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How Marlins could have successful trade deadline without moving Pablo López

A series of six trades to shake up the Marlins major league roster while adding young hitting prospects for the future.

Miami Marlins pitcher Anthony Bass (52) delivers a pitch against the San Francisco Giants during the seventh inning at Oracle Park. D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins are contemplating a blockbuster trade involving one of their most valuable players, Pablo López. The market’s dearth of quality starting pitchers makes it increasingly likely that they will receive tempting offers. General manager Kim Ng had an opportunity Saturday night to commit to keeping López through Tuesday’s deadline and declined to do so.

Personally, I am against the idea of trading López. It is no doubt the most interesting thing the Marlins could do at the deadline, but it would be detrimental to their chances of contending in 2023 and 2024. Parting with a reliably above-average MLB starter for a package centered around a talented hitting prospect is just robbing Peter to pay Paul. There’s gotta be another way.

The only unacceptable stance that the Marlins could take at the trade deadline is standing pat. Their roster construction has been suboptimal throughout this 2022 season, not conducive to winning close games or creating opportunities for their homegrown bats. Although the vast majority of their players are under club control next year, running it back doesn’t make sense. Begin the shake-up now.

The series of moves below would still leave the Marlins with plenty of work to do in the offseason, but it would be a step in the right direction while preserving enough financial flexibility and prospect capital to make big splashes later.

  1. Twins trade INF Royce Lewis to Marlins for LHP Jesús Luzardo, LHP Steven Okert and RHP Anthony Bass
  2. Cubs trade 3B/1B Patrick Wisdom to Marlins for LHP Dax Fulton, 3B/OF Brian Anderson and $1.5M cash
  3. Reds trade RHP Alexis Díaz to Marlins for OF Jesús Sánchez
  4. Astros trade RHP Jake Odorizzi to Marlins for LHP Richard Bleier and player to be named later
  5. Cardinals trade 1B Malcom Nuñez to Marlins for RHP Dylan Floro, RHP Bryan Hoeing and OF Brian Miller
  6. Brewers trade RHP Jeral Vizcaino to Marlins for 1B/DH Jesús Aguilar and $2.5M cash

Trade #1

Royce Lewis could be the Marlins’ shortstop of the future...or their center fielder of the future...or maybe he’ll forever be bothered by knee injuries. The former No. 1 overall draft pick recently underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL (again). Lewis is worth the risk, in my opinion. He had gotten off to an excellent start this season, posting a 150 wRC+ at Triple-A and 143 wRC+ in his first taste of the majors. Even with a deliberate rehab process, he should be ready to make a big league impact by the middle of the 2023 campaign. Alex Carver of Fish On The Farm has more on Lewis here.

After a discouraging start to his Marlins career, Luzardo came into this season with an improved fastball and a willingness to use his breaking ball in any count. It was looking like a good formula (4.03 ERA, 3.74 FIP, .175 BAA in 29.0 IP) until he suffered a forearm strain. But now he’s fully healthy again and ready to contribute to a contender’s starting rotation. He’s a particularly sensible fit for the Twins, complementing their righty-heavy staff.

Minnesota seeks bullpen reinforcements, too. Bass and Okert considerably raise the floor of their ‘pen and would be no-brainer choices to retain for 2023 at efficient prices.

Trade #2

The late-blooming Patrick Wisdom has homered 51(!) times through 854 major league plate appearances. That’s nearly the same frequency as Marlins era Giancarlo Stanton. His skill set is pretty limited otherwise, but I could see him helping the Fish as their primary third baseman and backup first baseman. Wisdom will still be pre-arbitration eligible in 2023 and controllable for three more seasons beyond that.

Dax Fulton has a lot in common with a young Trevor Rogers, a fellow highly drafted lefty pitcher with starter traits who dealt with bad luck on balls in play during his age-20 season. Look underneath the hood and you’ll find Fulton’s 2.94 FIP is fourth-best in the High-A Midwest League (min. 50 IP). Health permitting, the 2020 draftee will be a solid big leaguer, but he suits the Cubs’ timeline better than the Marlins’.

The $1.5M cash included in this idea covers the rest of Brian Anderson’s 2022 salary, accounting for the possibility that he doesn’t make it back to the field this season (left shoulder strain). Anderson is arb-eligible one final time next year. I imagine the Cubs would be happy to take a flier on him rebounding.

Trade #3

The younger brother of lights-out Mets closer Edwin Díaz, Reds rookie Alexis Díaz has been unhittable since his call-up (1.91 ERA, 3.55 FIP, .125 BAA in 37.2 IP). He’s already thriving in high-leverage situations, which must matter to a Marlins team that has seen many a talented arm melt down with the game on the line. I adore the shape of his mid-90s fastball—even when missing his location, it gets results. All of Díaz’s minor league options are intact in case he experiences extended rough patches.

I vacillated between Jesús Sánchez and Peyton Burdick as the fair return for Díaz. While Sánchez has had a lousy 2022 season, at least he’s doing it at the major league level. The Dominican outfielder is actually younger than Burdick and defensive metrics are not as harsh on his defense in center as the eye test is. In either case, there’s immediate, everyday playing time available in Cincinnati.

Ultimately, I would prefer to hold onto Burdick, trusting in his superior plate discipline and baseball instincts.

Trade #4

Bad contract swap!

The Astros are the rare contender with too much starting rotation depth. Jake Odorizzi is the weakest link of their six-man rotation. He’s been a mixed bag in 2022, with several scoreless starts but also several clunkers. In his MLB career overall, the right-hander has been a tick better than league average (104 ERA+).

I should be clear about this: the remaining games on the Marlins’ schedule matter. They aren’t tanking to 70-ish wins like they did in 2021 and expecting anybody to trust that they’re moving in the right direction. In light of numerous injuries to their young starters, Miami could really use a veteran to stabilize things.

Odorizzi is on a complicated contract. As best as I understand it, he’s earning an $8 million salary—approximately $2.7M still owed in 2022—with a player option for 2023, which is currently valued at $8.5M and will rise if he reaches 100-plus innings this season. The Marlins would hope that he picks up the option. The significance of the PTBNL going to Houston would vary based on that decision (lower-ranked prospect if he elects free agency).

Richard Bleier would provide a “different look” for an all-right-handed Astros bullpen. He’s been a disappointment this season (allowing too much hard, line-drive contact), but has a lengthy track record of effectiveness. His contract is guaranteed at $3.5M for 2023 with a $3.75M club option for 2024.

Trade #5

Malcom Nuñez is a consensus Top 30 prospect in the Cardinals farm system, with most outlets placing him in the top half of that list. All of his future value is tied up in his bat, but that bat has yielded good outcomes throughout his MiLB career while being much younger than his opponents. The Cuban corner infielder is a 21-year-old at Double-A making a compelling case to be promoted (.256/.359/.465, 110 wRC+, 17 HR in 348 PA). Fortunately for the Marlins, he is blocked by the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Juan Yepez.

In exchange for Nuñez, the Marlins would send a potpourri of depth pieces for St. Louis’ postseason push. Dylan Floro has allowed only two earned runs over his last 17 appearances, resembling his 2021 self. He’ll be arb-eligible next season if the Cardinals like what they get out of him down the stretch. Bryan Hoeing could help them patch together the back end of their rotation. Brian Miller is sneakily performing well at Triple-A and he’s playable in center field, where the Cards are uncertain about the status of Harrison Bader.

Trade #6

Jesus Aguilar #24 of the Milwaukee Brewers warms up before the game against the Miami Marlins at Miller Park on June 06, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Jesús Aguilar goes back to the place where he first emerged as a viable big leaguer. There wouldn’t be a huge role for him, something like 10-12 plate appearances per week as the Brewers first baseman/designated hitter/pinch-hitter. At least he complements their roster better than third-string catcher Pedro Severino. This deal assumes Severino gets dealt in a separate trade. The $2.5M cash represents what Aguilar is still owed on his current contract.

If you have never heard of Jeral Vizcaino, there’s a good reason for it. He just made his professional debut this season in the Dominican Summer League. Vizcaino’s performance has been good—1.93 ERA, 4.07 FIP, .157 BAA in 28.0 IP—but at age 20, he’s old relative to his competition. Getting anything in return is better than cutting Aguilar.

With all due respect to Aggy, this trade is addition by subtraction. The Marlins’ main objective in doing it would be to open up August/September playing time for the likes of Lewin Díaz and Jerar Encarnación.

The Marlins are not going to fix everything about their organization over the next two-plus days and I didn’t attempt to do that here. These hypothetical moves focused on trading from their strengths/surpluses to incrementally improve the current roster while betting on some loud tools.

The top storyline to follow down the stretch: how JJ Bleday adjusts to the bigs, both at the plate and in center field. Maybe he quickly proves to be a rare Marlins player development success story on the position player side. But if the Marlins enter the 2022-23 offseason without full conviction in him, they need to pay the steep price to acquire an established center fielder.