The Marlins are open to the idea of trading righty swingman David Phelps and right-handed starter Tom Koehler, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Phelps is one of multiple relievers the Fish could consider trading, though their biggest bullpen arm (closer A.J. Ramos) is apparently not on that list, as Jackson writes that the Marlins “don’t appear inclined to deal Ramos at this moment.”
There have been rumors about Ramos’ availability both in the offseason and more recently, as the Nationals are reportedly considering Ramos (as well as several other closers) as potential upgrades for the back of their bullpen. Ramos has been generally solid this season, with a 3.92 ERA, 11.76 K/9 and 2.08 K/BB rate over 20 2/3 IP, though with some red flags. He has walked 5.66 batters per nine innings and also been prone to the long ball, with a career-high 14.3% home run rate. While a small sample size of work to judge from, Ramos’ hard-hit ball rate has also increased significantly, from 32.5% in 2016 to 40.4% this year.
Ramos is earning $6.5MM this season and will be due for another raise this winter in his third and final trip through the arbitration process. A closer with such a rising price tag and non-elite performance could be considered a trade chip, especially with Miami looking like deadline sellers (26-33, 12 games back in the NL East and nine games back in the wild card race). Moving Ramos or another reliever wouldn’t signal a rebuild nearly to the degree that trading a young cornerstone position player would, though in either case, it seems like the Marlins will be waiting a while longer before deciding on whether or not to throw in the towel on the 2017 season. The team’s ongoing ownership saga may also factor into such on-the-field decisions.
Phelps pitched very well in a swingman role for the Fish last season and he has done a good job of coming close to that performance in 2017. Phelps has a 3.00 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 3.56 K/BB rate over 30 relief innings, though he has also seen spikes in his homer and hard-hit ball rates. He has pitched more than one inning only four times in his 27 games, though Phelps’ past ability to be a multi-inning bullpen arm would make him an attractive target for contenders in need of relief help.
This isn’t the first time Koehler’s name has surfaced in trade rumors, as the Red Sox and Dodgers were reportedly interested in the right-hander before he was placed on the DL with bursitis in his throwing shoulder. Koehler has been a solid, if unspectacular, innings-eater over the last three seasons in Miami’s rotation, though he was hit hard in seven starts this year, with a 7.04 ERA and 10 homers allowed in 38 1/3 innings.
Both Koehler ($5.75MM) and Phelps ($4.6MM) are earning significant salaries this year, with one more arb-eligible year before hitting free agency after the 2018 season. Dealing either would free up some money off Miami’s payroll, though the Fish would have to eat a good chunk of Koehler’s salary unless he gets back on track after returning from the disabled list.