The Marlins’ rebuild is complete. That is the message they sent at this year’s trade deadline.
A few hours before the trade deadline, the Marlins traded for Arizona outfielder Starling Marte. In return, the Diamondbacks will receive Caleb Smith, along with prospects Humberto Mejia and Julio Frias. In addition to acquiring Marte, the Fish traded away second baseman Jonathan Villar to the Blue Jays for Griffin Conine. The Marlins currently sit at 14-15, which is tied for second in the NL East. They currently hold the five seed in the playoffs, and even if they didn’t own the tiebreaker over the Phillies, they would still be slotted into eighth in the NL.
One of the biggest weaknesses for the Marlins this year has been in the outfield. The Marlins have been using a mix of Corey Dickerson, Jon Berti, Matt Joyce, and Lewis Brinson. While it is a decent outfield, especially with Brinson starting to hit, the Marlins would prefer more production. The Marlins do have outfield prospects Jesus Sanchez and Monte Harrison on the brink of stardom, but they aren’t quite there yet. Marte will provide a big bat for the rest of the season, which can help the Marlins make that final playoff push. In 33 games this year, Marte is hitting .311 with 2 homers, 21 runs, 14 RBIs, and 5 stolen bases. He has a .353 BABIP, 124 WRC+, and has been worth 1.1 WAR. This is on the heels of back to back seasons with at least 20 homers and stolen bases each, being worth 6.7 WAR over the two years. Marte is also a two-time gold glove winner, which should help shore up the Marlins outfield defense.
This trade also points to the bigger picture, which is that the Marlins’ rebuild is complete. The Marlins were never expected to be contenders this year, but now they are getting a superstar player for the rest of this year. Marte also comes with a club option for 2021, which means the Marlins may get Marte for two years. If they do, the price they paid was very low. Additionally, the Marlins were able to give up Smith, who has been their second-best pitcher over the past two years, because the rebuild is ahead of schedule. Pablo Lopez is having a breakout season for the Marlins. Top prospect Sixto Sanchez got his call-up a week and a half ago and has already looked like an ace in his two starts. Trevor Rogers has made two strong starts since his call-up last week as well. The Marlins also have prospect Edward Cabrera right on the heels of Sanchez and Rogers. He is their number five overall prospect and 97th overall according to baseball prospectus, although he may not get his shot until next season.
With the Marlins having a potential rotation of Alcantara – Lopez – Sanchez – Rogers – Cabrera (which could be one of the best in baseball next year), there isn’t much space for Caleb Smith. Smith has only made one start in 2020, as he has spent most of the season on the Covid-19 IL. However, he is coming off a season in which he posted a respectable 4.52 ERA over 153.1 innings. Smith is also known for striking out a ton of batters, earning the nickname in Miami of “Dr. K”. In each of the past two seasons, he has struck out more than a batter an inning.
The Marlins also gave up two lower-level prospects in Mejia and Frias. Mejia made the jump from High-A to the majors this year when the Marlins needed pitching help after the outbreak. He made three starts, but only went ten innings combined in the three. His ERA was 5.40, and he failed to provide valuable innings. Between A and High-A last year, Mejia pitched 90.1 innings, posting a combined 2.15 ERA with 89 strikeouts. He has potential but doesn’t fit into the Marlins pitching future with the pitching prospects they already have. Frias is another pitcher that just doesn’t fit in the Marlins plans. The jury is still out on him, as he has only reached Low-A. He had a good season there last year, posting a 2.39 ERA in 70 innings.
The Villar deal also points to this trend that the Marlins rebuild is complete. Villar has been a bit underwhelming for the Marlins, with just a .328 OBP and just two long balls. Although he leads the Majors in stolen bases with nine, he has also been caught five times. However, Villar is one of the top talents in the league, and could definitely have helped the Marlins in their playoff hunt. However, the Marlins believe they have the second baseman of their future.
Isan Diaz opted out shortly after the Marlins had their outbreak. However, he is currently back in Jupiter and is waiting for reinstatement from the league. Even though Villar is going to be a free agent at the end of the year, it wouldn’t make sense to trade him as the Marlins seem to be going for it this year – that is unless they get Diaz back. He has struggled a bit in his time so far in the big leagues, but the Marlins truly believe he is the second baseman of the future. This further solidifies the notion that the Marlins rebuild is complete.
The Marlins got Griffin Conine in return for Villar. He is the son of Marlins legend Jeff Conine, who was a perennial fan favorite. Conine is only in A right now, but he mashed last year. He hit .283 with 22 homers, posting a 169 WRC+. His raw power scouting grade was 70, and he should be a solid Marlins bat in the future.
Through a combination of win-now and long-term trades, the Marlins have shown that they have finished the part of the rebuild that involves building up a critical mass of talent. The Marlins were ready to make a run for the NL East crown this season, and both their record and aggressiveness at the deadline have placed them firmly in a position to end the rebuild and begin to compete.