The Miami Marlins are a dysfunctional mess. There’s no way of putting it lightly for this perpetually losing franchise, because despite a long history of superstars that have graced the field for Miami, barely any winning has come about. They find endless ways to piss off their fanbase by continually trading away a franchise face for prospects who rarely amount to much coupled with playing in a cavernous ballpark that has the feel of an eerie, abandoned zoo at times. It’s no wonder then that popular college baseball teams manage to outdraw Marlins fans when it comes to attendance. The fanbase has been scorned over and over by the team they’re supposed to be loyal to and the support is rightfully not there after all those years of it.
Recently though, Miami has been building something promising. Sandy Alcantara headlined a rotation that was one of the youngest and best in baseball, Jazz Chisholm broke out as an offensive piece to build around, and the farm system boasts some incredible talent including the next big hype prospect, Eury Perez. Yet, the outlook is still gloomy in Miami. Free agent signings have flopped, prospects aren’t developing as they’d hoped for, and the offense remains one of the worst in the sport. But with a collection of so much pitching talent and barely any on the hitting side, a trade was inevitable for Miami. They were to trade from their area of strength and get some type of big bat in order to create a more balanced team. But with that trade coming and going today, it’s time to grade Miami on how they did. Hint, it wasn’t great!
On January 20, the Marlins made a trade with the Twins to send solid rotation arm Pablo Lopez along with prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio in exchange for utilityman Luis Arraez. Now, the trade was no shocker. Pablo Lopez was a name that had been circulated in trade rumors for a while, and Miami made it clear that they wanted a good major-league bat for him in return. The problem is that Miami may have chosen the wrong bat to trade for.
Am I saying that Luis Arraez is bad? Of course not. The AL batting champion who walks more than he strikes out can play multiple positions and has a career batting average of around .300, which is impressive for a 25-year-old. My problem with Arraez though is that he just isn’t an impact bat in the sense that Miami needs. When Miami was initially exploring trades for a bat, top prospects Triston Casas and Brett Baty were names that came up and who would’ve been perfect. Miami needs a middle-of-the-lineup bat that has the room to develop more and eventually lead a young Miami offense to a winning record. The team is overall pretty young and still far from winning, such that a bat who has time to develop into a star suits the team’s needs much more. And though Luis Arraez has 3 years of team control left, he’s not what I would call a long-term offensive leader.
In 2022, Arraez put up a career season with a .316/.375/.795 slash line that established him as one of the premier contact hitters in baseball. His season was impressive to watch as he also played all over the diamond and proved he could help wherever needed. The problem I see in this though is that Arraez had his career season, or effectively hit his peak, at a value of 3.2 fWAR. And with a stat as volatile as batting average with how much BABIP can affect year-to-year performance along with shoddy defensive metrics, there’s no guarantee Arraez will play to that same level with Miami. This effectively means that the Marlins traded away one of their top chips along with premier prospects for a hitter being sold at his peak value that may not be able to replicate the success he found in Minnesota.
But how about Minnesota? Well, it’s certainly been quite a successful past couple of weeks for GM Thad Levine and the Twins’ front office. After somehow winning the Carlos Correa sweepstakes due to shaky physicals and a determination to bring the star shortstop back, the Twins make another advantageous move by acquiring not only one of the most reliable pitchers in the game but a brilliant shortstop prospect and another youngster with lots of upside. In Lopez, the Twins now shore up a rotation that has five respectable arms with backups that will almost certainly be an instant upgrade from the likes of Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer, and Devin Smeltzer. The farm system gets a big boost in the form of Jose Salas who still has miles to go in his development but profiles to be a high baseball IQ player with a disciplined, twitchy approach at the plate that projects for a starting caliber shortstop. Neither of these guys has played a game in a Twins uniform yet, though to me it’s apparent that they came away as winners in this swap. Cashing in on Arraez’s value at its peak for a great starter with two years of control along with a premier shortstop prospect who has years to grow as a player is brilliant work from Levine and his front office and a bit more head-scratching for Miami’s.
This doesn’t solve Minnesota’s issues though. This is still a team who has finished below .500 two years in a row despite possessing top-tier talent and playing in a mediocre division. Their left-field options are still a total question mark, as neither Kirilloff nor Farmer look like productive hitters. The bullpen is top heavy with Duran and Lopez making for a great 1-2 option at the back, but a couple of injuries are all it takes to quickly derail bullpen plans with weak depth. And with Arraez gone now, the depth to make up for his bat is definitely a step back, as now the aforementioned Kirilloff and Nick Gordon will be projected to make up for his not being there.
So, for two wannabe contenders trying their darndest to push that ball up the hill, this trade is at least a valiant effort on both sides. Both the Marlins and Twins show a commitment to want to make themselves better by trading from their depth, only the Marlins overpaid from their depth too much to nab a hitter who might’ve hit the full ceiling of his ability. Meanwhile, Minnesota comes away as the winner but only for now. If this trade ends up resulting in lost production for their offense and another year of missing the playoffs with a talented team, then this trade could be a bust for them too. For the Marlins though, at least a commitment to winning was shown in this trade today.
GM Kim Ng understands that the division they play in is tough and won’t be getting easier as the Mets and Braves look like dynasties of the NL for many more years but if there’s one thing the Phillies world series run showed, it’s that the third wild card lets anything happen. And though they need more than a lefty contact bat to get there, Ng and the rest of the front office show they want to go for it.
And for fans of Miami baseball, that might just be the best part of today’s trade.
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