As last year’s offseason was getting started, reports emerged that the Marlins were considering trading from their stock of young starting pitchers in order to bolster their position player mix. In the end, they did trade Zach Thompson as part of the Jacob Stallings trade, though stopped short of a more headline-grabbing deal.
It seems that strategy is still in play, with Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald reporting that the club will again look to swap some pitching for some more offense. The report lists ace Sandy Alcantara and the club’s top prospect Eury Perez as the two “untouchable” arms on the team, with the others apparently available for the right price.
In addition to the Thompson trade, there were a few other ways in which the club’s rotation surplus was reduced in the past year. Prospect Max Meyer made two starts before Tommy John surgery put him out of action for the rest of this year and potentially all of next year as well. Sixto Sanchez has continued to deal with shoulder issues, not having thrown in a game since 2020. Elieser Hernandez struggled enough that he got bumped to the bullpen and later optioned to the minors.
Those setbacks aside, the club still has a mix that includes Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Edward Cabrera, Jesus Luzardo, Trevor Rogers, Braxton Garrett, Daniel Castano, Nick Neidert, with the report listing Lopez, Cabrera and Rogers as logical trade candidates. It also says the club would consider dealing prospects to a rebuilding team in order to get MLB-ready players. Though Perez is apparently not on the table, Jake Eder and Dax Fulton are mentioned as possibilities.
Lopez, 26, is no stranger to trade rumors, having been frequently mentioned both as someone who could be moved and as someone garnering interest around the league. It was reported last week that the Marlins and Yankees had discussed a deal prior to the deadline that would have seen the Fish acquire Gleyber Torres and infield prospect Oswald Peraza, though the Yanks apparently balked at the deal. There’s no real hurry for the Marlins to deal him, as he can be controlled through the 2024 season via arbitration. He’s in his third straight strong season, registering a 3.66 ERA through 25 starts this year. Perhaps most importantly, he has stayed healthy and put aside some concerns after he missed some of last year with shoulder issues. He’s making $2.45MM this year and will get a raise for next season via arbitration, though he will still be plenty affordable and should find lots of interest from other teams.
The 24-year-old Cabrera would make for a very different trade chip, having much more control but less of a proven track record. He just made his MLB debut last year and missed about six weeks this season due to elbow tendinitis. He only has 15 MLB starts on his ledger so far but has shown promise in that time, registering a 3.71 ERA in his young career. He came into this year with just 40 days of MLB service time but was optioned in the spring and didn’t get recalled until June 1, which should lead to him coming just shy of the one-year mark at the end of this season, even if he remains in the big leagues for the rest of the campaign. That means he should still have six years of control beyond this one, though he is in his final option year, which will mean he will need to hold a spot on an MLB roster starting next year or else be designated for assignment.
Rogers, 24, broke out last year with a 2.64 ERA over 25 starts but has regressed here in 2022. He has a 5.85 ERA through 19 starts and has been on the IL for over a month due to back spasms. He should still hold appeal given his previous showing and four remaining years of control, but he’ll certainly have diminished trade value compared to a year ago.
Eder, 23, was a fourth-round draft pick in 2020. The lefty made 15 Double-A starts last year with a 1.77 ERA before undergoing Tommy John surgery in August. He’s out for this year and might be limited in 2023, though the Marlins are hoping to deal him to a rebuilding club, who may not be so concerned about the short-term outlook. Fulton is also a left-hander but much younger, turning 21 in a couple of months. He was a second round pick in 2020, having since climbed up to Double-A. Between High-A and Double-A this year, he has a 4.05 ERA across 102 1/3 innings.
Whether the club can work out a deal with will of course depend upon lining up with another club. A team with designs on immediate contention would likely be more interested in Cabrera, Rogers or Lopez, while a rebuilding club would lean towards Eder and/or Fulton. It will also depend on what that theoretical other club has to offer the Marlins in return. As Jackson and Mish note in their report, the Marlins will be using the final weeks of the season to audition certain position players and evaluate their future roles. JJ Bleday, Lewin Diaz, Jerar Encarnacion and Peyton Burdick are all listed as players trying to secure jobs on the 2023 team. How they fare in those auditions could have an impact on who the Marlins look to target in trades to improve their lineup. The team as a whole has been about 12% below league average at the plate this year, as indicated by their 88 wRC+, a mark that places them 26th in the majors.