The Florida Marlins trading deadline primer


With the Marlins well out of contention and the month of July rolling in, there are only two serious discussion points to be had:

1) How will the Marlins youngsters develop as the season progresses into the second half?

2) Will the team begin “selling” for the upcoming trade deadline, and who will be available?

The first one is something we might look into a little bit more in future posts, but right now I wanted to go immediately into addressing the trade deadline basics for the Florida Marlins in the 2011 season. The team has not performed well thanks to an awful June, and with the team’s playoff odds down to 0.7 percent according to Baseball Prospectus, selling seems like a good recourse of action. But do the Marlins have assets to sell, and would they be of interest to other teams? What kind of return could those assets buy? Today we’ll discuss that superficially, without heavy analysis on certain players but with an eye for the team in general.

The team in general

Here is a link to the Marlins’ current contract situations for this year and beyond (courtesy of Baseball-Reference). The Fish have the following players locked up to deals beyond this season (all years and dollars totals for 2012 season and beyond).

PlayerYears$ mil remaining$AAV
Hanley Ramirez346.515.5
Josh Johnson227.513.75
Ricky Nolasco220.510.25
John Buck212.56.25
Randy Choate11.51.5

In addition, the Marlins have the following players currently on the 25-man active roster under team control.

What does this all mean? It means that the Marlins have very few talents that are going to be around for only one more season. Javier Vazquez is among those players, but he is completely unmovable unless he waives his no-trade clause, which is unlikely given the reasoning behind his signing in Florida in the first place. Omar Infante at this point would garner no value in the market, and players like Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms are known commodities of little interest to teams.

This leaves the players under current team control as the only ones available to trade, and among them you can break the team down into different categories.

The Core: Untradeable

PlayerYears$ mil remaining
Logan Morrison4
Gaby Sanchez4
Mike Stanton4
Josh Johnson226.5

As much as I have been advocating for the trading of Gaby Sanchez some time within the next year or two, it seems at this point that it is highly unlikely. With that being the case, these four players are the least likely to be dealt because they represent the absolute core of the team for the next three to four years. Morrison, Sanchez, and Stanton are the three young position players who should carry the next era of Marlins baseball, the era that began this very season. Johnson remains the most likely player in a long-term deal to complete his contract, both because of his extremely high value to the Marlins franchise and the fact that health problems may detract other teams from offering what the Marlins would want in a trade. These four represent the team’s absolute core, four palyers that the club will need in the next few years and that will almost certainly remain in Marlins uniforms.

Can’t Be Dealt

PlayerYears$ mil remaining
John Buck212.5

It isn’t that Buck should not be dealt, but rather that he is unlikely to be able to be dealt. Teams are souring on his bat despite him having a career-worst season that is certain to favor a bounceback in the not-too-distant future. While he has a good reputation for game-calling and handling pitchers, he has never been known for his defensive prowess, and that stigma is unlikely to change either. Fair or not, he is currently likely to be seen as a “one-year wonder” and a product of the amazing offensive season the Toronto Blue Jays displayed last year in terms of power. While he still is likely to be worth his contract (0.9 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement or fWAR so far this year), teams are going to shy away from a bat-heavy catcher who has not hit well recently. It seems like the Fish will have their catcher slot filled in for the next few seasons.

Irrelevant: Deal or No Deal

PlayerYears$ mil remaining
Scott Cousins5
Mike Dunn5
Brett Hayes4
John Baker3
Emilio Bonifacio3
Brian Sanches3
Burke Badenhop2
Clay Hensley2
Randy Choate11.5

This list of players is essentially a set of guys who are completely expendable, either due to their replacement-level play or the simple fact that there are no expectations of them. If the Marlins can swing a deal involving a player like Choate or Hensley and salvage value, that would be great, but otherwise any return from a trade would be fairly meaningless. These are players the team does not have to worry about.

Trade if Disappointing: The Cameron Maybin Tier

PlayerYears$ mil remaining
Chris Coghlan3
Chris Volstad3

These two players are representatives of the Cameron Maybin Tier, a set of players who were either top prospects before or players who have displayed some success in the past and could warrant a small, meaningful return if traded. Think of a Maybin trade return when dealing these guys, both of whom have disappointed so far after strong starts to their career. They are not likely to be traded this season, but these are two major names to consider for this offseason or next year if the club is uninterested in paying them arbitration.

Trade if Cheap: The Moneymakers

PlayerYears$ mil remaining
Hanley Ramirez346.5
Ricky Nolasco220.5

These two players are possible trade options because of their salary relative to their current play. It is rare that the Marlins are able to keep talent around on long-term deals with a lot of money tied up, so Ramirez and Nolasco are two names which might not play through their deals by the end of their career. Of the two, Ramirez is the most likely to be traded this season or in the offseason, as ridiculous as that decision may be. The team may be disappointed and not interested in paying an underachieving superstar with attitude problems a lot of money. You know that I think that would be a huge mistake for the team’s future, as I feel Ramirez should be shifted to the first category with Johnson.

As for Nolasco, this would be the third straight season in which he’s underachieved his peripherals, but this would be the worst of those three seasons in terms of peripherals. His strikeouts are down and his walks are up enough to have me concerned, and the home run suppression he is current exhibiting is unlikely to stick given his career numbers. If the right offer came along within the next year, I think the Marlins would make a deal.

Trade this season

PlayerYears$ mil remaining
Edward Mujica2
Leo Nunez1

I snuck in Mujica even though I think he will stay on the Fish this season, but he is the only other reliever on the team who could fetch any amount of value on the trade market. He may not have the electric stuff one would expect from a closer type, but he has shown the numbers that would allow him to be a mediocre closer in the majors. As for Nunez, it is almost a certainty that he will be dealt this year, and this would be the right move at the right time. Sure, his stuff is not yet considered elite yet, so he will never fetch much in the open market, but with teams desperate for bullpen assistance, the Marlins may be able to sucker one team to overpay for a guy who has converted on 23 of 26 save opportunities this season. In addition to that, Nunez is a pretty decent pitcher on his own right, with strikeout stuff and decent enough command. Finally, he’ll be making too much next year to be kept on board, as his last arbitration season will probably earn him $6-7 million.

The Trade Bait: The Biggest Fish

PlayerYears$ mil remaining
Anibal Sanchez1

If the Marlins are looking for the player with the biggest return, Sanchez would be the guy. I already discussed why this might be a good move, but it bears repeating that if the team is not going to sign Sanchez through 2014, his value in the market will never be higher than it is right now.