Buyers? Sellers? What we’ve quickly learned is this new Marlins administration rarely “picks a lane” in the traditional sense. That will be especially true as Monday’s MLB trade deadline approaches with the Fish still on pace for a postseason berth at 14-12.
The only guarantee is that the Marlins will be active at the deadline. All of the reinforcements added to the 40-man roster following the infamous COVID-19 outbreak have created a logjam now that those infected by the virus are returning or on the verge of doing so. Some familiar faces need to go, or at the very least, they’ll be designated for assignment (allowing other teams the opportunity to claim them).
As the Marlins explore countless scenarios, most members of their 60-man player pool are potentially movable—expensive veterans, 2020 overachievers, raw prospects, etc. They also have the flexibility to add new players to the pool on short notice to facilitate a deal (trading right-hander Chad Smith to the Rockies for Jesús Tinoco was an example of that).
The list of players who definitely will survive the deadline is much shorter. This is not to be confused with a ranking of the club’s most valuable players, though there is plenty of overlap.
Here they are (in alphabetical order).
RHP Sandy Alcantara (MLB career: 3.76 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 2.5 fWAR in 246.1 IP)
Alcantara is expected back in the Marlins rotation on this upcoming homestand, perhaps as soon as Sunday. Best-case scenario, he’ll be able to make six regular season starts down the stretch. The tall right-hander turned a corner last summer by dialing up his sinker usage and getting ahead in counts more consistently. Not even arbitration eligible until 2022, Sandy is an extraordinary bargain and an ideal ambassador to the South Florida community.
3B Brian Anderson (MLB career: .266/.349/.427, 113 wRC+, 7.0 fWAR in 1,382 PA)
As a rookie, Anderson was already a well-rounded, everyday-caliber player. He’s been steadily adding more power since then while increasing his defensive versatility (not only by starting games at right field and first base but making all the correct plays when shifted into the second base hole against left-handed pull hitters). The 27-year-old is precisely the kind of player that the Marlins should be pursuing a long-term extension with. Even if that fails to materialize, he’s indispensable to their hopes of contending in 2020.
OF JJ Bleday
You’ll be hard-pressed to find better swing mechanics from anybody in the Marlins organization. Bleday’s minor league track record is only 38 games long and the results so far aren’t particularly special. However, even with so many intriguing outfielders in Miami’s pipeline, he is the safest bet to have a long, prosperous major league career. Health permitting, Bleday should be debuting within the next calendar year.
1B Lewin Díaz (MLB career: .222/.263/.222, 39 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR in 19 PA)
First base was the biggest long-term question mark for the Fish heading into the 2019 trade deadline. They creatively addressed it by nabbing Díaz from the Twins in the Sergio Romo trade. His defensive acumen is already apparent in limited action this season, and he showed massive power potential to center and right field in 2019 (both in the minors and the Dominican Winter League, where he won rookie of the year honors). While nobody is guaranteed success at the highest level, Lewin will get a long leash to establish himself.
RHP Pablo López (MLB career: 4.38 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 3.0 fWAR in 197.1 IP)
I’m not surprised by the leap forward he’s made at age 24. Is he the long-term ace of the Marlins rotation? Well, that might be overreacting to a small sample size, as Michael Ajeto of Pitcher List explains.
The 2020 Marlins would have imploded without López’s consistency. Slated to play more than one game per day for the rest of this regular season, the club is in no position to deal proven major league starters.
RHP Max Meyer
Given the Marlins’ 40-man roster conundrum, it’s difficult to imagine a path that leads to Meyer debuting this September (even though team executives teased the possibility when they drafted him). But trading him would be even more absurd, beginning with the fact that he isn’t allowed to change teams this summer anyway, per MLB rules regarding new draftees. Looking past his below-average height, the young fireballer checks practically every box you look for in a potential top-of-the-rotation arm. The Fish valued Meyer more than most teams did during the draft process, so they’re going to see his development through.
SS Miguel Rojas (MLB career: .265/.317/.354, 83 wRC+, 5.9 fWAR in 1,928 PA)
We have come a long way since the spring of 2019, when Rojas was splitting time at shortstop with JT Riddle. A long, long way. The 31-year-old is the charismatic leader of the Marlins rebuild in every sense of the word, far more valuable to the team and its fanbase than any assets they’d be able to get on the trade market.
RHP Sixto Sánchez (MLB career: 5.40 ERA, 6.76 FIP, 0.0 fWAR in 5.0 IP)
The No. 1 prospect in the Marlins organization is a few adjustments away from becoming the best version of himself. In the meantime, he’s gifted with the otherworldly fastball velocity to get away with mistakes and the control to carve through opposing lineups efficiently. There is zero incentive to trade someone with such electric potential who’ll play a critical role in stabilizing the current rotation.
While outside of the “untouchable” tier, the following players ought to feel completely safe from trade rumors leading up to the deadline:
C Jorge Alfaro—Miami’s catching depth is thin following Francisco Cervelli’s concussion. And even if Cervelli can make a swift return from the injured list and pick up exactly where he left off, the revered veteran will go back on the free agent market this winter. Alfaro’s defense has been impressive in a small 2020 sample and it’s only a matter of time until he catches fire with the bat.
LHP Caleb Smith—Marlins Twitter’s favorite trade chip is not being shopped in real life. Smith wouldn’t be appetizing to other teams at the moment, nearly a full year removed from his last quality start, and it’d be foolish for the Fish—given their rigorous remaining schedule—to part with a starter who was legitimately good for them in 2018 and early 2019. If they want to cut costs, find a taker for José Ureña. If they want to replenish the lower levels of the farm system without sabotaging their current playoff odds, how about Humberto Mejía and Daniel Castano? Smith’s imminent return is a good thing, even though many fans don’t seem to realize it.
INF/OF Jon Berti—Berti’s stock has soared since the Marlins inked him to a minor league deal. There is certainly a point in the near future where they might be able to fill out a deep lineup with homegrown players and ship the super utilityman to another needy team. But at the moment, his versatility and disruptive baserunning are sorely needed here.