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Marlins may trade one of veteran starting pitchers

Let’s break down this new rumor from MLB Network’s Jon Morosi.

Sandy Alcantara #22 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the seventh inning during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López and Elieser Hernandez each inching closer to free agency, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the Marlins are thinking about possibly trading one of them. All three right-handers are on track to reach the open market after the 2024 season.

Entering their first year of arbitration eligibility, Alcantara is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $4.5 million for the 2022 season. López is projected for $2.5 million and Hernandez for $1.4 million. Those are team-friendly salaries, though I suppose not quite as efficient as their pre-arb years when they had to settle for close to the league minimum.

The table below compares their MLB stats from 2018-2021:

Career stats for Alcantara, López and Hernandez as Marlins
Career stats for Alcantara, López and Hernandez as Marlins

I did not directly embed Morosi’s tweet containing the trade rumor because it is misleading. He says the motivation behind shopping these vets would be “to clear a rotation spot for the next young starter in 2022.”

That rationale may apply to Hernandez. The former Rule 5 draft pick has missed substantial time with lat, biceps and quad injuries over the last two seasons. Even when healthy during that span, the Marlins haven’t trusted him to complete six innings in any of his outings. Beyond his signature slider, Hernandez’s pitch mix is extremely limited and he has a well-documented home run problem. It is reasonable to expect Sixto Sánchez or Edward Cabrera or Max Meyer or Zach Thompson—all currently on the outside looking in at the projected Opening Day starting rotation—to capably fill his shoes. This organization is understandably excited about its rotation depth.

However, do not confuse depth with impact. Pitchers like López and especially Alcantara are rare commodities, bonafide above-average starters whose production seems entirely sustainable. The Marlins aren’t arrogant enough to believe that they can plug a prospect into either of their spots for 2022 and get the same full-season results...right? I think the Fish know better than that.

Still, it is discouraging that “sources” would volunteer Sandy’s name in a conversation with Morosi. In September, the Miami Herald reported that he and the Marlins were progressing toward a contract extension. There’s been no update on their talks since then. Perhaps leaking his potential availability is a hint that they are struggling to find common ground on a long-term deal.

To be clear, no individual Marlins player should be completely untouchable this offseason. Even trading a high-upside, high-character, in-his-prime pitcher can be justified if it brings back a special, controllable hitter to jolt Miami’s impotent offense. Let’s just not pretend that these are easy decisions.