As with the past several offseasons, there’s been plenty of speculation and reporting about the Marlins’ willingness to deal from their starting rotation. Chatter surrounding the possibility of Miami dealing a starter didn’t bring about a high-profile trade two winters ago — Miami did deal Zach Thompson to the Pirates as part of the Jacob Stallings deal — but last offseason saw the Fish ship righty Pablo Lopez to Minnesota alongside prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio in a deal that brought Luis Arraez to Miami. Talk this offseason has centered primarily around lefty Jesus Luzardo and righty Edward Cabrera, but Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic writes that a trade involving Luzardo is “less likely” than a trade of the younger Cabrera. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand wrote late last week that the Marlins have been open to discussing both in trades.
While Cabrera has more club control remaining — five years, compared to Luzardo’s three — he’s also the less-established arm of the two, so it makes sense that the Marlins would be a bit more reluctant to part with the more experienced Luzardo.
Cabrera, who’ll turn 26 in April, has already spent parts of three seasons in the big leagues. After getting roughed up as a rookie, the former top prospect has made strides in the past two seasons, logging a combined 3.73 ERA with a sharp 26.6% strikeout rate. He throws hard (96.2 mph average fastball), has generally been good at keeping the ball in the yard (1.10 HR/9) and boasts a strong 50.6% ground-ball rate. However, Cabrera has also walked far too many opponents, issuing free passes to 13.7% of batters faced.
That lack of command has at times prevented him from working deep into games. While some of his short starts have been attributable to the Marlins monitoring his workload as he’s worked through a shoulder impingement and elbow inflammation, Cabrera’s average of 4 2/3 innings per start to this point in his career is quite brief, even by today’s standards. Cabrera worked a career-high eight shutout innings against the A’s in August of 2022, but that was one of just two career outings where he’s recorded an out beyond the sixth inning (the other was in his MLB debut a year prior).
Clearly, there are still some final steps to take in Cabrera’s development, but his body of work over the past two years offers plenty of reason for optimism. Couple that with club control that stretches through the 2028 season — he’ll likely be arbitration-eligible four times as a Super Two player — and Cabrera should appeal to plenty of pitching-hungry clubs, even if he’s the less-established of Miami’s two “available” starters.
As for the Marlins’ goals in a trade, they’ll surely vary from prospective trade partner to prospective trade partner. The Fish entered the offseason looking for long-term help behind the plate and at shortstop. Rosenthal suggests that a viable long-term option at short, in particular, might pique the Marlins’ interest when it comes to moving a controllable pitcher. As things stand, utilityman Jon Berti, glove-first prospect Jacob Amaya and former top prospects Vidal Brujan and Xavier Edwards are among the organization’s options there.
That said, Miami also hasn’t done much to upgrade its long-term catching outlook this winter. Christian Bethancourt was acquired in a small trade with Cleveland, who’d acquired him from the Rays. He and Nick Fortes are the only catchers on Miami’s 40-man roster. None of the organization’s current top 10 prospects at Baseball America are catchers.
There’s no indication yet that a trade of Cabrera, Luzardo or any other Marlins starter should be considered especially likely. But the Marlins have sat out free agency entirely this offseason, and the market hasn’t exactly been deep in options at their foremost positions of need anyhow. They likely view the trade market as their best path to addressing those needs in the short- and long-term, as in addition to the thin free-agent market, the team’s projected $97MM payroll (via Roster Resource) is already about $5MM greater than last year’s Opening Day mark.
The Fish are still about $13MM shy of where they ended the 2023 season, but it’s fair to wonder just how much appetite ownership has for additional spending. Rosenthal writes, for instance, that Josh Bell’s $16.5MM salary (which the club acquired in order to dump the majority of Jean Segura’s contract on the Guardians) is one of the reasons that the Marlins have been reluctant to spend this winter. If that’s the case, it’s hard to envision owner Bruce Sherman greenlighting additional free-agent spending of note, which either sets the stage for some trade activity or a disappointing offseason on the player acquisition front (possibly both).