The Marlins’ abundance of riches in the rotation has led to trade speculation for quite some time, particularly given Miami’s desire to land a controllable outfielder. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported last month that the Fish were amenable to dealing from their starting pitching surplus. They’ve since thinned out the depth a little bit by trading Zach Thompson to the Pirates as part of the Jacob Stallings deal, but it’s possible they’re open to another move that addresses the position player group.
It stands to reason rival teams will be in contact with Marlins general manager Kim Ng and her staff whenever the transactions freeze comes to an end. With that in mind, it’s worth taking a look at which pitchers could come up in discussions:
Best Combination of Value/Potential Availability
According to Morosi, the Marlins’ early deliberations about the possibility of trading a starter revolved around their three hurlers with between three and four years of big league service time. Sandy Alcantara has since signed a record-setting extension for a pitcher in that service bucket, so he’s not going anywhere. That leaves two starters as Miami’s most straightforward candidates for this kind of move:
Pablo López — López has been quietly excellent over the past two seasons. He’s got a 3.26 ERA across 160 innings since the start of 2020, including a 3.07 mark this past season. There’s not much to nitpick in his statistical profile. The 25-year-old uses a five-pitch mix. He’s got plus control, misses a few more bats than average and — thanks mostly to one of the sport’s best changeups — rarely gives up hard contact. With three years of control and a modest $2.5MM projected arbitration salary, López would have a ton of trade value if he’d gotten through the 2021 campaign fully healthy.
Yet the situation’s complicated by a shoulder injury that cost him essentially the entire second half. López landed on the IL in mid-July and didn’t return until the final day of the season, when he worked just 1 2/3 innings in a deliberately abbreviated start. His velocity returned to peak levels and it’s possible López’s shoulder problem proves nothing more than a blip, but any team looking into an acquisition this offseason will surely do their due diligence on a medical evaluation.
Elieser Hernández — Hernández missed much of the 2021 campaign because of a pair of long-term injuries. He lost two months early in the year to biceps inflammation. In his first start back after that absence, he strained his right quad while running the bases and missed another couple months. Those absences limited him to 51 2/3 frames of 4.18 ERA ball. Hernández doesn’t throw hard, and he couldn’t sustain the massive 32.1% strikeout rate he posted over a six-start showing in 2020. But he still missed a decent amount of bats with both his slider and changeup, and he rarely hands out free passes.
Like López, he comes with three years of what should be affordable arbitration control. At age 26, Hernández has value, but it’s not at the same level as his rotation mate. In addition to his overall lack of volume over the past couple seasons, Hernández is a fly-ball pitcher who gives up a lot of hard contact, particularly on his fastball. That’s led to significant home run troubles even in the pitcher-friendly confines of Marlins Park, and teams in more hitter-friendly environments may worry he’s too prone to the longball to be successful. Perhaps curtailing the use of his fastball and leaning more heavily on his solid secondary weapons could allow him to mitigate those concerns a bit.
Back-of-the-Rotation Depth Options
Braxton Garrett — Garrett’s stock has dipped since he was selected seventh overall in the 2016 draft. He’s made a few MLB starts over the past two seasons, though, and Garrett had a 3.89 ERA with decent strikeout and walk rates in Triple-A this past season. He’s not going to headline a deal for a controllable outfielder, but he could be of interest to clubs as a secondary or tertiary piece.
Nick Neidert — Neidert is in a similar bucket as Garrett. He’s a formerly well-regarded prospect who has had a decent amount of minor league success but hasn’t impressed in limited big league time. The righty rarely misses bats but possesses very strong control.
Cody Poteet — Potent debuted with seven starts this past season, working to a 4.99 ERA across 30 2/3 innings before suffering a season-ending MCL sprain. He’s not likely to have a ton of value and the Fish will probably hold onto him into the season, but he did miss a decent amount of bats for a sixth/seventh starter in his limited showing.
Highly-Regarded Young Pitchers/Top Prospects
It’d be a surprise if the Marlins trade anyone in this group — each of whom could see their value increase substantially if they take a reasonable developmental step next season. It’s not out of the question the Fish take calls on anyone in this group, but they’re perhaps more relevant as a reminder of the enviable collection of young pitching that could facilitate a deal involving someone else on the roster.
Edward Cabrera — Cabrera’s first seven MLB starts didn’t go as hoped. He’s one of the sport’s most highly-regarded pitching prospects and posted massive strikeout rates in the high minors though, and he averaged almost 97 MPH on his heater in the big leagues. It’s possible the Marlins consider moving Cabrera, but he’d likely have to be a key piece of a deal for a controllable star in the Cedric Mullins or Ketel Marte mold for that to happen.
Jesús Luzardo — The return from the A’s for Starling Marte at last summer’s trade deadline, Luzardo continued to struggle over the final couple months in Miami. The 2021 season was a disaster for the young southpaw, but he’s only a year removed from being ranked among the top ten overall prospects by Baseball America. The Marlins liked him enough to land him one-for-one for their star center fielder a few months ago, so it seems likely they’ll give him a chance at a rebound.
Max Meyer — The third overall pick out of the University of Minnesota in the 2020 draft, Meyer dominated at Double-A during his first pro season. He’s one of the sport’s top prospects. As with Cabrera, it’d be a surprise if he’s available and he’d only be part of a deal for a star.
Sixto Sánchez — Sánchez, a top prospect who headlined the J.T. Realmuto return from Philadelphia, impressed over his first seven MLB starts in 2020. He missed the entire 2021 campaign due to a shoulder issue that required surgery. He’s expected to be ready for next season, but it’s not an opportune time for the Marlins to consider a trade.
The Likely Unavailable All-Star
Nobody in the Marlins rotation would bring back more than Trevor Rogers. The former first-round pick was an All-Star and the National League’s Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2021. Coming off a season in which he posted a 2.64 ERA/3.72 SIERA across 133 innings, Rogers looks like a potential top-of-the-rotation stalwart for years to come. He’s controllable through 2026 and would bring back an absolute haul — likely headlined by one of the sport’s top few position player prospects — if the Marlins ever decided to make him available. That’d be an incredibly bold bet on the strength of the other rotation arms, though, one which the front office probably wouldn’t give much thought.
López and Hernández are the Marlins’ best candidates for a pitcher-for-position player swap. Given the attrition rates of pitchers, it’s arguable the front office should hold onto as much depth as possible to give themselves plenty of cover for potential injuries or underperformance. Yet there are plenty of options of varying pedigree Ng and her staff could consider moving in the right deal, a testament to the organization’s commitment to building the pitching pipeline in recent years.