For the past few days, beat writers have been breathing a sigh of relief. After a wacky and wild final 72 hours of what will go down as one of the most unique trade deadlines of all time, the clock has run out. And while the Miami Marlins weren’t as active as some may have anticipated, they still built off the acquisition of Jesus Luzardo earlier in the week by swinging a few deals late in the deadline on Thursday. To explain it all, here is our break down of what happened and what didn’t for Miami during the 2021 trade deadline.
Marlins trade OF Adam Duvall to Atlanta Braves for C Alex Jackson
Looking at the Miami Marlins as a whole heading into the 2020-21 offseason, the team as a whole clearly locked one big tool: power. After hitting just 60 homers and slugging .384 (25th in the league in each metric), the Marlins looked to free agent Adam Duvall to rectify that issue. The soon-to-be 33-year-old definitely did his part this season, slamming 22 homers which ranks tied for 12th in all of MLB. Asked to handle all three outfield spots among all of the Marlins’ injury woes, Duvall fared surprisingly well, turning in a dWAR of 0.9. But with a mutual option looming, the Marlins, out of fear that he would not agree to stay for the $7 million value, decided to err on the side of caution and get what value they could on the market. The suitor: the in-division Atlanta Braves.
The Marlins addressed the catcher position for the first but not the last time by bringing back Alex Jackson, a 25-year-old backstop having a great year in AAA. Jackson has seen time in parts of three big league seasons with Atlanta including this season but none of those stints lasted longer than ten games. With the Marlins, Jackson will get his chance he can make his .287/.366/.694 stat line with the Gwinnett Stripers this year and 28 homers from his last full season in 2019 translate to the big league level.
The 22nd ranked prospect in the Braves system by BaseballAmerica just five days ago, the first round draftee by Seattle in 2014 is a 6’2”, 215 pound specimen with a 45 grade FV per Fangraphs. For comparison’s sake, that ranks his ceiling and potential value to the Marlins’ organization as high as Jose Salas, Peyton Burdick, Jesus Sanchez, Lewin Diaz and others. Jackson is lauded for an incredible raw power tool that translates pretty well into 50 grade game power with a little tool to grow into more. Those tools allowed Jackson to hit 28 homers in 2019, a mark which ranked tied for 20th in AAA baseball. However, the power has come at the expense of historically mediocre bat to ball skills and pitch recognition. In each of 2018 and 2019 at the upper minor league levels, Jackson struck 33% of the time while only walking at a 7% clip. To Jackson’s credit though, he has greatly improved upon those numbers early in 2021. Through his first 108 plate appearances, he is holding down a walk rate just under 9% and a K rate of 28.5%.
Jackson adds to his power-first profile at the plate with solid defense behind it. His best defensive tool is a cannon arm which allowed him to catch 25/50 potential base stealers in 2019 and before that, 21/46 in 2018 striking fear the hearts of MiLB base coaches to send their runners this season. In 2021, Jackson has thrown out two of three base stealers that have had the courage to test him. Scouts also credit Jackson with good blocking and game calling skills.
The path with Adam Duvall this deadline was simple: either convince the soon-to-be 33 year old it was worth foregoing free agency to stay in Miami for 2022 or get what they could out of his expiry contract. Judging by the way it came right down to the wire with Duvall departing just before the 4 o’clock cutoff, this was likely something the Marlins battled with all the way up to the very last minute. In the end, Duvall, a potential Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner this season, goes back to a division rival.
For only a guaranteed two months worth of his services, the return here is about as good as can be expected and it is at a position of great need for Miami. Jackson should get his full shot for the rest of this season and possibly part of next season to prove he can perform at the big league level. While it is disappointing to see the Marlins open up another hole in the outfield, they do get some promise and some solid tools in Alex Jackson. This will go down in the short term as the least popular move of the deadline but if the 25-year-old backstop builds off his solid start in AAA this year and pans out at the major league level, the move, in the longer term, could pay off.
Marlins trade RHP Yimi Garcia to Houston Astros for OF Bryan De La Cruz and RHP Austin Pruitt
It had been a very up-and-down season for the Marlins’ new look bullpen and Yimi Garcia was no exception. Like much of the relief core, Garcia had both his good moments in which he earned the closet’s role early in the season but also had his bad which have spelled a .260/.348/.494 slash line in high leverage situations. Ultimately, Miami decided to move on from Garcia to bring back a near-MLB-ready prospect at a position need (especially after the departure of Duvall), outfield.
Coming back to the Marlins was Bryan De La Cruz, a long time minor leaguer despite being just 24 years of age. Signed as an international free agent at age 17 in 2013, De La Cruz grinded through seven minor league seasons at every level of the Astros’ system with very good results. Overall, his minor league line reads .276/.346/.391 with 88 doubles, 18 triples, 28 homers and 228 RBIs.
Since battling injury in 2017, De La Cruz has performed well and ahead of schedule for the past three years. In 2018, he split time at both the low and high A level where he hit .289/.367/.375. 41 games into the 2019 season, De La Cruz was challenged to the AA level. There, 64 games for the Corpus Christi Hooks, he showed immediate translation, hitting .283/.340/.409. Bryan also stayed busy and competitive during the pandemic, taking part in eight games with the Toros del Este back home. He went 7 for 16.
De La Cruz is an athletic 6’2”, 175 pounder who can play all three outfield spots. He has spent more time in center field this season with the Astros but he is probably better suited for a corner. He does have the arm to play right field regularly. This season, De La Cruz has answered some questions surrounding him regarding his raw power translating to game power. He already has 12 homers and a 112 wRC+. Scouts say he profiles best as a ceiling fourth outfielder but with Miami who will struggle to man their outfield in terms of in-house options in 2022, if he makes a good first impression this season, he could earn himself more playing time next year. He’s certainly made a great first impression with Miami: he’s recorded five hits in his first 22 ABs and played some impressive defense in right field.
Pruitt is a 31-year-old journeyman who has spent time in the big leagues with three different clubs. He should provide some short term bullpen depth for the Marlins this season.
The Marlins get pretty good value for Garcia who had a very up and down season in high leverage roles. With a pretty high floor as a fourth outfielder and reachable ceiling as an every day starter if he can keep the K numbers in check, this is an attractive return for Miami who are in need of MLB ready outfield depth. With the potential for five tools, De La Cruz should get a pretty consistent and long look in the Marlins’ outfield.
Marlins trade John Curtiss to Milwaukee Brewers for C Payton Henry
The Marlins continued to answer the biggest glaring hole in the entire organization by trading the most consistent piece in their pen this season for a budding prospect who had a fantastic initial showing in the upper minors after a lost season.
After starting the year in AA by hitting .315/.392/.405, Henry has definitely made a name for himself this season. However, the BABIP has to be taken into account. With the Biloxi Shuckers, Henry posted an astronomical and unsustainable .436 BABIP. That said, he does possess plus plus raw power. The challenge for Miami will be improving his swing which can get long. That tendency stems from a complicated approach and timing mechanisms within his mechanics which prevent him from making consistent barrel contact. That said, Henry has made strides when it comes to his K rate as it has shrunk every year since 2018.
Behind the plate, Henry has a huge arm that has allowed him to throw out 40% of his base runners since 2017. According to Fangraphs, he has focused on becoming more flexible in order to improve his lateral movement and blocking abilities in recent years.
By trading Curtiss, the Marlins gave up a relief arm with quite a bit of control and give up the guy they traded first base prospect Evan Edwards for. So in hindsight, Edwards, who is hitting an odd .213/.340/.440 with 14 homers and an 87/37 K/BB in A+, turns into the Marlins’ most consistent reliever during the first half and Henry who has some loud tools and has had a great initial showing in the upper minors this season.
A high school draftee in 2016, Henry is proof prep catchers can begin to pan out and in a fairly advantageous time frame. Henry provides the Marlins immediate relief when it comes to catching depth. The defensive skills are near big league ready. Should he continue to keep the strikeouts in check and improve his bat to ball skills, Henry has a solid big league starter’s ceiling.
WHAT DID NOT HAPPEN
Acquire a cornerstone starting center fielder
While Miami did address the backstop position in terms of their new big league starter as well as some near big league ready depth and did replace the departing Adam Duvall, the Marlins ultimately did not acquire their next center fielder. However, that’s not to say they did not try.
During the entirety of the deadline, many names were abound and much conversation was had with multiple teams, the most notable being the offer to the Los Angeles Angels. Per a report by Craig Mish, the Marlins offered one of the top pitching prospects in the organization, 2020 first round pick Max Meyer in exchange for Angels top overall prospect Brandon Marsh. According to Mish’s report, the Angels were nearly ready to accept the deal but came back with another small ask on top of Meyer. The Marlins declined.
Even though the deal did not get done, the fact that Meyer, who was thought to be nearly untouchable earlier in the deadline, proves that Ng and the Marlins are willing to move on from top prospects and in this case, top draftees. After the acquisition of Luzardo, the near acquisition of Marsh is further proof that Miami is focusing on competing at the big league level in 2022. According to Kim Ng, the conversations they had this deadline have a good chance of being revisited in the offseason.
“I think what we did here over the last couple of weeks was not only prep for the offseason,” Marlins GM Kim Ng said. “We’ve talked to all the clubs multiple times and really, in my mind, set the groundwork for future deals whether it’s during the offseason, spring training or leading up to Opening Day.”
Whether it is Marsh, Bryan Reynolds, Nick Senzel, Cedric Mullins or one of the other controllable names we heard mentioned, this will be a-priori for Miami this winter.
Did not trade more of the bullpen
There’s no getting around it: for the most part, the Marlins’ new look bullpen constructed by Ng and company this offseason has largely disappointed as a whole this season. That said, there have been some bright spots that carried some attractive trade value this deadline. The Marlins dealt the steady Curtiss and the up-and-down Garcia, however, they retained the likes of 34-year-old ground ball specialist Richard Bleier and 30-year-old World Series champion Dylan Floro who is carrying a 156 ERA+. While it would have been nice to see Miami make more moves for near-MLB ready prospects like the Garcia/Curtiss deals or to see them include these pieces to sweeten returns a bit more, they still need innings behind starters somewhere for the rest of this season. We would expect these veteran relief pieces to be shopped again this offseason, especially if they remain effective.