The starting pitchers of the Marlins have been popular in trade rumors and the Orioles showed the most interest in left-hander Jesús Luzardo, per a report from Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald. It’s unclear exactly when the trade talks took place.
The Orioles have been looking for starting pitching all offseason so it’s logical that they would check in with Miami. The O’s were connected to trade candidates like Dylan Cease and free agents like Michael Lorenzen and James Paxton before landing a big fish when they acquired Corbin Burnes from the Brewers.
From the perspective of the Marlins, they don’t quite have the overflowing rotation surplus that they have had in the past, but it makes sense to listen to offers since they have holes elsewhere on the roster that need to be addressed. Catcher and shortstop are those spots that could clearly be upgraded but free agency doesn’t have many enticing options, so perhaps moving a starter would be their best bet even if the depth isn’t quite what it was.
They traded Pablo López to the Twins last winter as part of the return for Luis Arráez and then Sandy Alcantara required Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2023 campaign. Additionally, they traded prospect Jake Eder to the White Sox for Jake Burger, thinning out the depth a bit.
After all that, the club’s rotation mix currently consists of Luzardo, Eury Pérez, Braxton Garrett, Edward Cabrera and Trevor Rogers, with Sixto Sánchez, Ryan Weathers and Meyer are some of the other options on the roster.
That group has its question marks. Cabrera gets tons of strikeouts and ground balls but has also walked 14% of batters faced in his career. He’s now out of options and can no longer be sent to the minors to continue refining his command. Rogers was great in 2021 but his results backed up in 2022 and then he was limited by injuries in 2023. He made four April starts last year before going on the injured list due to a left biceps strain, later being diagnosed with a partial tear in his right lat, never making it back to the club. Sánchez has thrown just one minor league inning over the past three years due to ongoing shoulder problems. Weathers had poor results last year while Meyer missed all of 2023 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Marlins are reportedly setting a high asking price in trade talks concerning Luzardo, which is a sensible position to take. With that group of starters, they don’t strictly need to move someone since it’s arguably flimsy as it is. Luzardo is also under club control through the 2026 season, meaning the club needn’t be in any kind of hurry. He’s making $5.5MM this year and will be due two more arbitration raises in the seasons to come. That’s a bargain price for a guy who made 50 starts over the past two years with a 3.48 ERA, 28.7% strikeout rate and 7.9% walk rate.
Cabrera and Rogers have also received some trade interest, but the asking price on them would naturally be lower on account of the Cabrera’s control problems and Rogers’ injury issues. Jackson and Mish add that the Marlins and Royals had talks about some kind of blockbuster involving Pérez and Bobby Witt Jr. but those talks quickly fizzled out. Those talks were towards the end of last season, while Kim Ng was still running the baseball operations department. Jackson and Mish report that the new regime, led by Peter Bendix, considers Pérez untouchable.
But with the holes elsewhere on the roster, there would be an argument for taking the right deal. The Marlins reportedly asked about catching prospect Samuel Basallo in trade talks with the Orioles, but the O’s had no interest in making him available. Part of Baltimore’s never-ending parade of elite prospects, Basallo is currently ranked 10th in the league by Baseball America and 7th by FanGraphs.
The Marlins currently have a catching tandem of Christian Bethancourt and Nick Fortes. Both are fairly well regarded on defense but don’t provide a lot with the bat. Bethancourt hit .231/.261/.361 last year and Fortes just .204/.263/.299. The 19-year-old Basallo would be more of a long-term solution there, as he only has four games above High-A and is unlikely to crack the majors for much of 2024, if at all.
The Orioles could also theoretically stand to part with Basallo since they already have a cornerstone catcher in Adley Rutschman, but that doesn’t seem like it will motivate them towards a deal. They also have a surplus of young talent on the infield and outfield but have generally held onto the majority of it, apart from including Joey Ortiz in the Burnes deal. They still seem to have too many players for the playing time they have to distribute but appear to be quite patient in letting moves come together.
As mentioned, it’s unclear exactly when the talks regarding Luzardo took place. Presumably, they were before the Burnes deal, but there would have been an argument for the O’s to still be pursuing rotation upgrades even after that. After that trade, the rotation projected to be Burnes, Kyle Bradish, Grayson Rodriguez, Dean Kremer and John Means. That’s a talented group but Rodriguez was inconsistent as a rookie last year while Means just returned from a lengthy Tommy John layoff. Adding Luzardo into that group would have been a viable path for the O’s to take, so it’s possible the talks happened post-Burnes, even if they didn’t make much headway.
It’s possible that their desire to get a deal done may have increased this week, however. It was reported today that Bradish has been diagnosed with a sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament, raising the spectre of Tommy John surgery. It’s still not determined if he will need to go under the knife but he will at least start the season on the injured list. Additionally, Means is about a month behind schedule due to an elbow issue he dealt with last year.
With two-fifths of their projected starting rotation now questionable, perhaps the O’s will circle back to the Marlins and reopen these talks at some point. Though the free agent market also still features notable names like Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Lorenzen, Hyun Jin Ryu and many more. Meanwhile, Cease is still on the White Sox while other trade candidates like Shane Bieber or Paul Blackburn could still be available. Even after the Burnes trade, the O’s are still considered to have an excellent farm system and could pull off just about any trade they decide to make if they really wanted.