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Marlins Keep Eye Toward Future in Realmuto Deal


After months of speculation, the inevitable finally happened. Catcher J.T. Realmuto was dealt from the perennially rebuilding Marlins to a hopeful contender, namely their in-division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies. In exchange for the All-Star catcher, Miami received a package of Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez, Will Stewart, and a quarter-million of international bonus pool money.

Given the nature of Derek Jeter's "plan" to build from the ground up, this could be considered a long-term success for the Marlins. They effectively replaced Realmuto with a Major League talent at catcher, acquired a top pitching prospect, added some depth, and perhaps most importantly, gave themselves more financial flexibility to chase international talent.

It's obvious the fish won't be reaping the benefits of this move for a couple of years but fantasy owners might see a domino effect take place this year now that the Marlins' best hitter is gone. Let's take a look at how this deal affects Miami's core and dynasty owners as well.

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Why Can't We Have Nice Things?

Needless to say, after seeing the All-Star trio of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna unceremoniously disposed of with little to speak of in return, Marlins fans (yes, a few of us actually exist) were a little non-plussed. The concept of restocking a bare cupboard is unfamiliar to this franchise which has smartly used free agency at key moments to find its way to a pair of World Series victories. After the confetti on the parades was just being swept away, those teams were quickly stripped to the core with no farm system in place to rebuild. Two years ago, following a fruitless attempt to win with a talented group of mostly homegrown players, another reboot was set into motion.

Stanton was a pure salary dump; the Marlins received Starlin Castro, who would also have been traded by now if any team was actually interested enough, and two prospects that may never be mainstays at the Major League level, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers. Although Devers is the cousin of Rafael Devers, so that's cool I suppose.

Ozuna predictably attracted the least appealing deal, with a group that consisted of RHP Sandy Alcántara, RHP Daniel Castano, RHP Zac Gallen and OF Magneuris Sierra. No future All-Stars in that group. Ozuna was set for free agency in 2019 anyway, so it's a move that was going to be made regardless.

Yelich, last year's NL MVP, fetched a decent haul. At least that's how it looked on paper. Lewis Brinson was a top-20 overall prospect heading into 2018 and Monte Harrison was ranked as high as #49 by Baseball America. Isan Diaz figures to be a utility infielder while Jordan Yamamoto looks more promising after a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League (3-0, 2.08 ERA, 1.07 WHIP in six starts). So far, Brinson looks overwhelmed by big league pitchers, posting a .199/.240/.338 slash line in his rookie year. Harrison and Diaz could contribute eventually but that's not a guarantee.

Now that the final All-Star on Miami's roster has been dealt away, the team is left with another pair of prospects and a slim ray of hope that the future will be bright. But is that the case?

 

Sanchez Is the Key

Sixto Sanchez, while risky due to recent elbow injuries, is the type of top pitching prospect the Marlins were coveting all along. Cincinnati's Hunter Greene or San Diego's Chris Paddack would have been nice to have if a different deal had been worked out (I was hoping for a package of Francisco Mejia and Adrian Morejon or Paddack from the Padres personally) but Sanchez ranks right up there talent-wise. Sanchez was the Phils' top SP prospect and now immediately tops the chart for the Marlins.

Here's the issue: Sanchez experienced elbow inflammation parts of the last two seasons and was forced to skip the Arizona Fall League after soreness in his collarbone set in. This is obviously concerning, along with the fact the Phillies were suddenly willing to part with him. That said, we know Philly made this move because they are in win-now mode and are still dangling all the bait they can in front of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in hopes of landing a big fish. There is no need for Sanchez to be forced into the Marlins rotation this year, as the team did with so many young pitchers last season. Hopefully, he sees limited innings in the minors and can work toward a Major League debut in late 2020 or early 2021.

He currently ranks as the #13 overall prospect in Baseball America's preseason rankings. Dynasty owners could see this as a buy-low opportunity, since his injury concerns and move to a losing franchise might discourage some from holding onto him. If anything, Marlins Park should help him keep more balls in the park, as it ranked dead-last in HR Park factor for right-handed batters and 53rd for left-handed batters. Not that it's been a problem for him - Sanchez has allowed a total of three homers across 221 1/3 minor league innings.

 

Impact on Marlins' Lineup

No sugarcoating this - the Marlins' lineup is going to stink. It was already looking pretty rough with recently-signed Curtis Granderson, at the ripe age of 38 by the time Opening Day rolls around, in the leadoff spot and Neil Walker, on his fourth team in two years, at cleanup. Starlin Castro and Martin Prado are solid, unexciting veterans who would be dealt in a heartbeat if the Marlins could find someone willing to take on their salary. Brian Anderson and Lewis Brinson are bursting with potential but they might not reach it given their current circumstances.

Jorge Alfaro will slot in at the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup ahead of J.T. Riddle and possibly Brinson. He has appeal in NL-only and two-catcher leagues, but that's about it. He showed decent pop last year, slugging 10 HR in 377 at-bats with a .145 ISO. His 37.7% Hard Contact rate was 15th among catchers with at least 250 plate appearances and just one percent shy of Realmuto. Here's the bad news: his 23.8% Swinging Strike rate and 0.13 BB/K were far and away the worst among all catchers. Only Mike Zunino struck out at a higher clip. Somehow Alfaro managed to post a decent .268 average last year and hit .312 over 107 at-bats the year before, so maybe he can be a slightly better version of Zunino but don't count on it. Any way you slice it, R+RBI will be hard to come by at the bottom of that order and Alfaro, although he should get a chance to log 120+ games behind the plate, is a backup in re-draft leagues.

 

Conclusion

Relative to some of the other cost-cutting moves the Marlins have undertaken lately, this appears to be a pretty good return for a young player in his prime. Disconcerting as it is to see Realmuto donning a Phillies uniform, it's nothing new to see an ex-Marlins thrive elsewhere. Sanchez is a player the franchise could see as the potential heir to the late Jose Fernandez's spot as a true hometown ace. His value should see a slight uptick as long as the elbow shows no signs of damage heading into the season. There isn't much else of interest on Miami's roster outside of the young duo of Anderson and Brinson, so the best idea would be to take the same tactic as the Fish themselves and simply stockpile some of their young talent in deep dynasty leagues and hope it pans out down the road.

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