The Marlins have stumbled out of the All-Star Break, dropping three of their first five contests against below-.500 teams in the Rangers, Pirates and Reds. Paired with a three-game sweep at the hands of the division-rival Phillies to close out the season’s unofficial first half, Miami has dropped six of eight before tonight’s contest with Cincinnati.
Sitting 45-51 and 5 1/2 games out of the National League’s final Wild Card spot, the Marlins look increasingly unlikely to compete for a postseason berth. That’s particularly true with the news that the club’s best position player, Jazz Chisholm Jr., won’t return until September at the earliest due to a stress fracture in his back. In the face of those mounting odds, general manager Kim Ng and her staff are apparently willing to consider dealing notable players from the major league roster.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post tweeted this afternoon that the Fish are willing to listen to offers on everyone other than ace Sandy Alcantara. It’s hard to imagine Miami trading Chisholm since he’s controllable through 2026 and currently on the injured list, but it seems the bulk of the team could be available. Aside from Alcantara and Chisholm, perhaps no one else on the roster would draw more interest than starter Pablo López. While Miami hasn’t previously shown much appetite for dealing López, Barry Jackson and Craig Mish of the Miami Herald report that the Marlins are now willing to hear offers on the 26-year-old righty. According to Jackson and Mish, the Fish aren’t actively shopping López, but they’re “no longer dismissing calls” from interested teams.
Assuming Ng and her staff are willing to seriously consider offers on López, he’d be one of the top options available for rotation-needy clubs. After missing most of the second half of last season due to a shoulder injury, he’s stayed healthy this year to take 20 starts. López owns a 3.03 ERA with an above-average 25.5% strikeout rate, a stingy 7.6% walk percentage and a solid 47.4% ground-ball rate. It’s the continuation of a few excellent years for the Venezuelan-born hurler, who has posted a sub-4.00 ERA with better than average strikeout and walk rates in each of the past three seasons.
López is only in his first season of arbitration-eligibility. He’s making an affordable $2.45MM salary, around $974K of which is still to be paid before the end of the season. That’s affordable enough for every club, and López comes with an additional two seasons of control before he can hit free agency after the 2024 campaign. He’s both cheaper and under a longer window of control than any of Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle or Frankie Montas — the three hurlers who have generally been viewed as the top rotation trade candidates on the market.
There’s no need for Ng and her front office to force a deal given that extended window of club control, but they could view this as an opportunity to move him at the peak of his trade value. The Herald writes that the Marlins have not engaged López’s representatives at Excel Sports Management about a possible extension. Miami also has a fair bit of rotation depth and is looking for opportunities to invigorate an offense that carried a meager .238/.302/.376 line into play tonight.
Jackson and Mish write that the Marlins would like to add a left-handed power hitter for the 2023 lineup. Whether that’d come directly in a López deal is unclear — it’s rare for contenders to trade off their big league roster to address another area — but an openness to dealing away one of their top arms while searching for ways to add a controllable hitter suggests Ng and her staff aren’t approaching the deadline as a strict “buyer” or “seller.” Rather, it seems they’ll be one of a handful of teams — the Red Sox, Rangers, Angels and Orioles could be others — approaching the deadline more flexibly, recognizing that competing in 2022 is a longshot while still searching for ways to preemptively add to next year’s roster.
Of course, the rotation depth that could make the Marlins more amenable to parting with López has also been hit hard by injuries. Former top prospect Sixto Sánchez hasn’t thrown a major league pitch in two years. Jesús Luzardo and Edward Cabrera have been on the injured list for months, and rookie Max Meyer joined them over the weekend after leaving the second start of his MLB career with elbow discomfort.
In a worrisome development, Jackson and Mish report that Tommy John surgery could be on the table for Meyer. The team is still awaiting the results of a recent MRI before determining whether surgery will be required, but a UCL reconstruction would likely cost him all of the 2023 season. Miami is certainly hoping the electric 23-year-old will be able to avoid that fate; the club figures to provide an update on the righty’s status in the coming days.
Whether Meyer eventually goes under the knife or not, the injury serves as a reminder that even teams with a seeming surplus of starting pitching can see that depth thinned out rather quickly. Indeed, Miami’s rotation has largely been propelled by excellent seasons from Alcantara and López. 2021 breakout southpaw Trevor Rogers has had a disappointing follow-up campaign, and the back of the rotation has been hit by the aforementioned injuries along with a woeful showing from Elieser Hernández, who found himself demoted to the bullpen.
If Miami follows through on dealing some veterans, López wouldn’t be the only player on the roster to attract interest. MLBTR examined a few of the club’s other possible trade candidates last week. First baseman/designated hitter Garrett Cooper has a season and a half of remaining control and is hitting .279/.347/.426 on the year. He landed on the 10-day injured list due to a right wrist contusion this afternoon, but he indicated he expects to return when first eligible on August 3 (link via Christina De Nicola of MLB.com). He won’t play again before next Tuesday’s trade deadline, but injured players are able to be dealt, and it stands to reason other clubs will look past the injury if Cooper’s likely to return next week.
Brian Anderson and Jon Berti each looked like potential trade candidates, but they’re on the IL themselves. Anderson suffered a shoulder injury over the weekend, while Berti has yet to begin a rehab assignment after hurting his groin a little less than two weeks ago. They seem less likely than Cooper to be dealt given their longer-term recovery timelines.
Miami also has a handful of veteran relievers who could change hands. Right-hander Anthony Bass is controllable next season via $3MM club option, but he should draw interest with a 1.51 ERA through 41 2/3 innings on the year. Southpaws Steven Okert and Tanner Scott have missed plenty of bats and are controllable for multiple seasons beyond 2022, although each has struggled with his control. Richard Bleier is a more stable ground-ball specialist from the left side, while Dylan Floro is a righty with a broadly similar profile as Bleier.