With the All-Star Break in the rear-view mirror and the trade deadline looming on Aug. 1, the rumor mill is heating up by the hour. Here at Fish On First, we’ve begun a trade target series where we’ve analyzed individual targets for the Marlins, if they make sense, and what the trade package would look like for them. In my opinion, the Marlins should invest in a middle-of-the-order bat, another starting pitcher, a right-handed reliever, and a catcher. If the Marlins can acquire all four of these positions, the sky’s the limit.
With the consultation of others here at FOF and reporters with sources, I’ve created a trade deadline overview with four tiers of targets for the Marlins: realistic, maybe/possible, a pipe dream, and straight-up not happening.
We’ll go with the exciting part first. These guys we’ve deemed as legitimate possibilities for the Marlins this deadline, as the majority of them are on teams that have already deemed themselves as sellers.
OF/1B Cody Bellinger (Chicago Cubs)
Eliminate Shohei Ohtani from the equation and Bellinger might be the overall best bat on the market this deadline. With Bellinger slated to hit the open market and command a $100+ million contract—along with the Cubs gradually falling out of the NL Central race—this would surely be a rental. He fits the bill for what Miami needs as a middle-of-the-order bat with some pop who can play multiple positions well. Miami has been tied to this player when he was previously available in free agency. Bellinger finally making his way to Miami this deadline is a real possibility.
3B Jeimer Candelario (Washington Nationals)
We’ve already discussed this possibility, and it’s an extremely attractive one. While this would be a risky intra-division trade, Candelario would prove to be an excellent rental. He’s owed only $1.7 million from the deadline onward and is expected to hit the open market this offseason. He plays 3rd base and would give the Marlins another option other than Jean Segura on the left side. With the Nationals in the midst of a complete rebuild, he’s surely a goner this deadline…as long as his right thumb injury doesn’t linger.
LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (Detroit Tigers)
This one is a little trickier because Miami already has a ton of lefties, but Rodriguez is having a career year on a struggling Tigers team that doesn’t have much else to sell. Rodriguez looked solid in his second start back from the IL and will be in Miami next weekend when the Tigers come to town. Why not just keep him in Miami? Regardless, Miami needs starting pitching. With a player opt-out included in his contract this offseason, it would be wise for him to take a gamble on himself. The risk for Miami is if Rodriguez gets seriously injured and doesn’t elect free agency, they’d be stuck with $49 million on their books for the next three years.
RHP Paul Blackburn (Oakland Athletics)
This is the first option we’re coming across that isn’t a rental. While Blackburn is 29 years old, he still has two years of control after this season. Oakland doesn’t have to trade him at all this deadline. However, this could be his peak value. It would be wise for Oakland to take some calls on him and with their trade history with Miami, this seems like a legitimate option for the Marlins. Blackburn would be a really nice pitcher to have at the back end of the rotation not just for 2023, but for years to come.
C Elias Díaz (Colorado Rockies)
Catcher has been a polarizing topic when discussing the Marlins’ roster construction. However, Jacob Stallings will not be on this roster in 2024 (unless he accepts a major cut to his salary and playing time). The only reason for him being on the roster at this point is his relationship with Sandy Alcantara, and even that’s not going well statistically. The deadline would be a good opportunity to either upgrade over Stallings or get struggling Nick Fortes a breather at Triple-A, and Díaz is my favorite option. The All-Star Game MVP would remain under Marlins for next season as well at a reasonable $6 million salary. With the Rockies struggling and in a rebuild, this seems like a wise move for them. The risk for the Fish is Díaz has slumped to a .311 OPS in July.
C Yan Gomes (Chicago Cubs)
Yet another catching option, we’ve already discussed the Cubs’ situation and desire to trade some veterans. Gomes has been around the block a few times (five career playoff trips) and would provide some veteran leadership down the stretch, which could help Miami’s young pitchers while creating some new batteries. With a club option for 2024, the Marlins could cut bait with him if he doesn’t produce.
LHP Jordan Montgomery (St. Louis Cardinals)
The news that the Cardinals would be looking to sell at the deadline sent shockwaves throughout baseball. There’s a plethora of hitting talent in that organization, but not so much pitching. However, Jordan Montgomery would prove to be a solid option for Miami’s rotation. With Montgomery slated to hit the open market this offseason, this would be another true rental for Miami. St. Louis desperately needs pitching added to its minor league system, and Miami has plenty of it. The Cardinals and Marlins are ideal trade partners. I’d expect the two teams to get involved in extensive talks this deadline.
RHP Ryan Helsley (St. Louis Cardinals)
The first right-handed reliever option we’re taking a peak at, Helsley could help Miami in high-leverage situations. Again, the Cardinals will sell anything they can get a good enough offer on in hopes of making a run at the NL Central in 2024. Helsley provides some control with 2 ½ years of control left and at 28 years old, he could give Miami some of his best seasons. This would cost a decent amount for a reliever and Helsley is still working his way back from a forearm injury—his best-case scenario is returning to the majors a few days after the trade deadline.
RHP Jordan Hicks (St. Louis Cardinals)
How about another Cardinals pitcher? I said their pitching wasn’t that attractive, but there are many good fits in Miami. With Hicks slated to hit the open market this fall, he would be yet another rental option for the Marlins. It doesn’t seem Hicks is in the Cardinals’ plans for 2024, and the Marlins could use another righty to fill out the bullpen.
RHP Scott Barlow (Kansas City Royals)
Barlow will be one of the most highly coveted arms on the market this deadline. At 30 years old and with another year of control following this season, Barlow will command a nice package from the Royals. The Royals already dealt Aroldis Chapman, so they’ll be ready to deal Barlow, one of their only remaining trade chips, to any team willing to assist with their ongoing rebuild.
C Yasmani Grandal (Chicago White Sox)
This option would require more money, but this is maybe the one deal I could see the Marlins and White Sox making. Grandal is owed a decent amount of money for the rest of the season (more than $6 million) before hitting the open market this fall. Grandal provides veteran leadership behind the dish and at the plate, which will be crucial for Miami down the stretch. With the White Sox dwindling at the bottom of the AL, they’re going to try and deal away anyone that is on an expiring deal.
RHP Carlos Estévez (Los Angeles Angels)
An MLB All-Star here, Estévez has had a nice 2023 campaign. With Estévez under contract through 2024, he could help Miami’s bullpen next year as well. After devoting so much effort to contend, the Angels have taken a sharp turn in the wrong direction recently, falling below .500. A fire sale featuring Ohtani, Estévez and others could be coming at this deadline.
RHP Justin Lawrence (Colorado Rockies)
Maybe my favorite relief pitching option this deadline—nobody adores him more than FOF Super Subscriber Romeo Rodriguez—Lawrence could get the largest haul of any reliever this deadline. Still pre-arbitration eligible, it’s likely that the Rockies simply hold onto the right-hander for the time being. They should be demanding a haul in return. Lawrence has allowed only one earned run over his last 12 appearances. Lawrence could become a mainstay in Miami’s bullpen for years to come with the team control he has attached to him.
RHP Kyle Hendricks (Chicago Cubs)
We will now round out Miami’s realistic options with a big name and former World Series champion. Hendricks would be cheaper than most of his Cubs counterparts, as he’s almost 34 and far removed from his prime. His $16 million club option for next year isn’t too crazy if he maintains a mid-3’s ERA through season’s end, but the low-payroll Marlins would view him as a rental.
I do want to clarify that just because we didn’t say a player is “realistic,” it doesn’t mean the Marlins won’t trade for him. Things are fluid with every deadline. How many people last year thought Juan Soto would’ve been on the move in the middle of a season for a historic prospect package?! The point is, things can change at any second and we’re doing what we can to put ourselves in the shoes of the Marlins’ front office.