A big trade the Marlins pursued before deadline, and new details on more of their moves

·8 min read

Ten Marlins nuggets in the wake of Friday’s trade deadline:

▪ Before the deadline, the Marlins and Angels were close on a blockbuster deal that would have sent top pitching prospect Max Meyer to Los Angeles for top outfield prospect Brandon Marsh.

But the Angels backed away from the deal, according to sources. It’s unclear if additional players were involved, but Meyer and Marsh would have been the centerpieces.

Marsh, a left-handed-hitting center fielder, has hit .288 with 25 homers and 174 RBI in 295 games over four minor league seasons. He made his MLB debut for the Angels on July 18 and entered the weekend hitting .200 in 40 at-bats.

The Marlins know they need a longterm center fielder and had a strong conviction about Marsh, who was a second-round pick in 2016.

MLB.com rates Marsh the 38th best prospect in baseball, noting that “throughout his pro career, Marsh has shown an ability to make hard contact and get on base, with a walk rate over 10 percent to show for it. With strength and bat speed, there’s always been raw power to tap into… Marsh’s other three tools -- his speed, arm and defense -- are all plus and were all consistently on display at the alternate camp [in 2020]. He has the goods to play center field long-term.”

Meyer, drafted third overall in 2020, is 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 14 starts at Double A Pensacola in his first year of professional baseball. MLB.com ranks him the No. 20 prospect in baseball.

Perhaps both teams could revisit this proposal in the offseason.

After the season, the Marlins will resume exploring a trade in which they would send away pitching for a front-line offensive prospect.

The Marlins recognize that they are going to need to trade pitching for at least one bat -- probably more -- but perhaps having the full pool of teams available as potential trade partners this winter will create more opportunities.

At the trade deadline, the Marlins were largely limited to working with contenders on a deal.

▪ The Marlins also pursued Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds, a switch-hitting outfielder who is batting .309 with 18 homers and 57 RBI for the Pirates. But Pittsburgh wanted more than the Marlins were willing to consider.

The Marlins might make another run at Reynolds in the offseason and also are expected to have interest in Pittsburgh catcher Jacob Stallings, who is hitting .237 with 8 homers and 40 RBI.

▪ Speaking of Stallings… The Marlins plan to add a new starting catcher this offseason. Jorge Alfaro is arbitration-eligible but will not be retained.

We’re told the Marlins are ready to move on from Alfaro, who entered the weekend hitting .226 for the second consecutive season (with only three homers in 177 at bats this season).

▪ The Marlins are eager to see new catchers Payton Henry and Alex Jackson, but neither projects as a starter.

Jackson, acquired in the Adam Duvall deal with Atlanta, will join the Marlins’ big league club after hitting .287 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI in 30 games for Triple A Gwinnett. But he’s only 3 for 43 with 23 strikeouts in his big league career.

“Great bat, can receive, good arm,” general manager Kim Ng said.

Jackson, drafted sixth overall by Seattle in 2014, could emerge as a potential No. 2 for the Marlins next season if he hits big league pitching over the final two months.

Henry, acquired from Milwaukee for reliever John Curtiss, also could become a backup catcher option for Miami in 2022. He’s hitting .315 in 125 plate appearances at Double A Biloxi but is just a .248 minor league hitter in five seasons. He will report to Triple A Jacksonville.

A former sixth round pick, he has reduced his strikeout rate from 32 percent in 2018 to 25 percent this season.

The Marlins’ organizational catching depth was poor, and improving it was a priority. But the Marlins know they still must find a new starter before 2022.

Will Banfield, the Marlins’ top catching prospect, is hitting only .174 in 264 plate appearances at High A Beloit (Wisconsin).

▪ The Marlins believe outfielder Bryan De La Cruz, who was acquired from Houston in the Yimi Garcia trade, could be an everyday outfielder, but the general consensus is he projects more as a No. 4 outfielder with perhaps the ability to platoon.

The Marlins will give him an extended look.

Astros manager Dusty Baker raved about him in spring training; he competed for a roster spot deep into spring.

His 12 homers this season (to go with a .324 average and 50 RBI in 66 games at Triple A Sugar Land) are a career high; he had just 16 homers in his first six minor-league seasons.

As Fangraphs.com noted, “he also has a reputation for having outstanding makeup, which could help him exceed his fourth outfielder projection.”

▪ The Marlins could give an additional look to Lewis Brinson (who’s with the big league club) and Monte Harrison (who’s in Triple A) over the season’s final weeks, but the organization is not counting on either long term.

Per sources, Harrison and Starling Marte had an argument days before Marte was traded and Harrison had to be restrained from going after Marte. No punches were thrown.

Harrison then didn’t play for several days at Triple A Jacksonville. The Marlins have handled the matter internally without offering a comment. His future with the organization is uncertain.

The Marlins remain high on outfielder Jesus Sanchez, who was hitting .265 with three homers and nine RBI in 23 games before being sidelined due to COVID-19.

The Marlins view Sanchez as an everyday player, but the question is whether he would be adequate defensively in left field. Right field is his natural position.

But even if Sanchez hits well when he returns this season and cements himself as a 2022 starter, the Marlins know they need to add two starting outfielders for 2022, including filling a gaping hole in center.

▪ During a week when several top players were dealt (including Max Scherzer and Javier Baez), the Marlins curiously refused to engage in virtually any trade talks that involved infielder Miguel Rojas.

As Peter Gammons reported, the Reds were quickly rebuffed when they inquired about Rojas.

The Marlins consider him a winning player and a very good leader and locker room presence.

Rojas - who entered the weekend hitting .267 with five homers and 27 RBI in 80 games - has a $5.5 million club option for 2022 that automatically vests if he has 500 plate appearances in 2021 and is healthy for 2022 spring training. Rojas entered the weekend with 329 plate appearances and needs 171 over the final 60 games (2.85 per game).

▪ The Marlins offered first baseman Jesus Aguilar a modest two-year contract extension that would have bought out one year of free agency. But the contract was nowhere close, on average, to what he likely would make if he goes to arbitration this winter and free agency after the 2022 season.

The Marlins anticipate the National League implementing a designated hitter in 2022 and envision a role for Aguilar as their designated hitter, with prospect Lewin Diaz playing first base.

But if Aguilar plays first base for most of Miami’s remaining games this season, the Marlins will enter the offseason without much of a big league sample size on Diaz, who has hit .166 (10 for 64 with three homers and 19 strikeouts) with the Marlins over parts of two seasons.

Diaz is hitting only .221 at Triple A Jacksonville, with 14 homers and 38 RBI in 201 plate appearances.

▪ Atlanta-bound Duvall would have opted out of his $7 million mutual option for 2022 if he had remained with the Marlins and maintained his current pace of run production. (He entered the weekend 11th in baseball with 68 RBI).

That’s the primary reason the Marlins traded him, because they weren’t inclined to outbid other teams for him this winter.

▪ The Oakland A’s offered the Marlins prospects in exchange for Marte, but Miami preferred a big-league ready player and that’s why they opted for left-handed pitcher Jesus Luzardo, despite the Marlins’ pitching depth and despite Luzardo’s struggles at the big-league level this year (2-4, 6.87 ERA in 13 games and six starts).

He also has not pitched well this season at Triple A Las Vegas (2-2, 6.52 in eight starts).

The good news: He had 115 strikeouts in 109 big-league innings and there have been fleeting snapshots of success, including two six-inning scoreless starts last season against Arizona and San Francisco.

“Tremendous pitcher, good fastball, great secondary stuff,” Ng said.

The Marlins hope that he can be salvaged by working this winter with minor league pitching coach Scott Aldred. He’s reporting to Triple A Jacksonville.

On Twitter, please follow Miami Herald senior baseball correspondent Craig Mish at @CraigMish. Please follow Miami Herald sports columnist Barry Jackson at @flasportsbuzz.

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