“The Miami Marlins boast one of the best young rotations in the sport.”
It is inarguable and exciting, but ultimately pointless should the team not supplement that with a core of talented position players and competent relievers.
Early indications are that the Marlins have not done enough to contend in 2022. In the first in a string of “put up or shut up” years for the Fish, they’re playing sub-.500 baseball. The National League East division title is already looking like a pipedream and they have merely the 10th-best record in the 15-team NL entering Monday.
They are not bad enough to contemplate a full rebuild, but the front office must be open to making substantial moves that optimize the organization for 2023 and beyond.
During the first quarter of the season, Pablo López has blossomed into Sandy Alcantara’s co-ace. Through 8 starts and 46 innings, all López has done is post a 1.57 ERA and .186 opponent batting average—both tops among qualified National League pitchers.
Pablo López has struck out Albert Pujols all three times he's faced him tonight— Just Baseball (@JustBBMedia) April 22, 2022
An incredible performance from the Marlins #2, ringing up nine Cardinals in seven shutout innings pic.twitter.com/Qt9flgdsO5
The Marlins showed their dedicated to Alcantara last winter by inking him to a $56 million contract extension. However, they used a different approach with the oft-injured López, taking him to an arbitration hearing that was finally resolved last week. The club won its case and 26-year-old right-hander will earn just $2.45 million this season.
As is always the case, contending teams will be in the market for top-tier starting pitching. López’s combination of recent performance, low 2022 salary and two additional years of control (through 2024) should make him very appealing to buyers. If the Marlins aren’t going to extend him, this would be a tempting opportunity to sell high while addressing other needs.
What club would be pushing hardest to land April’s NL Pitcher of the Month in such a scenario?
Consider the Los Angeles Dodgers. After Walker Buehler and Julio Urías, the historically-renowned pitching factory of an organization sits with many a question regarding how their starting rotation will hold up. While still great when he’s healthy, Clayton Kershaw’s reliability is not what it once was. Flame-throwing Dustin May is still easing back into the mix following Tommy John surgery, and only time will tell how Tony Gonsolin’s performance sustains itself over the course of a full season. Trevor Bauer is in the midst of appealing his two-year MLB suspension, but even if he stunningly wins his case, the Dodgers don’t expect to allow him back on the mound.
What would it theoretically take for Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers to pry the effective López away from Kim Ng’s Marlins?
Marlins receive: C Diego Cartaya (24th-ranked MLB prospect on Baseball America, 24th on MLB Pipeline and 38th on FanGraphs) and OF Andy Pages (92nd/64th/92nd)
Dodgers receive: RHP Pablo López
Why It Makes Sense for Miami
What an organization should hope to accomplish in trading an established asset is setting or supplementing an already-laid foundation for the next core of winning baseball. With this trade, Miami would be doing just that.
Marlins fans learned the hard way that there are no “sure things” in the prospect world. However, the caliber of players involved here makes this almost too good to pass on.
A 20-year-old catcher out of Venezuela, Diego Cartaya has shown an advanced feel for hitting in the lower levels of the minors. As we can see below, even the best big league pitchers have a tough time getting the ball by him.
Dodgers #1 prospect Diego Cartaya just hit an absolute BOMB off of Padres starter Blake Snell during his rehab start in Single-A pic.twitter.com/siOmZqmGVh— Bruce (@Bnicklaus7) May 5, 2022
In 59 games at A-ball Greensboro since 2021, Cartaya has slashed .276/.396/.575 with 18 home runs, earning high praise from the likes of Keith Law. Come trade deadline time, he’ll be ready for a promotion to the High-A level, and it’s only a matter of time before he could be giving current Marlins’ backstop Jacob Stallings a run for the starting job.
As for Andy Pages, his ticket to the big leagues will be even more predicated on his bat. The outfielder owns a career .262/.388/.535 slash line. After hitting 31 home runs in High-A ball last year, Pages isn’t going deep as frequently out of the gate in AA (5 HR in 165 PA), but he remains very productive thanks to his plate discipline. That skill raises his floor as a player and should be celebrated by the Marlins organization, which has seen many of its free-swinging prospects fail upon reaching The Show.
Andy Pages with his 20th home run of the season. Some of the best power in the #Dodgers system.— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) July 31, 2021
Oh, he's still only 20 years old. pic.twitter.com/OYV6raTMZr
The fit from Miami’s perspective also accounts for their lack of a true center fielder. Neither Jesús Sánchez nor Bryan De La Cruz have solidified that position as of yet. Though Pages profiles more as a corner guy, he has 70 games under his belt in center.
Pages won’t be big league-ready in 2022, but his outstanding overall MiLB performance could force the hand of the front office.
What are your thoughts? Is there a possible trade scenario out there you’d like for us to explore? Does Pablo finish the season in Miami?