I’ve gone on record as not hating (hate leads to suffering) the Giancarlo Stanton trade because that contract is truly an abomination and my number 27 Marlins jersey is now a vintage (and on sale). But the lack of a prospect return from one of baseball’s best systems in the Bronx is nothing short of bitterly disappointing.
The Dee Gordon trade brought back some of Seattle’s best prospects, which is of course relative but Nick Neidert has clear rotation potential and Christopher Torres is a high ceiling (but low floor) shortstop.
Then came their best deal of the offseason in terms of return. The Cardinals dipped into their annually festive farm system to swipe Marcell Ozuna away from Miami, officially booting up a full-fledged rebuild in South Beach.
The Gordon-Seattle trade was understandable and the Stanton-New York trade explains itself above, but dealing Ozuna or Christian Yelich meant that the Marlins were truly beginning again.
Ozuna netted youngsters Sandy Alcantara and Magneuris Sierra, the latter ready to slide into Ozuna’s MLB spot at spacious (on and around the field) Marlins Park but hopeless blocked in St. Louis and the former hopeful to be the answer at the top of a barren pitching rotation.
The Marlins had no shot to get Alex Reyes (without adding more to their side) and the Cardinals leveraged their way into keeping Jack Flaherty and Carson Kelly. With that said, it’s a good return but there’s a better one out there for world’s most popular owner Derek Jeter to take hold of.
Two major trade pieces remain and it seems like the painfully stagnant free agent market of 2017-2018 is almost waiting on at least one of those fish-sized dominoes to fall.
These pieces are Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto. Yelich, who just turned 26, is already a great overall player. In a year or two, he could become one of baseball’s very best players, with all five precious tools to bare.
Yelich’s agent somehow allowed him to sign a 7-year contract worth less than $50 million prior to the 2015 season. The contract is a stark contract to Stanton’s bloated deal and it transforms the super talented outfielder from “prime trade chip” into one of the league’s most valuable assets.
Realmuto, also 26 with his 27th birthday coming in March, hit .278 last season, second among all catchers behind future Hall of Famer Buster Posey. The remainder of his slash line trailed only Posey and Gary Sanchez and he finished third in home runs and WAR at the position while topping all backstops with eight steals.
On top of his already All-Star pedigree (an official selection still eludes him thanks to Posey and Yadier Molina), he’s a stout defender and most importantly of all is remarkably cheap. He’s projected to make a little over $4 million dollars in his first season of eligible arbitration in 2018.
All the factors surrounding Yelich and Realmuto result in what should be the two biggest deals of the offseason for the Marlins. I do bite my tongue and note that Ozuna has two more years of arbitration and Miami didn’t net any of St. Louis’ five star prospects for him They still managed to acquire a pair of B-grade prospects, with room to grow into more.
For Yelich and Realmuto, keeping your enemies closer may be a fantastic idea for the Marlins and salvage their offseason fire sale. Two division teams —the Atlanta Braves for Yelich and the Washington Nationals for Realmuto— are perfect fits.
Certainly any team would love to have Yelich but the Braves can offer a bounty of pitching prospects like Kolby Allard, Kyle Wright and Joey Wentz that no other team save the Chicago White Sox can and who aren’t likely to trade any of Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez or Dylan Cease. Atlanta also has one of the top position player prospects around with Ronald Acuna.
It’s a steep price for Atlanta to even consider one of these players, especially Acuna or Allard, and in light of what the Marlins received for Ozuna, they will certainly try to make the deal without either top prospect.
However, one can’t help but remember the way teams have dealt elite prospects freely in the past year and a half. Teams have gotten less than Yelich, Realmuto and Ozuna (and Stanton) and still surrendered blue chippers like Eloy Jimenez, Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Giolito and Lopez, Blake Rutherford and Lewis Brinson in the past year and a half.
That’s what stings about these Marlins deals the most. The ever-flowing market continues to evolve but you have to wonder how hard Jeter and company are pursuing it.
As for Realmuto, the Nationals will obviously not trade Victor Robles but Juan Soto is a perfect piece for Miami to “settle” on. The Nats desperately need a catcher and are in win now mode as much as any team in MLB. Soto, and perhaps Erick Fedde with one of Washington’s many system catchers, is a realistic proposal that gives Miami two big time prospects they sorely need and the Nationals the catcher they yearn for.
Any which way the Marlins go from here, it will need to be one that replenishes one of the weaker farm systems in the league or there will be fish to fry.