In A Tale Of Three Trades, Miami Marlins Take On Cincinnati Reds


Multiple Transactions Put Under Microscope As Marlins Battle Reds

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One of the big storylines heading into this weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds was that it would bring attention to one of the Miami Marlins biggest moves of the past offseason, when they shipped promising prospect Anthony DeSclafani to the Reds in exchange for the veteran- but recently injury ridden- strike out artist Mat Latos.

Despite two straight quality starts from Latos since his return from the DL, the Reds have been widely regarded as the winners in this swap.

As it turned out, this wasn’t the best week to be an ex-Marlin pitcher facing his former club.

Nathan Eovaldi – another offseason discard- was obliterated in Tuesday’s rout of the Yankees, and DeSclafani found himself on the wrong end of a 5-0 shutout Saturday night at Great American Ballpark (Home of the All-Star Game: #VoteGSquad, #VoteAirGordon).

But to think of this series only in terms of Latos and DeSclafani is to lose sight of the bigger picture- and in some ways, Saturday night’s biggest star.

For it was not Latos on the mound, but top pitching prospect Justin Nicolino, who picked up the win by tossing seven shutout innings in his MLB debut.  If you’re scratching your head as to where that stacks up all-time , don’t worry about forgetting a bygone gem from the D-Train or Josh Beckett: no Marlins pitcher had ever strung together so many innings and yielded so little runs in his debut before.

Bottom line – the Latos to DeSclafani parallel is an unfair one when thinking big picture.

Latos is a free agent after the season, whereas the Reds have control over ‘Disco for six campaigns. In many ways, at least on the diamond, Miami can’t win the deal; even if Latos does end up being your 2015 World Series MVP, the majority of the reasons this move made sense were off the field.

Fans, and superstar Giancarlo Stanton, saw Miami committing to adding a big gun for 2015. Miami has rarely dealt so much controllable future promise for so short a rental.

The comparison that is worth really diving into is the matchup on the mound fans were treated to Saturday, as friends and former roommates squared off against each other in the DeScalfani-Nicolino tilt.  For DeSclafani,  and Andrew Heaney for that matter, are never traded if the Marlins don’t have full confidence that Nicolino is the best of the three.

Those are the careers that should me measured up, start for start, as long as the two wear their current uniforms.

Did Miami make the right call, short and long-term? Just one of those? Or worst case scenario – not at all? All of that remains to be seen, and it will be a fascinating tale to follow if you love baseball intrigue enough to read fan blogs that delve deeply into the subject.

What does not remain to seen is a ruling on two more distant transactions made by the Marlins, arguably the two biggest in team history. One was the 2012 deal that made Nicolino and DeSclafani Marlins. Condemned at the time as another in a long line of firesales, MLB ultimately approved the trade; less than three years later, it is not remotely hard to see why.

Of the five stars Miami cast-off, two are out of baseball, one is scarcely a role player, and one remains a solid but limited rotation member; only Jose Reyes still produces at a consistent star level.

Aside from the two excellent pitching prospects already discussed, Miami also pulled in a third arm in All-Star pitcher Henderson Alvarez, and two Gold Glove capable fielders in Adeiny Hechavarria and Jake Marisnick. They also added Yunel Escobar, who was actually dealt for Derek Dietrich– the same Dietrich who clubbed two homers in last night’s contest.

While it was once thought Miami was trying pull one over on the fans, the question now might be whether they can be charged with theft, as they clearly robbed the Toronto Blue Jays in broad daylight.

There was also a reminder of one of the worst trades in club history present in the ballpark Saturday.

After deciding that he’d seen enough from DeSclafani, Reds manager Bryan Price went with reliever Burke Badenhop. Badenhop was one six pieces the Marlins received back in the ill-fated 2007 swap that sent fan-favorites Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers. Badenhop, ignominiously enough, would actually be the most productive piece in a Marlins uniform for a deal that sent away a future first ballot Hall of Famer. 

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While the club did admittedly save millions by trading Willis right before he dropped off the cliff in terms of his performance, the trade was far and away a disaster.  The only other possible positive to pull out of it is the fact that the staggering lack of return in this move likely served as added incentive to make sure Stanton never left Miami.

It’s amazing how interlinked players and teams become over the years, what with free agency and trade after trade tying everyone together.

One of the most entertaining things about last night’s DeSclafani-Nicolino tilt was that with their careers having barely just begun, they already find themselves so entangled with each other’s paths to the bigs.  Not to mention the history of an MLB franchise or two.

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