The Marlins have hung around baseball’s competitive landscape the last couple of seasons, buoyed by a dynamic young starting rotation. Their offense, however, consistently underwhelms. Thus far in 2022, however, neither the pitching nor the offense has been able to escape the torpid middle. The Marlins are tied for 13th overall in the Majors with a 3.85 team ERA, and they are similarly tied for 13th overall on the offensive end with a 104 wRC+.
It still likely wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear they might be looking for bats. The latest scuttlebutt has the Marlins “pushing hard” for outfielder Ramon Laureano, according to Peter Gammons (via Twitter). The irony, of course, is that center field has been a particular need for the Fish since dealing Starling Marte to the A’s last season. Marte now plays for the rival Mets, and the A’s are in a position to deal.
The Marlins invested heavily in their outfield this offseason, adding both Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia to young trade acquisitions Jesus Sanchez and Bryan De La Cruz. But they weren’t able to find their long-term answer in center. Sanchez has held his own (93 wRC+, -1 DRS, 0.5 fWAR), but Laureano certainly brings a panache to outfield glove work that the Marlins may find appealing. Laureano has traditionally rated well defensively, and he doesn’t want for offensive firepower either, owning a career 117 wRC+ over 1,392 career plate appearances.
Of course, the A’s have to be willing to give him up as well. At 21-43 on the year, Oakland is firmly in a step-back year, and given their history, anyone is likely to be on the table, particularly an almost-28-year-old veteran like Laureano. GM David Forst has gone on record saying that no one is off-limits on the roster, writes Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle. Of course, that’s long been the company line for the A’s, particularly when they enter a sell-off period, as they did this past winter.
With true two-way center fielders being relatively tough to come by these days, however, Laureano figures to be a popular target. The A’s, for their part, may have found his successor in Cristian Pache, though Pache’s 27 wRC+ practically begs the A’s to reconsider. Laureano is still firmly in his prime, and with two more seasons of team control beyond this year, the A’s should feel no particular pressure to move him.
So while the Marlins may very well do their due diligence on Laureano, the A’s have resisted the temptation to deal him thus far. If they do ultimately decide that Laureano adds more long-term value as a trade asset than as their everyday right fielder (and Pache insurance), they can likely find more suitors beyond the Marlins. The Brewers, Padres, Phillies, Red Sox, and Dodgers join the Marlins as bottom-10 teams in terms of fWAR production from their center fielders, while the Guardians, Astros, and Rays land in the bottom 10 by wRC+. That’s no shortage of competitive clubs with a need in the grass.
Speculatively speaking, the Phillies may present the biggest challenger to the Marlins in terms of their interest. Philadelphia, like the Marlins, has been active in their search for a long-term center fielder, and they don’t appear to have that guy in their pipeline. We know the Phillies are doing what they can to compete, and as of right now, they’re doing a better job than the Marlins in that regard – they sit three games ahead of the Marlins in the standings, though still 8.5 games behind the division-leading Mets.
Of course, whether or not the Phillies have the prospects to properly woo Oakland is another question entirely. The Marlins have long been touted for their depth of young starting pitching, and if they decide to deal from that pool, Laureano may be the type of piece they would target. For now, however, the decision is still Oakland’s to make.