 2020 campaign, but for now, his financial future is unsecured. It makes sense for both sides to engage in extension talks this offseason, then seek a franchise-changing trade package if they can’t find common ground.
SS Miguel Rojas
On the other side of the spectrum, we’re living in a golden age of shortstop play. Jean Segura barely snuck into the All-Star Game and Carlos Correa would’ve been a longshot even if healthy. The few relevant teams who don’t get great production there right now at least have talented youngsters with some upside.
Rojas made folks pay attention with a power surge early in the season, but that’s starting to smell like an outlier. He is homerless over the past 52 games (42 starts).
The Marlins like him and the fans like him. Moving on.
RHP Drew Steckenrider
Sam detailed the Steck situation on Sunday.
No reliever can be untouchable, but Miami’s asking price should be incredibly steep with five-plus controllable years remaining. Steckenrider’s 2.93 FIP is best among all 26 real Marlins arms to take the mound this season (sorry, Bryan Holaday).
What a pleasant surprise to develop this kind of asset from an eighth-round draft pick.
RHP Dan Straily
Yankees fans on Twitter would like to remind me that Straily owns a very bad 5.28 FIP in 2018.
Anybody bashing the veteran right-hander clearly has not been following his progress over the past month. As detailed by Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald after a conversation with Straily, mixing a sinker into his repertoire is keeping opponents off balance. He made the adjustment after returning from suspension on June 25, posting a 2.78 ERA and 3.68 FIP across five straight quality starts since then. And it’s worth reiterating that this collection of available starters stinks.
There are rumblings about the Yanks and Sox, though a deal is unlikely prior to Straily’s next scheduled outing on Thursday against the inconsistent Nats. Hot streaks matter at this time of year and Miami’s front office should be able to capitalize.
RHP Brad Ziegler
Ziegler attributes some of his April/May struggles to pitching at less than 100 percent health.
Since then, however, he has a pretty sizable body of work that suggests he can contribute to a contender down the stretch. The 38-year-old has only surrendered three earned runs in 26 1⁄3 innings (1.03 ERA) since being removed from the closer’s role. He’s generated seven ground ball double plays, which is more than most starting pitchers during that stretch.
Advanced age shouldn’t be a concern because Ziegler’s contract is expiring. That gives the Marlins extra motivation to move the veteran, rather than losing him for nothing this offseason.
Previous ownership guaranteed him $16 million under the naive premise that the Fish were nearing a championship window. The silver lining is this opportunity to salvage something from that investment in the form of a legitimate prospect.