The Miami Marlins were very clearly not expected to replicate the 2020 campaign that saw them reach the postseason for the first time in seventeen years. Moreover, in no way have they managed to defy the odds over the first four months of the Major League Baseball season.
The Marlins are currently holding a 44-57 record, which is the third-worst in the National League and ten games behind the NL East-leading New York Mets. Consequently, the two-time World Series champions are set to be active sellers this trade deadline season. And just three days before the final trading day, Miami showed that this year’s subtractions could be as numerous and significant as they have been in recent memory.
Busy Day in Miami
Firstly, the Marlins completed an intriguing swap with a west-coast club from the American League early on Wednesday. According to MLB insider Jon Heyman, the Marlins have dealt center fielder Starling Marte to the Oakland Athletics alongside cash considerations. In return, Miami receives former high-profile A’s prospect and current left-handed starter Jesus Luzardo.
Luzardo, who started last season as the No.4 prospect in MLB Pipeline’s database, has joined one of the deepest starting pitching staffs in all of Major League Baseball. Reversely, the Marlins lineup has suffered the departure of its most consistent hitter.
Furthermore, just hours later, Kim Ng and her staff kept the sales of starting-level assets coming. This time, they traded reliever Yimi Garcia to the Houston Astros. That deal comes just days after the Astros acquired Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero in a trade with the Mariners to kick off the upgrades to their bullpen. They carried on with the execution of that process by adding Garcia, who has spent the majority of the year as Miami’s closer.
Trades of significant players after the All-Star break are not a rare sight for the lowly Marlins franchise. However, at first, they seemed more eventful and with different ramifications than as per usual. Therefore, their impact could be more dramatic compared to the deals Miami often completes at the trade deadline.
Capitalizing in the Last Minute
A Starling Marte trade is not surprising in any way on the Marlins’ side and is amongst the ones that could have been expected the most. That is even if the club is bound to get rid of their most productive asset at the plate this season. His impact going forward would have been insignificant considering Miami’s position near the bottom of the National League.
What is more, his productiveness would have paid no further benefit to his now-former team had he stayed in south Florida through the last two months of the 2021 campaign. That is due to his six-year deal, signed with the Pirates in 2014, being set to expire after the conclusion of this season. Therefore, the 2021 trade deadline was the final opportunity for Ng to get a decent return for his subtraction.
Yet, the eventual dividends for Miami in this trade consist of some positivity but maybe just as much feeling of concern. Despite being projected as a future star, the air surrounding Jesus Luzardo is not as clean as it once was. Heading into 2021, the Peruvian was set to be a regular part of the A’s rotation for the first time in a full, 162-game campaign. However, the disappointing performance that followed dramatically affected his value and perception. Worse yet – it made him replaceable in the Athletics’ view.
Thus far, Jesus Luzardo’s turnout has been under not only his estimated standards but also the level of production the A’s need. The 2016 third-round pick has posted an Earned Run Average of 6.87 through thirteen appearances on the mound, six of which were starts. After a dozen starts and an ERA of about 5.40, Luzardo was relegated to a bullpen role, where his form only worsened. In early May, he was sidelined with an injury, which he healed in time for a late-May return. However, in mid-June, the youngster was once again sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas, this time due to his avid struggles in relief. His display for the Aviators was not much more satisfying – a 6.52 ERA and almost five walks per nine innings.
Furthermore, his figures in the three-true-outcomes department only confirm the high extent of the damage. In his 38 innings in MLB this year, Luzardo has been able to remind the league of his strikeout dominance with 9.5 strikeouts per nine. However, his lack of stability and the presence of risk that outweighs the upsides are best shown by his abysmal play against the homer. The same applies to his unsuccessful attempts to avoid ball control struggles. These woes amount to figures of 3.8 BB/9 and 2.9 HR/9, respectively. As proven in the previous paragraph, these problems were at the same level despite the easier competition.
This did not do wonders for his value and perception both within the A’s organization and around professional baseball. Oakland has let the former top-five MLB prospect go at the price of just a player who will not be remaining in the Bay Area beyond 2021. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Marlins will be covering about $4.5 million of his remaining salary. This means Miami effectively “bought” Jesus Luzardo, who has at least a few years before free agency, but his asking price would presumably not have been so low five months ago.
Despite his woeful stretch, there are reasons for the Marlins to find Luzardo promising in the long term. The Peru native put on an ERA south of 2.90 in each of his three campaigns in the minors before his 2019 MLB debut. Also, he never averaged more than 0.8 homers and 2.5 walks per nine innings in a single season in Minor League Baseball. However, the identity he has showcased in the early portion of his major-league career has been in stark contrast. Still, Miami could benefit from getting a starting-caliber player for next to nothing, even not at a post of need.
Speaking of adding to the rotation, it shouldn’t be recognized as a mistake that the Marlins didn’t address a more deprived position group. They simply did not have the realistic chance nor the eagerness to get an outfielder or a catcher. The issue is that there are not many players for competing teams with interest towards Marte which have had such bad seasons for their clubs to be willing to let them go in trades aimed at strengthening their ability to win games. In other words, there was not a broad choice of MLB-caliber assets for the potential return in the Marte trade. However, the A’s had an underperforming but high-profile starter who is still young but is not a regular part of neither the rotation nor the bullpen. It is difficult for either side to be reluctant in completing this deal as the losses are ultimately minimal.
Next up, the Marlins traded away their best reliever this season to the Houston Astros. Per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the AL West frontrunner has sent minor-leaguer Bryan De La Cruz as a part of the deal.
As already mentioned, Yimi Garcia has primarily served as Miami’s closer this year, finishing 30 games and racking up 15 saves across 39 appearances. The former Los Angeles Dodger has turned in an ERA of 3.47 in 36-and-a-third innings. Moreover, this is accompanied by almost nine strikeouts, more than three walks, and one home run per nine innings. That proves he has been closer to average, or even subpar, than to solid or dominant.
Yet, he is good enough to align with the Astros’ top priority during this trade deadline campaign. Houston has ranked in the middle of the pack in bullpen effectiveness with an ERA of 4.16. However, this virtually stands as the ballclub’s only notable weakness. Both the Astros’ rotation (6th) and lineup (1st) are in the top ten across Major League Baseball.
This is not much more different from the cases of Graveman and Montero. Rosenthal also brings up an interesting detail – the three players combined will receive $2 million in Houston luxury-tax commitments. This will keep the club less than $500 000 below the $210-million luxury-tax threshold.
As regards the Marlins, the team will get a possible outfield depth piece in Bryan De La Cruz. De La Cruz has only reached Triple-A in spite of his age of 24. However, he is in the midst of his best campaign in the minors, posting an on-base percentage of .362 and a slugging figure of .518. These are the second-best and the best marks of his career, respectively. All of this – despite De La Cruz having no AAA experience prior to 2021.
If Miami lacks depth come next April, Bryan De La Cruz might be a good bet to make the team’s roster. However, his ability to turn in even a slightly positive display on the major-league level endures a huge question mark as of now.
More Moves To Come?
Miami has put into practice the same old routine they have had to continuously complete throughout the last decade. However, in their early moves before the trade deadline, they have been extremely efficient in getting the best possible return. General Manager Kim Ng has been able to trade away two assets with expiring contracts for two players with a slim, yet existent, probability of being useful in the near future.
This only fuels the fire for more trades of big names. However, there could be some big setbacks. Miami has no remaining major players with deals due after the conclusion of the 2021 season. Furthermore, the only significant assets who are set to leave after 2022 are Joe Panik and Sandy Leon, with the one being just acquired and the other drawing no suitors. The rest is unlikely to be dealt away until the 2021/2022 offseason at the soonest.
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