While the winter is known for cold temperatures, snow and the lack of baseball, there is something that keeps MLB fans content between the free agent signings and trades their teams make. And that is the constant flow of rumors that are flying around at this time, with names being bandied about and associated with numerous teams.
It is these rumors that get baseball fans minds spinning. They get to picture a multitude of possibilities of new players who could be donning their favorite team’s uniform in the coming season, while also deciding what they would do if they were in the general manager’s shoes. Some of these rumors come from reports from actual insiders such as Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman. But then there are those born from the minds of the fans themselves, which is what I present you with here. There have been no reports to suggest this deal is in the works, but rather it is an idea spawned from my brain while taking multiple factors into account.
So first things first, the proposed trade. The St. Louis Cardinals would send 25-year-old right-handed pitcher Michael Wacha to the Miami Marlins in exchange for 26-year-old center fielder Marcell Ozuna. The Cardinals are in need of a man to roam center, while the Marlins are on the hunt for starting pitching. So let’s take a closer look at why this deal would make sense for both clubs.
For the Cardinals, their clear strength at the moment comes in the form of their starting rotation depth. Carlos Martinez emerged on the scene in 2016 and solidified himself as a clear-cut ace. Adam Wainwright is not what he once was, but remains a steady option on the starting staff. Those two are set to be followed up by Mike Leake, Jaime Garcia, and youngster Alex Reyes. Lance Lynn is still on the team, although his health remains a question. The team also plans on extending former closer Trevor Rosenthal in an attempt to have him be a potential starter at some point. This leaves Michael Wacha in the bullpen, where the club is considering making him a super reliever of sorts, where he could throw multiple innings any time he comes into a game.
Offensively, the club is in need of a center fielder. With the likely departure of Matt Holliday via free agency, the two corner slots are expected to be manned by Randal Grichuk and Stephen Pisctotty. With the current roster, Kolton Wong could possibly be the man hovering center, although he is supposed to be starting at second base. Wong has only played eight games in center field and is certainly not the ideal option. So the club has a clear need at a very vital defensive position.
As for the Marlins, their starting rotation is in shambles. Following the unfortunate passing of Jose Fernandez late in the 2016 season, the team is without an ace. Their top pitching option comes in the form of Wei-Yin Chen, who had a disappointing first season with the Fish. Adam Conley, a 26-year-old lefty, showed some flashes of potential in 2016 but was inconsistent on his way to a 3.85 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. David Phelps and Tom Koehler represent two other starting options who are alright pieces, but certainly replaceable or could be moved to the pen.
In the outfield, Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton represent two givens to start every day. As of right now, Ozuna would take the third slot. But the team could also use a mix of Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Dietrich and a cheaper free agent option to man left field. The team was dangling him in trade talks last winter, and it has been clear Ozuna and ownership have not always seen eye to eye. His name has been mentioned in rumors already this winter, so he can certainly be had for the right price.
So now that we have established both men are available, and the Cardinals and Marlins are in need at the given positions, how would a trade of the two match up in terms of fairness? In terms of contracts, the two are virtually identical. Wacha has three years of arbitration remaining and is scheduled to make about 3.2 million dollars this coming season. Ozuna also has three years of arbitration more, and his expected salary for 2017 is roughly 4.5 million dollars.
Both players are former top prospects that have shown some flashes of their talent but have yet to live up to their full potential. Wacha had his best season in 2015 when he won 17 games, had a 3.38 ERA and struck out 153 batters. But 2016 was a rough year, as Wacha made 24 starts, battled injuries and ended up with a 5.09 ERA. At his age, he has certainly not hit his prime, and a change of scenery could be just what the big righty needs.
As for Ozuna, 2016 saw him replicate his best season since 2014. He hit 23 home runs, drove in 76 runs and scored 75 runs. He struck out 115 times but did manage to walk a career high 43 times as well. His stock is certainly up, and the Marlins may ask for a smaller level prospect on top of Wacha for Ozuna given Wacha’s down season
But when you put everything together, the Marlins could use Wacha and the Cardinals could use Ozuna. The players are very similar in terms of being trade assets, as they both have high upsides and boast similar contracts. This deal could be one of the most intriguing moves of the winter if it were to actually happen.
One final note, this is the first of a two piece series on Michael Wacha here at INSC. Be sure to check back later in the week when we discuss how Wacha could be the next Andrew Miller.