Jun 15, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Jason Grilli (39) and catcher A.J. Pierzynski (15) celebrate after defeating the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Braves have done a very good job of packaging players with bad contracts to players with trade value to shed those contracts. Currently, Braves reliever Jason Grilli is enjoying another very good season, which he’s done consistently since his 2011 season with the Pirates. He’s in the midst of arguably his best season of his career and, after signing a 2 year $8.2 million contract that includes a $3 million team option ($250k buyout), is a total bargain.
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Given the reluctance of teams to sell in this age of two Wild Cards, and the price teams pay for relievers at the deadline, Grilli will come at a pretty high cost.
The Miami Marlins don’t have much young talent they can use in trades, but they aren’t totally devoid of prospects. Most importantly, what the team does have is a very low payroll and can really afford to take on some salary.
So what am I getting at here?
The Miami Marlins are going to have to give up a good prospect, but they can lessen the blow if they take on a bad contract; in this case, the contract of Chris Johnson. The third baseman is owed about $20.5 million through 2017 ($19.5 million in salary with a $1 million buy out of the $10 million team option for 2018).
This is basically dead money. At this point he’s most valuable as the right-hand side of a platoon, which is exactly the intention here.
With Martin Prado being traded in this scenario, the Marlins need to fill in third base. Derek Dietrich should probably be the first option but he needs to avoid lefties entirely. Dietrich won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2016, so he’ll make the league minimum until then. That means the Marlins will pay this duo $8 million next season then $9 million + whatever Dietrich makes in his first go through arbitration the following season, which most likely won’t be more than $2-3 million.
The Marlins should be able to get a win, maybe even a win and a half, from this platoon, so with the value of a win expected to go up to around $9 million then most likely up close to $10 million, the Marlins wouldn’t be doing too bad here. As previously stated, the Marlins have a very low payroll, so paying market price for their wins at third base, even with the not good Johnson contract, should not be too much for them.
So what will this trade look like? Going to the Marlins, of course, is Grilli and Johnson. A major part of this trade for the Braves will be the salary relief, but there will be a lot of teams competing for Grilli so the Marlins do have to give up meaningful talent.
The Braves have mostly been acquiring pitchers of all kinds in the trades they have made and while the Marlins are lacking in high-end talent, they do have some high floor arms that project as back-end starters.
There’s going to be a lot of competition so I think the team would need to pony up Jose Urena and Trevor Williams to get the deal done. Neither pitcher has much upside even if they do constitute a major portion of the team’s farm system. If the deal is just Grilli straight up, I don’t see the Marlins being able to get it done, unless they trade Tyler Kolek (more on that later), so taking on Johnson’s salary is imperative.
Next: Trade for Controllable Starter?