Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, right, could be chatting with team president David Samson about the next trade the organization will make before Opening Day.
We're three months away from opening day.
But for the Miami Marlins, it just means owner Jeffrey Loria and his organization has about another 90 days to find a team to make more jaw-dropping trades. Believe it or not, the Marlins still have enough pieces left to execute such a transaction.
Will Giancarlo Stanton find a new home? Will Ricky Nolasco get his wish? Will an obscure Marlins player be a part of a big trade package leaving Miami, or will he be involved in a minor swap?
With these Marlins, the possibilities are endless. Just ask Miguel Cabrera, Luis Castillo, Josh Johnson, Paul Lo Duca, Mike Lowell, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Gaby Sanchez, Dan Uggla and Dontrelle Willis. Those are just some of the All-Stars the Marlins have traded since Loria owned the team in 2002.
So, as we count down to the first pitch of the 2013 season, here are some Marlins players who could be traded by opening day.
Could Ricky Nolasco have thrown his last pitch as a Marlin?
For a guy scheduled to make four times more money this year than the second-highest paid player on his own team, it's no wonder Nolasco finds himself on the trade market every day. Heck, even his agent, Matt Sosnick, went on the record last month to say his client wants out of Miami, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
Nolasco, the franchise's all-time leader with 76 wins, will earn $11.5 million in 2013 in the last year of a three-year, $26.5 million deal, and he is the only Marlins player who will earn more than $3 million this year. Third baseman Placido Polanco is the next highest-paid player after he recently signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal.
Since Sosnick's remarks—and even before then, it was clear Nolasco would be the only high-priced player left on the team after the Marlins traded away Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to Toronto in a 12-player fire sale—Nolasco has been linked to teams with a need for starting pitching or cheaper alternatives.
Two weeks ago, ESPN.com's Jim Bowden tweeted that according to his source, the Marlins would welcome a Nolasco for Peter Bourjos-type trade. Hint: The Marlins want a player who won't be arbitration-eligible until after the 2013 season or beyond. Other Los Angeles Angels player who fit the bill are Mark Trumbo and Garrett Richards.
The Marlins could also package Nolasco in a Stanton trade—if one were to happen. This type of trade was executed after the 2005 season when the Marlins sent Lowell and the $18 million remaining on his four-year, $32 million contract, along with Josh Beckett and Guillermo Mota to the Boston Red Sox for Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado and Harvey Garcia.
Now, there are two hurdles to a potential Nolasco trade.
The first is Nolasco would be in the last year of his contract, thus making him a rental. Nolasco's value will continue to drop unless he reproduces the first half of his 2008 season, when he went 10-4 with a 3.70 ERA. If that happens, Nolasco could be a hot commodity.
The second issue with a Nolasco trade is the players' union. After the fire sale in November, the union said it will monitor the Marlins following their payroll purge to make sure the organization is using their revenue-sharing money to improve the team.
"We understand and we're not surprised at the commissioner's decision to approve the trade," union head Michael Weiner told the Associated Press. "We'll be monitoring the Marlins for compliance with the Basic Agreement throughout the 2013 season."
Giancarlo Stanton could be looking at his last days as a Marlin.
The door has been cracked open.
It took about two months, but the Marlins finally admitted not only is Stanton not untouchable, but that they are willing to listen to offers for the right fielder, per team policy.
"Oh, I think that's been our [modus operandi]. I know in the 10 years I've been here, that's our M.O.," Marlins assistant general manager Dan Jennings said in an interview with Bowden and Jim Duquette on the "Front Office" show.
"We've never not listened to a deal on any player. Sometimes I chuckle when I hear people say, 'This guy's untouchable,' and 'That guy's untouchable.' You know what? They may be untouchable, until someone either overwhelms you or you get a package back that makes such a significant improvement on your club going forward. So we've always been willing to listen."
The Marlins also probably heard Stanton's "Alright, I'm pissed off!!! Plain & Simple" tweet after they traded Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson, Buck and Bonifacio to Toronto in the 12-player fire sale trade, which makes the possibility of Stanton signing a long-term contract highly unlikely.
For the Marlins to even consider trading the All-Star slugger, they would want at least three top prospects, according to ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes, to as many as five, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. Even the best farm systems would be wiped out by such a deal.
However, there are some organizations with the farm system to execute such a trade, based on this story.
What makes Stanton such a valuable commodity isn't just his 93 home runs by the age of 22 or that his career thus far could be compared to Hall of Famers such as Frank Robinson and Eddie Mathews, it's that Stanton isn't eligible for arbitration until after the 2013 season and won't become a free agent until after the 2016 season.
If the Marlins trade Stanton, which could be before opening day, they can only hope the results turn out better than the last time they traded a player of Stanton's stature: Cabrera, the 2012 American League Most Valuable Player and the first Triple Crown winner since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and Willis to the Detroit Tigers for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz, Mike Rabelo and Dallas Trahern.
If the stars align, Greg Dobbs might be out of Miami before Opening Day.
While it is unlikely Nolasco and/or Stanton will be traded before opening day, it isn't out of the realm of possibility since all it takes is one team to make an offer the Marlins can't refuse.
However, there are smaller Fishes on the roster whom the team could trade before the 2013 begins, such as Chris Coghlan, Greg Dobbs, Jeff Mathis and Ryan Webb. What this quartet have in common are they aren't slated to start on opening day and carry contracts of more than $1 million (Dobbs and Mathis) or were eligible for arbitration this offseason (Coghlan and Webb).
Since he won the 2009 National League Rookie of the Year for a season in which he batted .321 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs in 128 games, Coghlan has been on a precipitous decline because of ineffectiveness and various injuries. He has played 195 games the past three years, hitting .238 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs.
When spring training begins, Coghlan will get a look at third base and in center field. If he proves to be healthy but expendable, the Marlins might look to get him off their books.
Of the quartet, he might be the least likely to be traded. Unless injuries hinder Polanco, Dobbs is expected to be a valuable left-handed bat off the Marlins bench. However, if Zack Cox proves he is ready for the big leagues by the end of spring training and becomes the Marlins' starting third baseman, the Marlins could look to move Dobbs' $1.5 million salary.
He is expected to provide a veteran presence for the catcher of the future, Rob Brantly. But behind Mathis in the organizational depth chart is the sixth overall pick from the 2008 draft, Kyle Skipworth.
If Skipworth shows he deserves a spot on the major league roster at the end of spring training—Skipworth is a career .219 hitter with 61 home runs and 229 RBI in five minor league seasons—then Mathis' two-year, $3 million contract with a team option for 2015 could be expendable.
Although he is expected to be the setup man and be the bridge to closer Steve Chisek, Webb might have a new home if a cheaper alternative such as A.J. Ramos presents itself.
In 11 appearances last year, Ramos had a 3.86 ERA and struck out 13 in 9.1 innings pitched after being called up September 4. Other options might include Wade LeBlanc and Tom Koehler.