The Miami Marlins trade good players on a regular basis, but their history of parting with their best players is even worse than you think.
After World Series wins in 1997 and 2003, the Marlins proceeded to trade multiple good players in the following months. Money concerns were clearly the lead reason, generally as a preemptive strike against players being in line for bigger contracts and as ownership claimed poverty. But other than those two rises to the top, the franchise has not even made the playoffs.
On Thursday, after prevalent rumors all offseason, the Marlins traded catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Philadelphia Phillies. Realmuto led all catchers in WAR over the last two seasons, and he’s the best player at the position in all of baseball right now. In Marlins’ history, he ranks 16th in WAR (FanGraphs version).
Realmuto being traded was not a surprise, it was just a matter of where he would land before Opening Day this year. But thanks to Sam Miller of ESPN, we know just how often the Marlins have traded their best players.
Of the top-25 players in franchise history, ranked by WAR (FanGraphs version), the Marlins have traded 23 of them. Here they are.
The only exceptions are A.J. Burnett, who left as a free agent, and Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident in 2016. Had Fernandez lived and continued on the track he was on in his career, he surely would have been traded too.
The Colorado Rockies, who debuted the same year as the Marlins, have held onto nine of the 25 best players through free agency or retirement and an additional four are on their current roster. The Arizona Diamondbacks have traded 14 of their all-time top-25, and the Tampa Bay Rays have kept seven of their 25 best players through free agency. The latter two franchises of course came in after the Marlins, and the Rays are notoriously, proactively cost-aware.
So beyond seeing their team play in an expensive taxpayer-funded stadium that featured an eyesore in the outfield through last season, Marlins’ fans can’t get attached to good players before they’re quickly gone. And without a shift in a long-running core organizational philosophy, spanning multiple owners and front office executives, that won’t be changing anytime soon.