What Did the Marlins Give Up in the David Robertson Trade?

Scouting the two intriguing prospects being subtracted from Miami’s farm system.

On Thursday night, the Marlins emphatically declared themselves buyers. At 55-48, Miami addressed the leaky back end of their bullpen by acquiring one of the biggest arms on the market from a division rival. Down and out, the New York Mets swapped 38-year-old reliever David Robertson, who is on an expiring contract, for two long-term prospects.

Robertson will almost certainly move into the closer role for the rest of the season as his new club makes its playoff push. A veteran with a 2.05 ERA and 48/13 K/BB to go along with 14 saves is a huge upgrade for a team that had already blown 19 save opportunities.

But what did it cost? Here’s a look at who is going the other way and the impact this trade has on the Marlins’ farm system.

IF Marco Vargas

Vargas was a member of the Marlins’ 2022 international signing class. He was 17 when he was selected and turned 18 just over two months ago. The Mexican infielder signed for just $17,500. Not a big name going into the signing period, the 6’, 160-pounder quickly made a name for himself in his pro debut in the DSL. In his first 53 career games, Vargas hit .319/.421/.456 with 18 extra base hits and 14 stolen bases.

Vargas came stateside as a pro for the first time this spring and stood out to the Marlins’ organization in a big way. One of the youngest guys in minor league camp, Vargas could be seen standing in against Marlins who had performed at full-season levels as high as AA. What stood out immediately in viewing him in camp is the fact that in those situations, he did not look uncomfortable and in some moments, even got the better of much older competition. Speaking with some members of the Marlins development team about Vargas’ performance in camp, his maturity at such a young age was the defining factor. The overarching consensus was that Vargas is well ahead of schedule.

Vargas has continued to showcase that trait this season. Challenged to the FCL, he is slashing .283/.457/.442. He has hit two home runs and stolen eight bases. He’s also once again walking more than he is striking out (22/38 K/BB). Vargas exhibits an extremely patient approach and simple mechanics all before a well-balanced and extremely quick swing. What he currently lacks in size he makes up for with bat speed and the ability to force pitchers to challenge him inside the strike zone. All of this gives Vargas a 60-grade hit tool. Still developing physically, Vargas could and should come by some more raw strength which will further enhance his skill set.

Defensively, Vargas can cut it at shortstop, but with somewhat limited range, he is likely a better long-term fit at second base. On the bases, while his run tool is just average, it does not hamper Vargas. There, he shows a great IQ and instincts that should allow him to dip into the 20-25 range in stolen bases over the course of a full season.

Doing so much at such a young age, Vargas has the potential to be a future three-tool or four-tool player. He could become a top organizational talent very quickly. With his new organization, I believe he could handle a promotion to full-season ball immediately and be fast-tracked from there, pushing for a big league opportunity as early as 2025. Overall, Vargas is a very high-floor player with a ton of projectable upside. Ranked seventh within Fish on the Farm’s current prospect rankings, this loss is a significant one to a system without many top-tier offensive talents. It’s a huge gain for the Mets as they look to begin to build from within towards the long term future.

C Ronald Hernandez

Hernandez was signed by the Marlins as a member of the 2021 international signing class out of Venezuela. He earned a lucrative $850,000 signing bonus. Hernandez spent the first 32 games of his career in the DSL. Hernandez got off to a bit of a slow start at the plate, but ended the year by slashing .267/.367/.529 in September. A switch-hitting 17-year-old at the time, Hernandez showed a solid blueprint and began to exemplify why the Marlins were enamored enough to give him over three quarters of a million dollars.

Hernandez was a member of the FCL Marlins in 2022 and hit .236/.329/.321. He improved his ability to find open field, but also was a bit more aggressive when selecting swings. Considering the usual trajectory of young and developing backstops, there were a lot of encouraging signs in Hernandez’s development including his continued ability to showcase awesome raw athleticism, not only in switch-hitting and starting to spray the baseball to all fields, but also in his ability to improve as a backstop despite limited physical size.

Hernandez came to camp in 2023. The Marlins got a good look him against various levels of competition. He could be seen at times playing with and against some of the upper levels minor league development. What stood out to me in watching Hernandez was his physical improvement and his mobility behind the plate. Hernandez, who appeared to be larger particularly in his lower half, could be seen receiving, framing, and blocking pitching sufficiently, no matter the level he was catching. Offensively, Hernandez exhibited a solid approach and knew what he wanted to do at the plate. His mechanics were mirrored from both sides, and he showed the ability to work counts and lengthen at bats while also being able to step and stride into pitching on both sides of the plate.

Coming out of camp, I believed that Hernandez showed more than enough to garner the challenge to Low-A Jupiter. Instead, the Marlins took it easy with their investment and sent Hernandez back to the FCL. This season, he’s hitting .296/.464/.452. Not only has Hernandez’s pitch recognition improved, so too has his ability to lift the baseball. Looking at splits, Hernandez is hitting lefties and righties nearly equally which proves he can continue to make it stick as a switch hitter.

Improvements Hernandez needs to commit to are continuing to develop physically and arm strength. Overwhelmingly though, Hernandez earns the highest grades for his athleticism. Through that, at age 19, he should continue to project as a long term backstop who hits to all fields consistently from both sides of the plate. That said, this is another great get for the Mets and another substantial loss for the Marlins once again considering how far advanced Hernandez is offensively at such a young age.

Grading the Trade

In losing Vargas and Hernandez, the Marlins are out of two of their most intriguing offensive prospects. In an organization that has had trouble developing offensive talent, these losses will significantly impact the system. On the other side, it is extremely encouraging to see the the team plant the flag as buyers several days in advance of this deadline. In Robertson, the team acquires a performing veteran with playoff experience who will add to fostering a winning culture for the rest of this season.

Overall, you need to give up something to get something. In this case, the Marlins get a solid B for this mutually beneficial trade.

Photo courtesy of Florida Complex League Mets

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