Now that we’ve had time to let the Miami Marlins latest fire sale digest, there are a lot of teams saying, “why not us?”
The Toronto Blue Jays were the beneficiaries of the Marlins preference to make money over winning baseball games, leaving the rest of the baseball world wondering what could have been.
The Blue Jays send a nice package of prospects to the Marlins, one that not every team could have matched, but also one that was not so overwhelming that other organizations would have hung up the phone if asked. The Blue Jays, before this deal, had a farm system that was among the deepest in the game, but not one that was by any means unmatched around baseball. Not every team has the prospects that the Blue Jays dealt to the Marlins, but some do.
Of those teams that could have brought to the table what the Blue Jays ultimately gave up, not all had a need for so many impact players, and more importantly, the starting spots to go around for Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonafacio and Jose Reyes.
But the Pittsburgh Pirates had both.
The Pirates are one of the teams that enough prospects to not only match the Blue Jays offer, but actually beat it. They also have the exact needs that the trade provided fixes for – starting pitching and shortstop.
The Pirates could have offered the Marlins young, inexpensive pitching like Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson and proven young major league starters like James McDonald. They also could have sent a major league shortstop back in return in Clint Barmes, who isn’t as good as Yunel Escobar, but isn’t a huge step down.
The Pirates could have offered a young shortstop prospect like Alen Henson, who is a strong prospect but would have been blocked for the next five years by Reyes and is every bit the prospect that Jake Marisnick is, who the Marlins got from the Blue Jays.
Undoubtedly, the Marlins would have inquired on the Pirates top pitching prospects Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, and for the Pirates, the conversation might have ended right there. But the Pirates have plenty more to offer and could have put together an interesting offer for the Marlins consideration.
A package of McDonald, Barmes, Locke, McPherson, Hanson, and maybe even Gregory Polanco would have forced the Marlins to listen. They likely would have inquired about Taillon and Starling Marte as well, and for the package the Marlins were sending, the Pirates would have had to listen even on them. Essentially, everyone but Gerrit Cole could have been in consideration.
The big issue here for the Pirates would have been the additional payroll. It would have taken significant clearance from the front office to up the payroll by enough to take on these new salaries. But in the Pirates case, it’s the only way they are going to get this kind of talent. Jose Reyes wouldn’t have signed in Pittsburgh as a free agent. But in a trade, he doesn’t have a choice. If the Pirates wanted to acquire talent, this was their best chance.
Ultimately, the Marlins unloaded their biggest salaries at pennies on the dollar because they are generally overpaid and they were looking to cut costs. The Pirates, on the other hand, missed an opportunity to fill their exact needs with proven major league talent that they otherwise won’t be able to lure to Pittsburgh.