If it gets on MLB Trade Rumors around deadline time, it must be true. It must especially be true when it comes from the tweets of Ken Rosenthal.
It seems like the Marlins are interested in keeping Leo Nunez at least until the end of the season. It should be fairly obvious that this is a bad idea. Ted Hill of Marlins Diehards made the excellent case for trading Nunez yesterday, and the team went ahead and contradicted that. In fact, his case was so good that it may bear repeating and elaborating on my part:
1. The Marlins aren’t winning this season.
A look at Baseball Prospectus’s Playoff Odds Report and you can easily tell that the Fish are going nowhere playoffs-wise this season. The Marlins are at the cellar of the division at the moment and will not be climbing back into the playoffs barring something as improbable as losing 17 out of 18 games in one month. I would not bet on that happening twice in a season on a team as average as this one. What does a team without playoff hopes need a decent but unspectacular closer in 2011 for?
2. Leo Nunez is not long for this team
The Marlins will not retain Nunez in 2012, not for $6 to 7 million. One look at the numbers should show you why.
Nothing about those numbers screams highly efficient. We thought that he may have turned a corner last season, but the Marlins tinkered with him and his numbers fell off slightly due to regression and the changes in his game. Why would the Marlins want to keep a player around like him for another season when he will be making money the team has never paid for any closer before? Especially when they have this player in their bullpen as well.
The comparison is not quite apples-to-apples, with the big difference being Mujica playing half of his games in Petco Park in 2009 and 2010. But the general point is that the Marlins have a very similar pitcher in terms of overall value, with similar ERA, FIP, ground ball rates, and BABIP over the past three seasons. The BABIP may not mean much given the park comparisons, but everything else looks very similar. Mujica would not be making more than $2.5 million next season and would be ready to step into a closer role if the Marlin happen to trade Nunez. Unfortunately, it seems the Marlins are willing to simply hold onto Nunez for the time being.
3. The trade deadline is the perfect time for a reliever trade.
Ted said it best in the linked article.
No one trades for relievers in the offseason (except us!). If the Fish try to ship off the LeoCoaster in the winter, we shouldn’t expect a good haul. However, many teams that are in contention in July get the false notion that they are one strong bullpen arm away from perhaps winning the World Series. because of that, they’re willing to let go of solid prospects or major league ready players (Adrian Gonzalez!).
If the Marlins can get rid of Nunez now, it would represent their best return due to the desperate nature of the trade deadline. Teams pay more for relievers now than they do at any time of the season. Of course, Nunez was a sort of “backup-backup” option behind better players like Mike Adams and Heath Bell, but he still has the characteristics that remain interesting for a team. Nunez is a righty with decent velocity and the ability to face lefties, meaning he is not relegated to a ROOGY role. He does not quite have closer stuff and certainly is not a LOOGY (two qualities that most teams are looking for in a trade deadline relief acquisition), but it does not mean he holds no value. He would have brought back something for the Marlins at this time, just not much. It seems silly that the Fish would reject the idea of trading Nunez for some possible future parts if the team is likely to part with him in the offseason anyway. A headscratching move among a season of headscratching moves for the Fish.