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Your move(s), Marlins

The Marlins have patiently waited for the MLB trade market to heat up. The wait is almost over.

General manager Kim Ng of the Miami Marlins speaks to the media after the introductory press conference for new manager Skip Schumaker at loanDepot park on November 03, 2022 in Miami, Florida. Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

It has been a disconcerting offseason for the Miami Marlins. There are admittedly no easy solutions for this team, but the lack of ambition to make any substantial roster changes as we approach the approximate midpoint of the baseball winter is a vibe-killer. As detailed on Monday, I am genuinely baffled by the Marlins’ inaction in regards to free agency—they have the necessary revenue to compete for players in that arena, if Bruce Sherman would allow it.

Whether we agree with it or not, all indications are that the Marlins want to balance out their 2023 roster via trade. Good news for anybody (everybody?) who has grown impatient: the window to make those trades is on the verge of opening.

The Marlins won’t consider moving reigning NL Cy Young award winner Sandy Alcantara. Beyond him, however, they have an enviable collection of affordable, controllable arms with the track record and/or potential to be above-average starting pitchers. In exchange, general manager Kim Ng is seeking bats to bolster an offense that ranked among MLB’s weakest in numerous categories last year.

More so than in typical offseasons, the 2022-23 edition has followed a clear order of operations: sign free agents first, think about trades later. The vast majority of impactful FAs have found new homes (or in a few prominent cases, extended their leases with previous employers). On Thursday, Carlos Rodón reportedly signed with the New York Yankees, and you can bet the Marlins front office was celebrating alongside New York’s. That’s because the free agent market is now sold out of good starting rotation options in the primes of their careers. Teams still determined to upgrade in that department must shop elsewhere.

Pablo López, Jesús Luzardo, Trevor Rogers, Edward Cabrera, Braxton Garrett...they’ll each be age 27 or younger throughout the upcoming season. By ERA+, only Rogers was worse than the average MLB pitcher in 2022, and even he was an All-Star the previous year. Aside from Cabrera, the rest have minor league options remaining if necessary. And those are just the healthy, established starters on the 40-man roster—there are plenty more trade chips beneath the surface.

Pablo Lopez #49 of the Miami Marlins throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on October 02, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

López has a higher likelihood of getting dealt than the others because of his proximity to free agency, the slim chance of the Marlins inking him to a contract extension, his consistent control, the variety of his pitch mix and the fact that he made all of his scheduled starts last season. There are—and I’m being conservative—at least 20 other MLB teams that would have room for López in their projected 2023 Opening Day rotation. Most of all, the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins stick out to me as sensible trade partners for the Fish, but these negotiations could go in numerous directions.

Marlins pitchers appear to be more valuable than originally estimated entering the offseason. The baseball media (myself included) did not fully account for the impact of inflation on MLB contracts. In free agency, prototypical back-end starters in their 30s have been receiving average annual values of $12-15 million. That’s the kind of money López is projected to make over the next two years combined and what Rogers could make over the next three years only if he bounces back in a big way. This disparity in salaries boosts the surplus value of Miami’s guys.

I maintain that this will be a lousy offseason for the Marlins if they continue to neglect major league free agency. Even when dealing from an area of strength, every trade requires sacrificing talent. That comes back to hurt an organization’s depth eventually. It is far easier to build a contending team with cash transactions.

At a bare minimum, it is imperative that the Marlins acquire players who fit together better than their current roster does. Give the fanbase something different to look at, something with a chance to be more complementary, anything to legitimately feel hopeful about.