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2021 Miami Marlins: Trade Bait Bloodies Free Agency Waters

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The 2021 Miami Marlins front office is doing their due diligence in vetting both the trade market and free agency pool. According to The Athletic’s Jim Bowden, the Marlins have attempted to acquire outfielder Andrew Benintendi. This comes on the heels of the Yasiel Puig rumor. Based on the phrasing of Bowden’s report—“were one of the teams engaged in trade talks”. Ely Sussman notes in his recent article, “Bowden sounds unsure of whether the negotiations are active or if they have reached an impasse.” Ely writes for Fish Stripes.

2021 Miami Marlins OF Roster Options

World Series hero Kyle Schwarber is off the market. He inked a one-year, $10 million deal with the Nationals. Scharber underachieved in 2020, resulting in a non-tendered by the Cubs.

The 2021 Miami Marlins continue to search externally for a veteran, flexible option. Benintendi is signed for $6.6 million in 2021, arbitration-eligible in 2022. The team-friendly control is appealing to Miami’s budget-conscious front office. Andrew Benintendi, 26, is a .273/.353/.435 career hitter (108 wRC+) through five MLB seasons. His 2018 All-Star-caliber level performance (4.4 fWAR/4.5 rWAR) contributed to Boston’s World Series run.

With the fallout since their title, Benintendi’s performance has suffered. Once a top-rated prospect, he struggled to hit with power in 2019. His struggles carried into the 60 game sprint of 2020. Benintendi suffered a ribcage injury which ended his season after only 14 games played. In finance, we call this a distressed asset. The Marlins front office must be drooling to fill their RF void with such a high ceiling option at a controllable low-cost value.

Fish Stripes Projections

The first potential trade is structured such that Marlins trades LHP Braxton Garrett and OF Kameron Misner for OF Andrew Benintendi. “The thought process behind this trade structure is the Red Sox are giving the Fish a refund on Misner’s 2019 draft signing bonus and covering half of Benintendi’s salary for 2021.” The other two options can be found here.

Early depth chart projections are written in pencil. Per MLB.com’s depth chart, the Marlins project to have Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, and Lewis Brinson as the primary starters in the outfield. This is fluid. Other options include Harold Ramirez, Magneuris Sierra, and Monte Harrison.

Dickerson hit .258 with seven home runs in 52 games last season and will enter free agency at the end of the 2021 season. Ramirez may platoon with Dickerson.

Yasiel Puig reminds unsigned. Over seven Major League seasons, Puig has slashed .277/.348/.475 with 132 homers and 79 stolen bases. He hit a 122 OPS+ over 3,376 plate appearances. Puig only wants an opportunity and he has been playing in the Dominican Winter League.

Marte, 32, had a $12.5 million option was picked up for 2021, finished last season with a 107 OPS+, hitting .311 with Arizona before being acquired by Miami on August 31st. The veteran centerfielder is trade bait at the trade deadline.

Miami has three viable 1st base options. To optimize offensive production, Garrett Cooper could play in rightfield. This relieves the log jam at first base. In his career, Cooper has logged 248 innings at the position grading out as average per defensive runs saved. He finished 2020 with a 130 OPS+, slugging .500 in 34 games.

Sierra, 24, and Brinson are expendable if and when the Marlins add a veteran outfielder. Since the start of the 2017 season, his -3.2 rWAR is tied with Colorado’s Ian Desmond for the second-worst mark in baseball. Sierra’s blazing speed can impact the game, but his lack of power projects to a bench player. Ng must consider roster flexibility and budget concerns. Sierra has depleted his minor league options.

Personally, I believe JJ Bleday will be the starter by August 2021. Bleday hit .257/.311/.379. His continued hitting prowess is no surprise after he led NCAA Division I with 27 homers and 192 total bases while leading Vanderbilt to the College World Series championship. Bleday projects to be a productive corner-outfield option in 2022, if not sooner.

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