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The Marlins Trade Deadline Folly, or How to Sell High and Maximize your Assets

Daniel Zylberkan makes a guest appearance on Fish Stripes to put the Marlins’ handling of the 2018 deadline in perspective.

Miami Marlins v Baltimore Orioles
The club held onto J.T. Realmuto and Kyle Barraclough, rather than flip them for younger, more controllable talent.
Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

I’m a huge Marlins fan and I’ve been following the team since 2002 a few years after I moved from Brazil to South Florida. I love writing about baseball because I feel like I can teach people about sabermetrics and advanced analytical concepts in an easy and approachable manner. I’m currently pursuing my PhD in History at FSU. Go Noles. Follow me on Twitter @danzyl66.

The trade deadline has come and gone and the Marlins only ultimately traded Brad Ziegler for an underwhelming return and Cameron Maybin for International Slot Money which could prove pivotal in their pursuit of highly coveted Cuban OF Victor Victor Mesa who is considered the #1 international prospect by Baseball America.

The Marlins ultimately held on to their most valuable pieces. C JT Realmuto and RP Kyle Barraclough, Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley. This will turn out to be a mistake.

In his latest column, Marlins Sun Sentinel reporter Well Dusenbury interviewed the club’s President of Baseball Operations Mike Hill on his position on the three controllable relievers.

Hill said of the trio,

“The controllable pieces we have in Miami — we’re extremely happy to have them as organization. We think they’re a part of what were trying to build and allowing us to be a consistently competitive organization. We knew there were some names out there that were popular, but in the end those players are still Miami Marlins and we’re excited they’re still Miami Marlins.”

This view that three relievers can be in any way a cornerstone for a franchise is misguided and it is all because of a simple concept called the win curve.

The win curve, centers around the belief that teams higher on the win curve need very few wins above replacement to take them over the top from being good to true contenders. Take the Milwaukee Brewers for example, who missed the playoffs by one half game in 2017 and added Christian Yelich (at high prospect cost) and Lorenzo Cain (at high money cost) to take them over the top.

Similarly, the 2016 Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs parted with highly rated prospects like Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier in their pursuit of high leverage arms which the New York Yankees possessed in Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. Cashman understood that teams will do anything necessary to tip them over the win curve and it took the Yankees rebuild to the next step.

Atlanta Braves v New York Yankees
Two years later, Gleyber Torres is the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Marlins as presently constructed and in the near term are very low on the win on the curve. Every WAR added to this team does not make a very big difference. Additionally, bad teams really don’t need any exceptional high leverage arms. A bad team that isn’t going to play any meaningful games doesn’t need premium high leverage RPs. There is nothing more self-defeating than your three headed monster bullpen locking up a game where your team is 15-games-under-.500.

While, the Marlins have improved their farm system a lot since the 2017 deadline but it’s still mediocre. They need more high quality pieces and it’s been made abundantly clear that contenders are willing to part with great prospects at the deadline.

MLB teams in 2018 are all very well versed in these simple sabermetric concepts. They understand that you need to pay considerable costs to get those final few WAR to climb you on the top of the win curve.

It is baffling that the Marlins front office so badly miscalculated the situation, their own position on the win curve and more importantly the contenders willingness to meet their cost.

It is clear to me at least that Barraclough, Conley and Steckenrider have much more value in their ability to take a contender over the top rather than in being featured parts of some bad Marlins teams who won’t truly need their services in the short term.

Here’s the original version of this article on Medium