With two weeks to go before the trade deadline, much of the league has a general idea of how they plan to approach things. 15 teams hold or are within two games of a playoff spot. Barring a massive losing streak following the All-Star Break, these clubs plan to explore ways to improve the 2022 roster. 11 other teams are six or more games away from the playoff race, and with the exception of Rangers, they have all been outscored by more than 30 points on the year. How aggressively they’ll sell will vary, but there’s no reason these teams shouldn’t at least explore the possibility of negotiating with impending free agents.
That leaves four teams in a somewhat nebulous middle ground. The Guardians are 2 1/2 games into the AL Wild Card and could shore up some of their top minor inside depth to address the receiver or designated hitter. The Orioles and White Sox are each seated 3 1/2 back. MLBTR looked at the Orioles’ timing dilemma last week, while the White Sox look likely to stay the course and hope for better second halves from some key players. The last team between two and six games is the Marlins, whose approach to the deadline is heavily tied to how they perform in the first week after the break.
Miami was less than 2½ games away from a playoff spot as recently as last Friday. A weekend sweep at the hands of the Phillies, who moved to a tie for third place on the NL Wild Card in the process, dropped the Fish to 43-48 and 5 1/2. It was three brutal games that dealt a real blow to the standings – the club’s playoff odds fell from 7.6% to 2.7% over the weekend, according to FanGraphs estimates – but the Marlins will have the opportunity to salvage their playoff hopes before the August 2 trading deadline. Miami starts the unofficial second half with a standalone game against Texas before hosting Pittsburgh (three games) and going to Cincinnati (four games). If the Marlins can win six of those eight games, they’d be back around .500 heading into their pre-deadline series against the NL East-leading Mets. Going 4-4 or even 5-3 on those relatively soft first two sets probably wouldn’t be enough to deter general manager Kim Ng and his group from dealing with short-term talent.
Another full teardown seems unlikely. Earlier this month, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote that Miami owner Bruce Sherman didn’t want to orchestrate a timely sale “unless there’s a collapse” of the team. What exactly constitutes a “collapse” in the eyes of Sherman and Ng is obviously unclear, but it seems unlikely that a sweep would cause Miami to totally reassess whether they want to move a controllable star like Pablo Lopez. Still, even if Miami isn’t willing to part with its most valuable trade pieces this summer, it could offer a few decent role-playing types.
Who could be accessible if the Marlins decide to sell?
Cooper has been mentioned frequently as a trade candidate on the pages of MLBTR over the past two years. The 31-year-old is still a good hitter when healthy, but he missed notable time every season from 2018-21. Cooper has avoided the injured list this season (aside from a very brief stint for virus symptoms) and played his way to an All-Star Game for the first time. He owns a .283/.349/.434 line with seven homers and 21 doubles in 327 plate appearances. Throughout his career he has shown a knack for executing good batting averages on balls in play. He makes a lot of hard contact, hits a lot of lines, and generally uses the whole pitch to hit for gap power , although he never hit more than 15 homers in a season.
Miami has resisted trading Cooper so far, but he is in his final season and a half in control of the club. He’s only earning $2.5 million this year, but that’s expected to increase to $5 million in his final season of refereeing eligibility. It’s certainly not onerous, but the Marlins manage a bottom-ten payroll every year and it might be the best chance to claw back some decent prospect value while Cooper is healthy. Jon Heyman of the New York Post wrote this month that the Dodgers might be interested.
Berti is a versatile speedster having the best season of his career. He’s hitting .271/.365/.375 with a pair of home runs and an excellent 12.2 percent walk rate over 222 plate appearances. This plate discipline allowed Berti to reach base quite frequently, and he wreaked havoc once there. He swept 28 bases during the year, six more than anyone in MLB, despite only playing in about 64% of the team’s games. Berti’s slash-and-dash approach is rare, but he makes it work and had earned a role at the top of Miami’s roster before going on the 10-day disabled list at the end of last week with a slight sprain in the left groin.
The team hasn’t provided a timeline for his return, and perhaps the injury will rule him out as a trade candidate. If it’s fairly minor, he returns before the deadline and doesn’t look any worse as a runner, however, it stands to reason that he will attract interest from suitors. In addition to his keen base running acumen, he has started several games at third base, second base, shortstop and left field this year. Miami can control him until 2025 so they don’t have to make a deal even if they move other players, but he’s already 32 and may have a career season ahead of him. This will probably be the peak of its commercial value, especially since the domestic market this year is very thin.
The Marlins are unlikely to deal with both Berti and Anderson, but they may have enough depth in the field to feel comfortable parting ways with one of the two. Miami acquired Joey Wendle of the Rays over the winter, intent on supplanting Anderson at third base after underperforming in 2021. Wendle has been strong in good health but missed a notable stretch between May and June with hamstring issues. leggings. That gave Anderson more playing time in the hot corner than expected, and he rebounded with a solid .262/.358/.393 in 193 plate appearances.
Anderson, 29, is controllable until the end of next season by arbitration. He’s already earning $4.475 million this year and will earn a bit of a lead in his final season of arb eligibility. As with Cooper, it’s possible Miami sees this as an opportunity to bring in some young talent while reallocating the projected 2023 salary elsewhere. Anderson is a good player, a well-rounded day-to-day third baseman. Still, Miami already has Wendle and Berti as options for the job, and they’ve signed Avisail Garcia and Jorge Soler to multi-year deals over the winter to plug the corner outfield. It’s a deep collection of corner players who could squeeze Anderson out of the mix.
Hernández would be more of a candidate for a change of scenery than a solution for a competitor. Throughout his major league tenure, he showed a solid combination of strikeouts and walks, but gave up far too many home runs. He took that to a particular extreme in 2022, serving 18 longballs in 53 innings (3.06 HR/9). It’s by far the worst career mark for a pitcher who was already one of the league’s most homerun-prone arms. Unsurprisingly, Hernández has an ERA over 6.00 and lost his spot in the rotation in May.
Perhaps the home run issues are so pronounced that there won’t be much interest. Hernández hasn’t been able to keep the ball in the yard, even in one of the most spacious home parks in the game. Still, we’ve seen teams place bets on pitchers like Andrew Heane and Yusei Kikuchi over the years, valuing batting tricks and bets that alter a pitcher’s repertoire and/or a simple regression in home run rate will even things out. Maybe some teams feel the same way about Hernández and will look to buy low on a pitcher making just $1.325 million and arb-eligible through 2024.
Anthony Bass/Steven Okert/Dylan FlorioPR
Miami has a handful of capable, if unexciting, intermediate back-up weapons that should catch the eye of suitors. Bass, 34, is a prototypical journeyman but has posted an ERA below 4.00 in each of the last five seasons. He pitches in the mid-90s, hammers the strike zone and misses bats at a slightly above average rate. He earns $3 million this year and has a matching club option for 2023.
Okert is not yet eligible for arbitration, while Floro earns $3 million and is eligible for arbitration for one more season. A former minor league signing, Okert is a 31-year-old left-hander who has posted hit rates hovering north of 13% in each of the past two years. He whipped up nearly 30% of batters faced as a result, and he handled batters on both sides of home plate. Okert struggles with walks and home runs, but a southpaw who misses bats is still likely to attract some interest. Floro is essentially the polar opposite. The 31-year-old right-hander doesn’t throw hard or generate many puffs, but he’s a volume hitter who consistently induces grounders at a strong clip.
Longer shot possibilities
Ng and his team could also try to find a taker for the first baseman Jesus Aguilar, which is set to hit free agency at the end of the year (assuming the team declines its end of a 2023 mutual option). The numbers of interest are modest for a defensively limited player who hits just 0.252/0.299/0.401 while earning $7.5 million. It’s possible they could return Wendle or receiver Jacob Stallings, but Miami acquired both over the winter to improve the lineup. With everyone controllable for at least another season (and Stallings having a slack year), that seems unlikely.
Coming out of the All-Star Break, the team will try to get out of any sort of sellout. They’ll have a sub-0.500 team streak to start with, giving them an opportunity to get back into the playoff periphery. Getting carried away before the break digs a significant hole for them, however, and Miami’s front office numbers to answer a number of calls on their veteran complementary players with shrinking control windows.