As the trade deadline approaches and the Marlins have won two straight series and won six of seven on the current road trip. They have closed up to 5.5 games of the second wild card and are ginning up some interest as buyers in the coming few days.
The Marlins have some striking needs at the back of the rotation, a middle infield position and middle relief. There are some very notable holes in the Marlins roster which probably cannot be fixed at the deadline. Turner, Hand, Koehler are all Major League average or worse, replacement options in the back of the bullpen. Acquiring a piece like Ian Kennedy would help but not enough to make the Marlins into a true contender to not just make the playoffs but go deep into October.
Steve Cishek is one of the best closers in baseball but he doesn’t have much help behind him outside of Mike Dunn and A.J. Ramos. Chris Hatcher, Bryan Morris and Dan Jennings are all mediocre choices in the middle innings. The Marlins best chance to have an impactful bullpen involves the return of Carter Capps and the addition of former Arkansas Razorback prospect Colby Suggs. Who has gone from Rookie Ball to Advanced A ball in 2 seasons. Suggs is a prototypical college reliever who features a fastball and power curve.
iSuggs says that his “”curve is my put-away pitch, but I’m working on setting it up a little differently and trying to confuse hitters a little more,” Suggs said. “Earlier in the count I can slow it down and just drop it in there for a strike. I feel like I have that kind of command on it. Later in the count I definitely want to amp it up and bury it a little bit. I have to learn not to over-compete with the curveball because I tend to do that a lot more with it than the fastball.”
Suggs who comes in at 5’11’’ inches and as a hard throwing two-pitch guy will soon start drawing comparisons to Craig Kimbrel. Suggs 32.9 K% in 18.1 IP in Jupiter last year and an improving BB% this year will surely put Suggs as candidate to join the Marlins bullpen in the second half of 2015 or to open the season in 2016.
The Marlins front office must be realistic and understand that the roster as currently built can’t win this season. But there are opportunities to improve this roster with the pieces that teams in currently in a pennant chase would want.
Namely Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn who are both viable pieces to pitch in the eighth inning or as a LOOGY in Dunn’s case or as a setup man or closer in Cishek’s. Teams often overpay for relievers at the trade deadline and the Marlins should take advantage of this to acquire either a Major League ready middle infield prospect or another proven option to play either second base or shortstop next year.
Dunn and Cishek are not expendable pieces, they are key parts to this roster but their value at the moment is more tied up with who they can bring back in a trade. This is even more important if we recognize that there are players who can readily replace them. Ramos could easily slide into the closer role, Capps and Jennings could work the eighth inning and Colby Suggs could easily be a part of the back of the Marlins bullpen in the short to medium term.
Another area of strength that the Marlins have now is Casey McGehee, who is having an insane season with a .758 OPS, .357 BABIP and a .389 wOBA with men in scoring position. There are many teams who would be willing to part with a bullpen piece or a good infield prospect for two months of a player that could take them over the top and help them with a run deep into October.
It might seem counterintuitive to that the Marlins must be sellers to help them win. At the bottom level it is counterintuitive, addition by subtraction makes no sense. Ultimately the Marlins have one solution to trade these guys now to help the team win in the next 2 years.
Giancarlo Stanton will most likely not resign with the Marlins. He has 2 more arbitration eligible years before he leaves as a free agent. The Marlins have an opportunity to trade strength now for strength in the future and hopefully make a run into the postseason either in 2015 or 2016.
If Jose Fernandez comes back and is close to being as good as he was. If Andrew Heaney can be a solid 3 starter in the next two years. If the bullpen can be a source of strength for the team. Finally if the infield, Colin Moran, Derek Dietrich and whoever the Marlins acquire can be solid the team has a legitimate chance to win and send Giancarlo Stanton into the next stage of his career having won a championship for the Miami Marlins.