Miami Marlins: Trade Deadline Review


This year’s trade deadline was a busy one filled with action. With the team solidly out of contention, the Miami Marlins decided to sell off a few pieces that are either impending free agents or not considered part of the core.

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These players, of course, included Steve Cishek, Mat Latos, Michael Morse, Dan Haren, and Sam Dyson. In total, the Marlins netted 8 players to their weak farm system through trades with the Cardinals, Braves/Dodgers, Cubs, and Rangers. What should we make of the trade they made at the deadline?

While they made a number of trades, the Marlins did not really give up a ton of value. Mat Latos and Dan Haren were the most attractive trade chips but considering their just rentals, they were only going to fetch so much in return. Steve Cishek has seen his value crater over the past four months and Sam Dyson is a run-of-the-mill middle reliever. Michael Morse had virtually no trade value but that point will be addressed again later.

Since the Marlins didn’t really give up a whole lot, they didn’t really get back a whole lot. They added a lot of bodies to the system without adding any considerable talent. Fangraph’s Kiley McDaniel graded each prospect traded at the deadline and, based off his Future Value grades for each prospect, basically sees the moves as just adding organizational depth.

The highest graded prospect the Marlins received is RHP Jeff Brigham (Dodgers trade), who, with his 40 grade FV, appears to be a reliever at best. While he has a big arm and can run it up to the high 90s, he’s also a 23-year-old who hasn’t pitched well in High A. There isn’t much projection for Brigham here, so it would be unreasonable to expect him to start in the big leagues any time soon, if at all.

Every other player acquired appears to be nothing more than filler rather than an actual prospect. McDaniel grades RHP Ivan Pineyro (Cubs trade) as a 35+ but I think he might be more of a 40.

Regardless, he probably won’t stick as a starter and is most likely better suited as a reliever. It’s likely that absolutely none of the players acquired through these trades have any impact on the major league roster at any point. In fact, the return for the Latos/Morse trade reminds me a lot of the return the Marlins got in the Ricky Nolasco trade.

Apr 18, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets third baseman Eric Campbell (29) scores in front of Miami Marlins starting pitcher Mat Latos (35) during the second inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

I guess the farm system is better off, simply because they added more players to it, but only a couple of players are expected to, at their best, be contributors on a major league team.

So in the end, the team’s farm system really isn’t much better since no one is expected to have a meaningful impact at the big league level and none of the players acquired could be turned around and used in an offseason trade to meaningfully address an area of need.

So, then, what benefits did the team reap from their trade deadline activity?

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For starters, the team is saving about $15 million of 2016 payroll through the Morse and Cishek trades alone. Morse’s contract guarantees him $8 million for next season and Cishek is currently making $6.65 million through arbitration this season.

A player’s salary can’t go down through arbitration so, assuming he is tendered a contract during the offseason, he’ll make at least $7 million next season. Also, the team is saving around $3 million or so in trading Mat Latos and $2 million in being relieved of the remainder of Cishek’s 2015 salary, so the team potentially saved $20 million for next season’s payroll through these trades.

Saving that much money is fantastic. If a team shed that much money, you would normally expect that team to turn around and chase a big name free agent.

The Miami Marlins already had all the payroll space in the world to load up via free agency, but after clearing up even more money, they’re in a much better position.

The problem is the team has not shown they are willing and able to do such a thing. Jeffrey Loria aside, the Marlins haven’t spent the money they needed to spend when they had to spend it. While there is precedent in the 2011 offseason, last offseason was a much more crucial time and the Marlins failed to capitalize, ultimately leading to where they are now.

What the team really needed to do, however, was add talent. In attaching Morse’s contract to Latos, the Marlins missed out on a chance to add some talent. The Reds traded Mike Leake to the Giants for RHP Keury Mella and corner infielder Adam Duvall. Mella has a good chance to be a starting pitcher, maybe even a mid rotation starter, while Duvall should be able to handle bench duties in the big leagues. Latos is probably a tier above Leake, so the Marlins should have been able to get a better return for Latos.

We won’t even know what the Marlins were offered but we do know they decided to dump Morse’s salary instead, prioritizing salary relief over adding young talent.

Aug 9, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Miami Marlins relief pitcher Steve Cishek (31) throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning at Great American Ball Park. The Marlins won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

This really makes it easy to see their trade deadline moves as more of a salary dump. Dyson was never going to bring back much and Haren returned the value that he was expected to. Cishek could have been held onto since he’s a fine and usable bullpen arm even if he isn’t a high leverage reliever anymore, so that trade could be viewed as something of a salary dump as well.

The team missed the opportunity to sell high on him so it might have been better off paying Cishek over the next two seasons and hoping to get some value out of him.

The Marlins certainly did a great job of cutting payroll. The Marlins have just $30 million or so committed to next year’s roster now and while a number of players are expected to get raises through arbitration, this is a very small number.

The Miami Marlins kept their core intact because they believe it is good enough to win. They saved quite a bit of money that could and should be put to next year’s roster. This is a good core but core alone doesn’t get you anywhere.

The farm system is still bad, so no talent to call upon and no trades can be made to boost the major league roster. It has to be done via free agency now, but the stakes are even higher now. The team has to splurge in free agency and not miss on any signings if it wants to come close to competing next season. That absolutely is not the formula for sustained success but it’s their only option right now.

Did the Marlins have a good trade deadline?

Yes and no.

The team should have had another fire sale; either selling off everyone or rebuilding around two key pieces. The team rightfully believes it has a good core but it needs to supplement through free agency now. The team has not shown it is able to do that.

Really, the answer really depends on what they do in free agency. No more messing around. It is absolutely imperative that the team spends money to be successful.

If it doesn’t spend money, this franchise may never get off the ground.

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