The Miami Marlins have been wildly inconsistent in the first half of the season, likely making the team sellers at the MLB trade deadline.
Miami Marlins fans have been on a wild ride throughout the history of the franchise.
It’s never easy to build an expansion club, yet the 1997 Florida Marlins won the World Series in just their fifth year in existence. After a massive fire sale led to the worst defending World Championship squad in history, the Marlins slowly built a talented core, and eventually won it all again in 2003.
Unfortunately, the club has rarely challenged for a playoff spot since. The best shot came in 2009, when the club won 87 games but finished six games behind the Phillies in the division and five games out in the Wild Card. The 2009 season was also the last time the Marlins finished with a winning record.
The 2016 season began with great promise, and the Fish were 76-75 on September 20 after ace Jose Fernandez tossed eight brilliant shutout innings against the Washington Nationals. Tragically, it would be the last game Fernandez would ever pitch. Understandably, Miami never recovered from Fernandez’s heartbreaking death five days later, and finished 79-82.
The loss of Fernandez was devastating for many reasons, but it’s impossible to ignore the impact it had on the Marlins performance this season overall, and the pitching staff in particular. Fernandez was one of the best players in baseball, and when paired with a powerful lineup, the Marlins had a strong core capable of contending in a shallow NL East.
Unfortunately, Miami (and the game itself) lost Fernandez far too soon. Now, with franchise itself on the market, and an inconsistent team performance leading to a 41-46 first-half record, which has the club 10.5 games back in the division and nine games out of the second Wild Card spot, Miami looks like sellers again at the upcoming MLB trade deadline.
Miami starting pitchers posted a 5.00 ERA through the All-Star break, which was the second worst figure in the National League and third worst in all of baseball. Marlins starters also ranked next to last in the NL in strikeouts (369), and rank No. 23 in Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs.
Dan Straily has been solid, posting a 3.31 ERA and 3.99 FIP in 18 starts since coming over from the Reds in a January trade. Edinson Volquez has flashed brilliance, particularly when he tossed a no-hitter in June, and Jose Urena finally looks like a contributor at the big league level. But the rest of the rotation is sorely lacking, especially since big money starter Wei-Yin Chen made just five starts before suffering a partial UCL tear.
Adeiny Hechavarria began the season as the Marlins shortstop, but played just 20 games before injury struck and was traded to the Rays earlier this month. Miami obviously felt pretty good enough about rookie J.T. Riddle’s performance at short to part with Hechavarria, but the 25-year-old’s .260/.290/.375 slash with three home runs and 30 RBI doesn’t scream “franchise cornerstone.”
Martin Prado is a good player, and has proven his worth as a versatile defender and contact hitter over the course of a 12-year major league career. However, Prado is 33 this year, and has struggled with injury. Though he’s signed to a contract that will pay him $28.5 million through 2019, Prado isn’t the long-term answer for the Marlins at third base, and it’s unlikely Derek Dietrich is either.
Baseball Prospectus Organizational Talent Ranking: 30
MLB.com Top 100 Prospects: 1
MLB.com Top 10 Prospects
- Braxton Garrett, LHP
- Tyler Kolek, RHP
- Brian Anderson, 3B
- Dillon Peters, LHP
- Isael Soto, OF
- Thomas Jones, OF
- Stone Garrett, OF
- Drew Steckenrider, RHP
- James Nelson, 3B
- Edward Cabrera, RHP
According to at least one publication, Baseball Prospectus, the Marlins entered the season with the worst farm system in the major leagues. MLB.com ranks top prospect Braxton Garrett No. 35 overall in its current rankings and third among left-handed pitchers, though the 19-year-old Garrett underwent Tommy John surgery in June. There are a few intriguing prospects in the system, but the group as a whole lacks depth and upside, and most of the best players are still in the lower levels. Only two of the top 10 have reached Double-A.
There are a few ways in which the Marlins could rebuild the farm system. One would be to trade one of their star outfielders: All-Stars Marcell Ozuna or Giancarlo Stanton, or last year’s breakout performer, Christian Yelich. It’s not an optimal strategy since the three, along with catcher J.T. Realmuto, are the young core the club should build around.
Trading older players such as A.J. Ramos, Dee Gordon and Justin Bour would be preferable, but none are likely to bring back as back a prospect haul.