With a 25-33 record, the Miami Marlins appear to be stagnant. The last time the team finished higher than 3rd place came in 2009, and they have been a mediocre 535-656 (.449) in the time since. The team hasn’t made the postseason since 2003 when they won the World Series.
And, with a sale potentially upon the horizon, the Marlins appear to be headed in a different direction for the future. A new report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggested that the Marlins could be “wide open” entering the deadline, assuming they do not turn things around in the next few weeks. And, for a few valuable, young players, this could mean playing in a new city come August 1.
Yes, I’m talking about outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, along with catcher J.T. Realmuto, three pieces who were thought to have been part of the next contending Marlins club. Instead, it’s possible that they all could be on different contending teams just within a few months. And, if Miami does not turn things around, those three could be hot commodities come trade deadline time. Just take one look at the numbers.
That’s three productive players right there. First, in Ozuna, there’s an all-around solid outfielder. He walks a fair amount (9.7 percent of plate appearances), hits for a great amount of power and plays surprisingly good defense — which, this season, has come in left field. He is in the midst of a career year, having never posted a wRC+ above 116 prior to 2017. In Yelich, one has more of a contact-based outfielder with decent speed and some hidden power. Contrary to Ozuna, Yelich’s offense was much better last year, as he posted a 4.4 fWAR. But there’s nothing to suggest that he won’t turn it around in the rest of 2017. And, lastly, with Realmuto, a team would be receiving one of the best hitting catchers in baseball, who also plays good defense for his position and has surprising speed at the top of an order.
It’s not hard to see why these players will be in high demand come trade deadline season. But, the Marlins have even more selling points than just their performances on the field: age and contracts, both of which are intertwined.
Because all three of these players are so young, an acquiring team would have the opportunity to keep them for an extended amount of time. Prior to the 2015 season, Yelich signed a seven-year, $49.6 million extension that can keep him under team control through 2022. Ozuna and Realmuto, however, will still need to go through the arbitration process, barring an extension. Regardless, they’ll still be able to play with a hypothetical next team through the 2019 and 2020 seasons, respectively.
There is one notable player that is not on this list: Giancarlo Stanton. This could be the case for multiple reasons. Certainly, Stanton’s $325 million contract would be nearly impossible to move, even though his offensive output (142 wRC+) is right around his career average. Stanton also has an extra variable that none of these players do: being a superstar. While Yelich, Ozuna and Realmuto are very good players, they don’t carry the same amount of appeal that Stanton does. The Marlins are seemingly shying away from dealing Stanton to keep as many butts in their seats as possible, although that has not been that successful.
What’s more interesting here is that the Marlins appear to be willing to move on from this apparent core. It’s rare that a team has so many young “gems” that they are willing to trade all at once, and the Marlins of the future have the opportunity to reap the rewards if all three are moved, at steep cost to the Marlins of the present (and the near-term future).
Unfortunately, this all started coming to a head when Jose Fernandez tragically passed away at the end of last season. Like Stanton, Fernandez was a star in Miami, and after his passing, the team seemed to lose an identity. Fernandez was an irreplaceable piece there and is likely one of the reasons that Miami looks to be headed in a different direction going forward.
And, the aforementioned sale means that new brass will be calling the shots. Normally, when someone new — whether that be a General Manager, President of Baseball Operations or Owner — inherits a baseball team, it means the club has not been doing well. In short, it is time for a change. The Marlins are no exception to this rule. The team does not appear to be going in any direction, even despite the young, talented ballplayers they have on their roster.
The imminent sale makes President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill a wild card. If a new owner comes to buy the team and decides they want a new Baseball Operations department, Hill’s job would effectively be over. But, a sale probably won’t be processed until after the trade deadline, meaning that Hill could be moving pieces that won’t be his just a few months later.
A similar scenario has happened before. Former Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. carried out the Cole Hamels trade with the Texas Rangers just months before he was fired. Hill will probably continue to do his job with the franchise’s best interests in mind, and that could mean dealing Ozuna, Realmuto and Yelich. If he stays on with the new owner, there’s no problem here. But, if he doesn’t, his effects could be felt in Miami for a very long time. According to Robert Murray of FanRag Sports, though, Hill has plenty of fans inside the game, which could bode well for his future. Nonetheless, he’s an extra variable in this process.
While the Marlins appear to have a young nucleus ready to make a postseason run in just a few years, extenuating factors make them one of the most interesting sellers to watch over these next two months.
All stats current though games played on June 4, 2017.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.