This time of year is as quiet as it gets in terms of actual baseball transactions, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things happening beneath the surface. While postseason play remains the focus for contenders, all teams need to have at least one eye on an offseason that isn’t far away. Internal assessment and planning are obviously an ongoing task, and clubs are constantly engaged one another to see what opportunities may arise.
All that’s a way of setting up this morning’s poll question: as the Marlins enter the final two weeks of play with a .500 record that likely won’t deliver a postseason berth, should they be preparing to shop ace righty Jose Fernandez this winter? Or should they be thinking of ways to ensure that he stays in Miami for the long run?
Fernandez, who just turned 24, is an unquestioned ace. He has fully re-established himself since returning from Tommy John surgery, posting a 2.97 ERA with 12.1 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 over 239 innings since making it back to the bigs last year.
Youth is certainly on Fernandez’s side, and he’s cheaper than he ought to be since the timing of the TJ surgery held down his first-year arbitration earnings ($2.8MM). He’ll command a huge raise on that number, of course, but still won’t be compensated at anything approaching his on-field value. The two remaining years of arb control are immensely valuable. (Remember, the Fish could’ve had another if they hadn’t placed Fernandez on the Opening Day roster back in 2013.)
That makes Fernandez a highly appealing trade candidate entering a winter in which the free agent class is historically sparse. Miami could target high-end young talent to improve a little-regarded farm system, angle for controllable major league pieces, or combine either or both of those targets with a request for some useful, reasonably-priced MLB assets at positions of need.
Of course, the same factors of affordability and performance also make Fernandez a potential extension candidate for the Marlins, who previously managed to lock up Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Dee Gordon. Fernandez’s late-twenties seasons won’t come cheap, but the Stephen Strasburg extension shows that it’s possible to keep a Scott Boras-repped ace so long as the player is motivated.
The question for the Marlins, ultimately, is multi-faceted. Can they win with their current roster, which has had success at times but lacks for starting pitching depth and has needs on the left side of the infield? Would they be better off — in the long-term, but perhaps also even in the short-term — to swap Fernandez out for a huge return of talent? If they want to keep him, can they afford what it might take to keep the Cuban-born star in Miami?
Figuring all that out will require an assessment not only of Fernandez, but also of the broader market situation. Starting pitching figures to be a focal point in trade talks this winter, with teams such as the White Sox (Chris Sale, Jose Quintana), Rays (Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb), and Braves (Julio Teheran) potentially weighing whether to cash in on a pitching-starved market. Fernandez is younger and arguably better (though that’s plenty debatable) than any of those pitchers, and would certainly draw immense interest, meaning Miami at least has to be wondering about the question that you are about to answer (link for mobile app users):