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Why The Time Is Now to Deal Garrett Cooper

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The first baseman/corner outfielder is hitting ,291 in 67 games played this season.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Miami Marlins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins find themselves in a complicated position as the 2021 trade deadline approaches. If one were to ask a steadfast Marlins fan—one who has endured the highs and lows of this franchise’s 28 years—what they should do next, that conversation may go with various directions (all of them totally justifiable).

2020, for those who forgot baseball still, in fact, happened, saw Miami clinch its first playoff berth since 2003, advancing to the National League Division Series following a cinderella 31-29 season. And with a farm system that has many beyond the shores of South Beach projecting greatness upon the former boys in Teal in the coming years, proving 2020 wasn’t a product of the pandemic was one sentiment many a Fish fan had come to share.

Fast forward to the All-Star break and with the team currently sitting at 39-50, the equator-seen “For Sale” signs can be seen across several names who currently reside on the Major League roster.

We’ve already seen shortstop Miguel Rojas come to terms with the idea of possibly being dealt, while names such as Dylan Floro and Ross Detwiler may appear attractive to contending teams in need of bullpen help. However, a name that hasn’t mustered much of, if any chatter, is that of Garrett Cooper.

The 30-year old Cooper, who’s seen a majority of his playing time in right field due to Jesús Aguilar manning first base on an everyday basis, is currently hitting .291/.387/.481. with 9 home runs and 32 RBI in 67 games. Deviating from the traditional triple-slash metrics and boiling Cooper’s offensive production down to a metric such as OPS+—which adjusts for ballparks relative to the run-scoring environment—Cooper has posted a mark of 138, noting he has been 38-percent better than the league average player.

For his career, Cooper owns a 115 OPS+ over parts of 5 seasons, albeit over just 875 plate appearances.

With what looks to be Cooper firmly establishing himself amid years of injuries, it begs the question of why? Why trade a guy who, when healthy, makes a strong case for being the most valuable offensive player on the club?

More than anything, it comes down to age, affordability, and that beautiful, yet, puzzling creature we refer to as “recency bias.”

In the 12 games leading up to the All-Star break, Cooper slashed .441/.568/.735, raising his season average from .262 to .291 in the process.

The man affectionately dubbed “Coopaloop” by the Marlins faithful is set to turn 31 on Christmas Day and with the team realistically a year or two away from being perennial contenders in the NL East, Cooper will likely be in the midst of his decline phase by the time that window opens.

For the team who acquires him, though, penciling “Garrett Cooper” into the lineup on a daily basis sure would do wonders for a team searching for a bat come October. Mike Rosenstein of NJ Advance Media discussed the idea of a team like the Boston Red Sox considering Cooper as an option at first base, and for a team whose .204/.250/.368 (63 wRC+) slash—a mark which ranks at the bottom among all 30 teams—Cooper would prove a huge upgrade at the position. They would, too, have further control of him through 2022 and ‘23, both of which are arbitration years, prior to hitting free agency.

Should Miami look to explore this idea further with Boston, a trade proposal, made via the trade simulator on Baseball Trade Values, is listed below. The rationale for this exchange is as follows:

Trade Simulator - Proposed Trade
Baseball Trade Values

Cooper would provide a shot in the arm to an offensively sparse first base position in Boston, ending the shortened Bobby Dalbec experiment. While renowned for his power, as seen through 18 home runs over 350 plate appearances, Dalbec owns a 38.3-percent K-rate during his time in the Majors.

The proposed trade would rid both Miami and Boston of former touted prospects, Isan Díaz and Jay Groome. Groome, a former first-round pick back in 2016, has pitched poorly in his time in the minors, posting a 5.17 ERA over 118.1 innings. Encouraging, though, is his 12.4 K/9 and 2.76 K/BB rates.

Given Miami’s recent propensity to churn out quality pitching, Groome, could, as what Dalbec could be on the position player side, a reclamation project of theirs, with both still being young enough - 26 and 22 - respectively, to turn them into quality big leaguers down the road. At worst, Dalbec could serve as a security blanket should first base prospect Lewín Diaz not pan out long term.

Should the Marlins happen to deal Garrett Cooper, whether that be at the deadline or come the offseason, his offensive production thus far will have teams lined up inquiring on his services. It just happens to be now where Miami should strike while the iron is hot.