Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 3.5

Chad Qualls
Image From Miami Herald

Before the Trade Deadline

     In my previous post Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 3 – Trade Deadline, I examined trade opportunities for Marlins Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, as well as reliever Chad Qualls.  The Marlins received interest from Stanton, and their crop of relievers, but were ultimately quiet at the deadline, as were many other clubs.

     In my previous post I said “For me, the Pirates would have to part with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon at least”.  The general reaction was that this would be an awful deal for Pittsburgh, but I defended it by saying that it’s the type of deal it would take to deal Stanton while he still has 3 years under team control.  According to a report surfacing this morning on FishStripes, referencing an article on Marlin Maniac yesterday, the two young power arms were part of the deal.  However, this contradicts what Miami-Herald writer Clark Spencer reported at the July 31st trade deadline, so it’s still in the air.  The reported deal is as follows:

Pirates Get:
OF Giancarlo Stanton – 23 y.o. – MLB – .245/ .364/ .466, 13 HR, 34 RBI – 68 G (15.2 BB%, 25.6 K%)
RP Steve Cishek 27 y.o. – MLB – 23/25 SV/O, 3.08 ERA, 23.9 K%, 8.3 BB% – 49.2 IP
OF Justin Ruggiano – 31 y.o. – MLB – .200/ .278/ .365, 12 HR, 32 RBI – 86 G  (8.5 BB%, 24.3 K%)

Marlins Get:
SP Gerrit Cole – 22 y.o. – MLB – 5-5, 10 GS, 3.69 ERA, 17.6 K%, 5.7 BB% – 61.0 IP
OF Starling Marte – 24 y.o. – MLB – .279/ .335/ .442, 32 SB, 10 HR, 30 RBI – 108 G (4.0 BB%, 23.4 K%)
SP Jameson Taillon – 21 y.o. – AA/AAA – 4-8, 20 GS, 3.75 ERA, 22.2 K%, 7.8 BB% – 115.1 IP
1B Stetson Allie – 22 y.o. – A/A+ – .291/ .389/ .514, 19 HR, 75 RBI – 107 G (13.2 BB%, 29.2 K%)

Breakdown

Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole
Image from LA Times

     The Marlins would give up their star outfielder, and closer, who are both first-time arbitration eligible this off-season with multiple remaining years under team control, along with a reserve outfielder who isn’t arbitration eligible for another year.  In return, the Pirates offer their #1,2, and 4 prospects from 2012 according to Baseball America, with two of them in the Major Leagues this season, along with a minor league converted 1B, who was their #9 prospect as a pitcher in 2012.

     I was initially blown away by this offer when I saw the names that the Pirates were going to part with.  But then as I looked into them, I realized that I was victim to “being used to” Giancarlo Stanton.  His name isn’t as eye-popping as Cole, Taillon, and Marte because I see and hear about Stanton on a day-by-day basis.  This is something I’ll keep an eye out to not let affect me anymore.

     Cole, along with the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, Mets’ Matt Harvey, Cardinals’ Shelby Miller, etc. is widely considered as one of the top rising pitchers in the game.  Once Taillon, who just made his first start since being called up to AAA, gets the call to the MLB, he will join this company.  Starling Marte is a highly regarded outfielder as well with plus speed and defense.  Stetson Allie was a two-way player in High School, and was drafted by the Pirates as a pitcher.  However, after struggling through parts of two years, he converted to 1B and is making his way up the system.  Cole and Marte are both not arbitration-eligible until after the 2015 season, with Cole making his debut this year (likely “Super Two”), and Marte at the end of last year.  Taillon and Allie both have yet to start their Major League Service clock.

Jameson Taillon

Jameson Taillon
Image from Bleacher Report

     Gerrit Cole has been effective through 10 starts in the majors, but his decline in K% is a concern.  He’s averaged 25% Strikeouts through 2012 in the minors.  This fell to 17.5% in AAA this year, and consistently leveled at 17.6% through his 10 major league starts.  There’s no way to know if this is a decline, or a fluctuation, but it’s not something that makes you feel ready to go all in for him.  Jameson Taillon has a career 21.9 K% in his minor league career.  Cole looks to have a slightly better outlook than Taillon, but both profile as top of the rotation starters.

     Marte hit for a high average in lower level minor league ball with average power.  He’s a speedy outfielder with a strong arm, although he has a consistently low walk rate, and a higher than ideal strikeout rate.  Stetson Allie was a highly touted two way athlete who converted to being a position player in 2012 due to major control issues on the mound.  Allie tore it up in A this year (.324/ .414/ .607) during 66 game, but has struggled to produce in 41 games of A+ ball (.238/ .348/ .364).

Marlins Outlook

Andrew HeaneyImage from MiLB.com

Andrew Heaney
Image from MiLB.com

     The Marlins would receive what would largely be referred to as a huge package in return for Stanton, Cishek, and Ruggiano.  However, the problem I had in dealing with the Pirates, is that they aren’t loaded with prospects in areas that the Marlins need.  The Marlins minor league system is loaded with Starting Pitching.  While Cole would fit into the current rotation right behind Jose Fernandez, him and Taillon add to the loackjam that already exists in the Marlins starting rotation 1-2 years down the road.  The Marlins would have in alphabetical order: Hederson Alvarez, Adam Conley, Gerrit Cole, Nate Eovaldi, Brian Flynn, Jose Fernandez, Andrew HeaneyJustin Nicolino, Jameson Taillon, and Jacob Turner.  Possibly also lower level prospects Anthony DeSclafani, Angel Sanchez, acquired in the Nolasco trade, and Jose Urena who are a little farther away.  But from the list ranging from Alvarez to Turner, how do you pick five guys from that?  Even so, is losing Stanton, Cishek, and Ruggiano worth the improvement from the #6-7 guys on the list to Cole and Taillon?  Also, with Alvarez, Eovaldi, Fernandez, and Turner already in the rotation, which one of them do you bump?  You already have four current guys on the list in the Marlins system battling for that last spot.  There’s an old adage that you can never have enough good pitching, but for what the Marlins are giving up on offense, the large majority of the return being pitching doesn’t make sense.

     Starling Marte is the next top prospect in this trade.  As an outfielder, he steps into a position where the Marlins are also loaded with talent.  Marcell Ozuna is a nice power bat who was recently sent down before undergoing season ending surgery, and the Marlins just called up their #1 and #2 prospects, outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick.  The Marlins have other lower level outfield prospects in their system, but this presents the same question as the pitching rotation.  Which of the three do you kick out for Marte?

Steve Cishek
Image from Miami Herald

     Stetson Allie is the lowest level prospect of the bunch, and he could very well become a great 1B, but it’s hard to put your future at the position in a guy who is a converted pitcher.  Also, the Marlins currently have Logan Morrison at 1B who has had a nice season since coming back from injury (.279/ .365/ .457).

     This also leaves an opening at the back of the Marlins bullpen.  Steve Cishek has been phenomenal as the Marlins closer this season, converting his last 18 saves in a row, dating back to June 8th.  In my opinion there’s a fine line between undervaluing and overvaluing closers.  Yes, they only pitch one inning, but consistency in the 9th inning is hard to come by.  The Marlins knew all about closer problems in 2012.  Speaking of Giancarlo Stanton.  For the time being, the front runners for the closer job would probably be Steve Ames, who the Marlins acquired in the Ricky Nolasco trade and has minor league closing experience, or AJ Ramos, who has a high K%, but also a high BB%.  Earlier in the season, he was almost guaranteed to give up a Home Run every appearance, but that trend has subsided.  Colby Suggs, who the Marlins drafted with their second competitive balance draft pick in this year’s draft, projects to be a major league closer as well.  Suggs is currently at A+ Jupiter.

Giancarlo Stanton
Image from ESPN

Decision

     The Pirates offered a huge return to the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton.  Ignoring everything else, it’s a deal that I would most likely pull the trigger on.  However, this is not the right move for the Marlins.  The Marlins would add the level of prospects necessary to trade Stanton at this time, but not at the right positions.  Trading Giancarlo Stanton should leave you with no major holes left to fill, but by losing Steve Cishek and adding on in already rich places, the Marlins would actually be creating a hole in their bullpen while not patching up any other areas.  It’s hard to say no to Cole and Taillon, but this isn’t the right move for the franchise.

I agree with Marlins management in Declining this reported trade offer

     The Marlins want to negotiate a long-term deal with Stanton, and he would maintain the same trade value, if not more in the off-season.  The offers will keep rolling in for Stanton, and the Marlins will hold off until they receive one that provides them a comparable return to this trade, but in areas where they need improvement.  I would keep Stanton through the Off-Season unless contract negotiations get hostile and he has to be moved, but I’d like to think that won’t happen.  This trade featured huge names, but Marlins management ultimately made the right decision in holding on to Giancarlo.

EDIT: Turns out, as I feared, that this was a false rumor.  Well, it was fun while it lasted.

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Be a GM: Miami Marlins – Part 3 – Trade Deadline

The Miami Marlins are always in the news at the Trade Deadline, and the story is no different in 2013.

Bullpen

Stellar Fist Pump from Cishek in the WBC

     The Marlins possess sought after relievers Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, Ryan Webb, and Chad Qualls.  Cishek, Dunn, and Webb still have multiple years under team control, while Qualls’ is signed on a one-year deal.  Of the four, I would be most inclined to keep Cishek, who is currently closing games for the Marlins, and doing so extremely well.  Qualls is the most likely to be dealt, as the Marlins don’t want to part with valuable bullpen arms who could contribute to next year’s team.  Also, they don’t want to leave the young starting rotation with an inexperienced bullpen to back them up for the remainder of this season.  Qualls would be a rental reliever for any team, as a 34 year-old journeyman doesn’t scream “Long-term plans”.  Nevertheless, Qualls has caught fire in 2013, putting up the best season of his career.  Through 42 IP in 42 Appearances, Qualls has put up a 2.57 ERA, 1.024 WHIP with a 7.29 K/9 and a 1.93 BB/9 leading to a 3.44 FIP.

UPDATE (9:57 PM) – Chad Qualls fell while celebrating a strikeout tonight.  Stay hot kid.

Zack Cox at Arkansas

     The Marlins dealt relief to a contender at last year’s deadline as well, sending Edward Mujica to the Cardinals for 3B prospect Zack Cox.  Mujica had a 4.38 ERA at the time he was sent to St. Louis, so Qualls’ numbers are significantly superior.  However, Mujica was just 28 at the time, and still had a year of Arbitration remaining, which increased his value.  All things considered, Qualls should be able to produce the same return as Mujica did, possibly more.  What Mujica brought in was fairly significant.  Zack Cox was the Cardinals #4 prospect heading into 2012 by Baseball America.  He was drafted in the first round out of the University of Arkansas  in hopes that he would develop into a premier hitter.  He showed that ability during his first full minor league season in 2011, but fell off dramatically in 2012, hitting .254/ .294/ .421 in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.  Cardinals management decided it was time to move on from Cox, and shipped him to the Marlins, who sent him back down to AA.  Cox has been solid in AA this season, hitting .292/ .393 / .391.  his power numbers decreased, but he’s hitting more consistently as the Marlins are allowing him to take a slow track through the system.  He has the Marlins future 3B job in his sights, but will be competing in the system with recent 1st round pick, Colin Moran out of UNC.

     In my opinion, the Marlins sold Mujica enormously high  The Cardinals’ frustration with Cox allowed him to be moved at a fairly cheap price, and it’s difficult to say that this trade is comparable to what the Marlins can get for Qualls.  Nevertheless, this shows that the Marlins can target mid-level prospects (or seemingly declining former top level prospects) in exchange for Qualls.

Decision: Avoid trading Qualls for the sake of trading him.  Aggressively shop him around, but if the return isn’t right (comparable to Mujica’s return), try to negotiate a 2014 contract in the off-season.  Cishek, Dunn, and Webb are main contributors to the Marlins bullpen, and with the team appearing to be a contender in 2014, I would want to keep that consistency.

OF Justin Ruggiano

Veteran Position Players

     The Marlins could potentially move Placido PolancoJuan Pierre, Greg Dobbs, and Justin Ruggiano.  Polanco and Pierre are signed to one-year deals, and will be Free Agents after the season.  Dobbs is in the last year of a two-year contract.  All four are most likely fits on the bench for a contender, and none of them would be able to bring in a significant return.  Ruggiano had a breakout year in 2012, his first full season, hitting .313/ .374/ .535 in 91 games.  However, he’s slumped this year, removed from his everyday role, floating around a .200 batting average.  He holds the most value, as he still has another season before he’s arbitration eligible, and teams may hope that he returns to his 2012 form.  However, his remaining pre-Arb year is valuable to the Marlins as well, who didn’t want to move him a few weeks ago.  The Marlins called up their top two outfield prospects last week, which makes Ruggiano slightly more available.

Decision: Without much to gain in return, I’d hold on to the veterans, and try to retain Polanco, Pierre, and Dobbs for another year to serve as valuable bench players for the 2014 season.

Giancarlo Stanton

     The feature of this article, and many national news stories is Right Fielder Giancarlo Stanton.  I’ve admittedly flip-flopped back and forth about what the Marlins should do with the face of the franchise.  He’s 23 years old, and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season, which will increase his salary by a couple million dollars.  He led the league in slugging in 2012, and had already amassed over 100 career Home Runs.  He is a budding superstar, and teams are willing to pay a very high price for him.

Keep Him

Giancarlo Stanton

     The Marlins are historically known to being a penny-pinching team, but are in a position to spend big money, which they have available to give to Stanton.  If the Marlins stick with Stanton, I see them avoiding arbitration this year with a one year deal in the neighborhood of $7-8MM.  I then project him to earn $10-12MM after 2014, and $13-15MM after 2015.  To avoid paying Stanton $13-15MM for 2016, and then have a future long-term deal based on that salary structure, I would begin working on a back-loaded multi-year deal immediately after the season.  My first offer of a  proposed contract would follow a similar structure to my predicted arbitration salary hike, but then level off around $17-18MM for 2016 and beyond.  Miguel Cabrera, former Marlins emerging offensive superstar, signed a long-term deal with the Tigers in 2008, which levels off at about $20MM per year.  In my opinion, Stanton has shown the potential to deserve a similar contract, but there is no way that I would begin the negotiations at Miguel Cabrera’s deal.

Trade Him

D. Willis’ Smooth Delivery

     Stanton’s value is as high as it’s ever been.  As mentioned before, he’s an emerging superstar who is just reaching arbitration for the first time.  Comparing him again to Cabrera, the Marlins traded him after the 2007 season to the Detroit Tigers along with pitcher Dontrelle Willis for the Tigers #1, 2, 6, 8 rated prospects according to Baseball America, along with other mid-low level players.  The Marlins would be able to reel in at least 3 of a team’s top ten prospects, ideally 2 of the top 5.  In my opinion they should throw in one of the relievers teams have been calling for (preferably Qualls) to bump up the level of the prospects they would receive.

     The most important thing to consider in this situation, is that the Marlins already have multiple potential replacements for Stanton.  According to Baseball America, three of the Marlins’ top five prospects are outfielders, all of whom have been in the majors this season (Christian Yelich #2, Jake Marisnick #4, Marcell Ozuna #5).  Beyond those three, they also feature Jesus Solorzano, Austin Dean, Brent Keys, and Isaac Galloway in a rich system of minor league outfielders.  Stanton is simply not at a premium position of need for the Marlins, which in my opinion makes him expendable.  Also, the millions of dollars that would be used to lock up Stanton could be better used to lock up the Marlins phenomenal young pitching staff.

Don’t Trade Him

     The rebutting argument against trading Stanton is how unpredictable trading for prospects can be.  Once again, the Marlins traded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for four of their top ten prospects, including #1 and #2.  A total of zero of them, are still with the Marlins, and Cameron Maybin (#1) and Andrew Miller (#2) never lived up to their potential.  All those two names do is make Marlins fans cringe.  Bad trades happen, Major Leaguers are known commodities, while prospects are prospects, something that might be good in the future.  The unpredictability and risk of trading Giancarlo is something that can not be over analyzed.

Decision: Make Stanton Available, and listen to offers, but don’t undersell him

Yelich at the 2013 Futures Game

     If a team wants to give you their entire future, then by all means go for the trade.  But if I’m Michael Hill, and I’m not receiving everything that I want from a team, then there’s no deal.  If I’m trading Giancarlo Stanton to your team, I want to be able to go through your organization, and hand-pick the players I want like I’m at a buffet.  If any compromise has to be made, then it’s no deal.  Stanton won’t break the bank in the off-season, and it’s worth keeping him around to see if the Marlins can be truly competitive in 2014, which I believe is very possible, barring unforeseen injuries.

Needs

Marlins All-Star Jose Fernandez

     The most difficult part about making trades for prospect is to decide where you need help.  The Marlins are set in the outfield, no question about that.  3B seems locked down with Cox and Moran, and I’m a big fan of future Gold Glove winner Adeiny Hechavarria at SS.  Derek Dietrich hasn’t been amazing at 2B, though I really like Ed Lucas.  If only he wasn’t 31.  Donovan Solano could still be a fit, but this is a position that could use improvement.  At 1B, there isn’t much behind Logan Morrison, who is finally fully healthy.  Rob Brantly has been a disappointment behind the plate after impressing at the end of 2012 after he came over from the Tigers for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez.  Brantly is still just 24, but is hitting .232/ .283/ .294 while splitting time with Jeff Mathis.  Former first round pick Kyle Skipworth hasn’t been able to hit at any level, and relying on J.T. Realmuto to be the future isn’t a safe bet.  The Marlins pitching is phenomenal, led by Jose Fernandez, and followed by Nate Eovaldi, Jacob Turner and Henderson Alvarez.  The Marlins also have Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino in the minors among others with a young pitching staff whose future is just as bright, if not brighter than the Marlins’ outfield crop.

Trade Possibilities

2B Kolten Wong

Chad Qualls

     If we assume that Chad Qualls can bring in a similar return to Edward Mujica, then we’re talking a downward-trending lower high-level prospect (if such a thing exists) or a mid-level prospect.  I love what the marlins did in the Mujica trade, by taking a risk on a possible high-level guy, who is having a bad season.  If the Marlins deal with the Cardinals again, Kolten Wong‘s name has been thrown around, as he’s blocked at the Major League level by Matt Carpenter.  However, the Marlins aren’t likely to be able to put together the package for him without having to part with an integral piece.  His name has been linked to a potential Alexei Ramirez trade, who holds more value than Qualls.  The Marlins would have to throw in another reliever or two (Dunn, Cishek, or Webb), or maybe even Derek Dietrich who replace Wong’s spot in the Cardinals system, obviously to a lesser extent.  As an outsider, it’s unclear what the asking price is for Wong, but maybe the Cardinals could sell low again.  Wong is more highly regarded than Cox was at this time last year, but then again Qualls has been better than Mujica was, and the Marlins have arms to give.

Giancarlo Stanton

SS Xander Bogaerts

     I’m trying very hard not to be one of those internet users who has no sense of trade balance, but it would take a completely unreasonable package for me to trade Stanton right now.  The Red Sox reportedly are willing to give up everything to get Giancarlo.  Any deal with them would need to include Xander Bogaerts, and Henry Owens, plus much more.  Bogaerts plays the same position as Hechavarria, but could move over to 2B to create a stellar middle infield that already has me excited.  Bogaerts, the Red Sox #1 prospect by BA, is a 20 year old from Aruba, who has absolutely torn it up in the minors.  Owens, their #5 prospect, recently turned 21, and has pitched very well at High-A Salem.  The Red Sox also have C Blake Swihart at #6 who is showing an upward batting trend.  Their #2 prospect, former South Carolina Gamecock standout, Jackie Bradley Jr. has already spent time in the majors, but being an Outfielder isn’t necessarily attractive to the Marlins. Again, I’d just pick out the Red Sox star prospects, and if I can’t have everyone I want, then sorry Beantown, Giancarlo will still be a Marlin.

     The Pirates and Rangers have also expressed interest in Stanton.  For me, the Pirates would have to part with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon at least.  It would create a very crowded pitching rotation for the Marlins, but is that ever a bad thing?  Unfortunately for the Pirates, many of their top prospects are Outfielders which doesn’t help.  The Rangers have Jurickson Profar, who has been playing 2B.  However, they just traded for Matt Garza which took a hit out of their system, and don’t have many other guys close enough to being Major league ready for me to feel comfortable about.

If Stanton does get traded, I’m thinking that it’s going to be the Red Sox.