The Miami Marlins are [rolls 37-sided dice] going for it, and the San Diego Padres were happy to oblige. The two teams made one of the more stunning trades of the deadline so far, with the Marlins giving up prospects and an elite (if injured) bullpen arm, and the Padres giving up two of the last starting pitchers on the market.
Welcome to the 2016 MLB trade deadline. This deal can teach you things. Big, important things about what we’re going to see over the next three days, if not what we’re going to see all winter. The Marlins made a trade with the Padres, and it’s more exciting than it sounds. These are the teams that exchanged Gary Sheffield, Trevor Hoffman, Kevin Brown and Derrek Lee, after all.
The lessons we can learn:
The Marlins are really, really going for it
Like, whoa, really, really, really going for it. Hello, Marlins! Welcome back to the land of the newsworthy! We kept a seat warm for you.
It’s easy to see why they’re going for it. Giancarlo Stanton is hitting again. The entire outfield is a thrill, and they’re getting their dynamic leadoff hitter back. They’re within striking distance of the NL East, and if the season ended today, they would get to use Jose Fernandez in a one-game playoff.
All that was missing is pitching. Now they have it. Sort of. But we’ll get to that part. The need was so acute, so dire, that they traded two of their top-10 prospects, including their top prospect Josh Naylor, last year’s first-round pick. It’s a bold move, and the Marlins have won championships with those before. With the Padres’ help both times, even. The return is underwhelming, to be generous, and the cost was outlandish, to be kind, but I can’t help but appreciate the conviction.
The price of pitching is uncommonly absurd
In which we stop patting the Marlins on the head for their derring-do and remind everyone that Andrew Cashner is a pending free agent with a significant injury history who hasn’t finished the seventh inning in a single one of his starts this season, and who has been below replacement level for about his last 30 starts or so. The Marlins gave up their top prospect for him.
That’s why my first draft was a little rough.
But the price is the price is the price, and at least Cashner has some history of being ultra-effective. As recently as the first half last year, he was one of the dreamiest arms in the majors, combining stuff with results, just like you would expect. In this market, that’s expensive.
The Marlins turned to SD after not matching up with Phillies on Hellickson. And the Rays asked for Yelich & Realmuto for Moore or Odorizzi!— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 29, 2016
Sign that the trade market has officially gotten out of hand: Jeremy Hellickson may well fetch at least three, and perhaps four, prospects.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 29, 2016
If you’re not convinced that Cashner is helpful to a contending team, which I’m not, the price is galling. If you’re convinced he’s a solid arm and the best is yet to come, okay, this is the cost of business in this market.
Good luck this offseason, teams looking for pitching. Goooooood luck.
The Padres are mind worms
The Padres have one of the saddest legacies of transactions in professional sports. It started with Dave Winfield leaving for Yankee cash, ramped up with the Ozzie Smith trade and, well, you don’t need the particulars. Their most recent debacle was trading Anthony Rizzo for Cashner.
I’m not going to say this redeems that trade. But it sure makes it look way different than if they just held on to Cashner and let him walk for the compensatory pick. They didn’t just salvage a small part of the trade -- they exchanged Rizzo’s perennial MVP candidacy for a first-round slugger who plays the same position, giving them a chance to have that star first baseman when they really need him.
This comes a couple weeks after exchanging Drew Pomeranz for the best pitching prospect the Boston Red Sox have to offer. The Padres had Pomeranz because they traded Yonder Alonso, whom they had from the previously forgettable Mat Latos trade. That trade should have set the entire franchise up for years, considering they were trading a 23-year-old homegrown ace with three cheap years left on his contract. Instead, the biggest legacy of that trade was using Yasmani Grandal to get worse and make a division rival stronger at the same time.
Instead: redemption. Before the season, it would have been fair to print up shirts that read "The Padres traded away Mat Latos and Anthony Rizzo, and all they got was this lousy t-shirt." Now they have more prospects to throw on an already impressive prospect pile.
For a below-average pitcher who was going to leave in three months (and Colin Rea, who's more rotation filler than a future innings-eater). Just stunning.
Timing is everything
Alternate headline: Poor, poor Reds. When they went to trade an All-Star third baseman, a hitter with power in a market without power, they had to settle for a subpar package. Why? Third basemen just aren’t hot right now. Everyone’s got one, give or take. The supply went up, and the demand went down. It’s why David Freese was available for a one-year deal at the end of free agency.
The Padres, though, had two starting pitchers in a market bereft of them. Just two days ago, I was complaining that Cashner’s struggles made for a lackluster deadline. Ha, the Padres said. Ha. Just watch.
It’s good to be a team looking to trade pitchers right now. It will be even better in December. The pendulum is way, way on the other side of reasonable right now, and the Padres were in the right place at the right time. This is the kind of timing that leads to championships.
Of course, it’s possible that it’s the Marlins who will reap the championships this time. They’re the ones in postseason position, and I’m a firm believer in the Church of Jeff Weaver, which can be summed up thusly:
Dude, if Jeff Weaver can be so good for a month that his team wins a World Series ... I mean, dude ...
That’s it. That’s the only tenet of the faith. But it’s a good one, and maybe the Marlins will look like geniuses.
The odds are at least fair that neither team will benefit, what with prospects and championship hopes both more likely to fail than succeed. Still, the Padres came out looking brilliant. The Marlins came out looking bold, if not foolhardy. And it’s the best possible preview for a much wilder deadline than we should have expected.