NOV. 3: Miami is informing other teams that it is willing to listen on Stanton, Gordon, and Prado but will not entertain offers on Yelich and Ozuna at this time, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (via Twitter). Whether the stance on the latter two players might change isn’t yet clear. It’s possible that the club wishes to focus first on the other pieces.
OCT. 30: The Marlins have identified a “preferred path” to paring the team’s slate of player contracts for the 2018 season down to $90MM, according to a report from Barry Jackson and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Specifically, the club would like to move the contract of star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton along with those of infielders Dee Gordon and Martin Prado.
Talk of a possible Stanton swap has been building in earnest for months. And it comes as little surprise to hear that the team is indeed preparing to market him, given its reported intentions of making significant payroll reductions in the first offseason under new ownership. Obvious as it may be that now is the time to part with the slugger, it’s notable that the team has evidently chosen its direction even as it prepares to sit down with him in a few days’ time. (Stanton, of course, enjoys full no-trade protection and so will have a major say in things.) And the team’s reported intentions perhaps hint that the focus could be on moving all of Stanton’s salary rather than maximizing the prospect return.
It’s also hardly an eye-opener to learn of the availability of Gordon and Prado. Both have been discussed as trade candidates in the past, with Gordon drawing some interest last year and Prado cited as a deadline possibility before he went down to injury. Trading these three players has some initial logic, since their respective 2018 salaries add up to nearly $50MM — which would leave the club right at its stated goal in view of its other commitments. And that would leave untouched the Marlins’ best assets.
Of course, the trouble lies in the details here. Prado, in particular, clearly wouldn’t earn anything close to his remaining obligations — two years and $28.5MM — were he instead a free agent. After all, he just turned 34 and produced a .250/.279/.357 batting line over just 147 plate appearances in an injury-riddled 2017 season. Though Gordon still looks to be a productive player worthy of a regular job, he’s a slightly below-average hitter whose value lies in his speed and glovework at second. He’s still just 29, but age could be a bigger concern with that skillset. Regardless, the market is loaded with options at second, which makes Gordon’s remaining commitment — $38MM over the next three years (including a 2021 option buyout) — appear to be less than a screaming bargain. Even Stanton, fresh off of a 59-dinger outburst, arguably does not come with much or any surplus value as against the overall remaining guarantee ($295MM) in his mammoth contract.
Actually getting rid of the 2018 commitments to these three players, then, simply won’t be a matter of handing off their contracts. Even if competitors are willing to absorb the entirety of the Stanton and Gordon deals, they likely won’t be sending much in the way of talent back in return. And Prado clearly represents a possible salary dump at this point, meaning the Fish would need to send additional talent along with him if the hope is to clear his salary. Unless the team is willing to sell away prospects, that’d mean dealing other, more valuable assets from the MLB roster.
The realities of the situation make clear that the Marlins will need to oversee a net talent outflow — or, at least, a reshuffling that results in a reduction of their major league talent in favor of prospects. Yet the report also cites a source that indicates the team would rather not part with J.T. Realmuto, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Justin Bour, and Dan Straily — which doubles as a list of those Marlins players that are worth quite a bit more than they are due to earn.
Clearly, something has to give here, which the Marlins front office surely realizes. What’s perhaps most notable about the report, though, is the apparent suggestion that the team won’t independently look to deal from its base of affordable, quality talent. It goes without saying that the Marlins shouldn’t give away such players for less than a compelling return, but it’s arguably unwise to move Stanton, Gordon, and Prado while not embarking upon a broader rebuilding effort. Ozuna, especially, is getting expensive (a projected $10.9MM for 2018) and will be a free agent after 2019.
It’s understandable that the team wishes to hold onto as many recognizable players as it can, but there’d be little to no hope of a turnaround for a team that has failed to perform as hoped in recent years. Miami’s pitching staff is among the worst in baseball and obviously won’t be buttressed by any significant free-agent spending. Stanton is all but irreplaceable. Derek Dietrich could step in for Gordon, but that would mean extending him as a player and reducing his value as a utility asset. And the left side of the infield would presumably be entrusted to some combination of JT Riddle, Miguel Rojas, and Brian Anderson, an inexperienced group that hardly inspires confidence of delivering compelling output in the near future.
That being said, there is another way to read the report. Perhaps the team will still be willing to entertain offers on its more appealing assets, even if it won’t seek deals for them owing to payroll pressures. Viewed in that manner, it may be a fairly prudent approach to embarking upon a rebuild. Ultimately, from my vantage point, it would be surprising to see the Marlins open the coming season with all of Realmuto, Yelich, Ozuna, Bour, and Straily on the roster.
In other news, the Herald duo cover the latest in front office moves from the Marlins. The new ownership group has now parted ways with more than twenty employees from various departments. You’ll want to read the story for all the details.