Many of us knew and expected the Miami Marlins to be better in 2014.
But many of us couldn't have predicted the Marlins to be five games over .500, have the best home record in the majors, the second-best run differential in the National League and be on top of the NL East division at this moment.
That's the good news. The bad news is as well as the Marlins have played, there are flaws on this team that need to be fixed. After all, the Marlins are one of a handful of dark horses who are trying to pry their way into the playoffs. And if they stick around for another two months, upgrades are going to be needed.
Season-altering trades aren't made until close to the July 31 trade deadline, but the groundwork for such deals usually begin around this time. Players are evaluated, intel is gathered and hypothetical trades are kicked around.
While the Marlins began the season with the second-lowest payroll in baseball at $47 million, owner Jeffrey Loria probably wouldn't be opposed to adding payroll if this team makes a serious push for a playoff berth. When the Marlins have been in contention, he has loosened the purse strings.
Consider the following:
- With the Marlins in fourth place in the NL East and 4.5 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies for the lone wild-card spot, the Marlins traded future All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and two other players to the Texas Rangers for closer Ugueth Urbina.
- A month later, on August 31, 2003, the Marlins traded a pair of minor leaguers to the Baltimore Orioles for Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine, hours before the deadline for adding players to the roster and having them eligible for the postseason. The Marlins needed to make this deal after third baseman Mike Lowell broke his left hand and was considered to miss the rest of the regular season. At the time, the Marlins caught the Phillies and were tied for the wild-card spot. As you may remember, the Marlins won the Wild Card by four games and went on to win the 2003 World Series.
- In 2004, in an attempt to defend their title, the Marlins traded for outfielder Juan Encarnacion, catcher Paul Lo Duca and reliever Guillermo Mota from the Los Angeles Dodgers a day before the trade deadline. Less than 24 hours later, the Marlins acquired reliever Rudy Seanez and starting pitcher Ismael Valdes in two separate trades. In total, the Marlins gave up Hee-Seop Choi, Bill Murphy, Brad Penny, Abraham Nunez and Travis Chick. At the time of the trade with the Dodgers, the Marlins were 4.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East and five games behind the Padres for the lone wild-card spot.
- Four years later, the Marlins were back in contention as they sat 1.5 games behind the Phillies in the NL East and two back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the wild-card spot. In a minor but effective deal, the Marlins dealt minor leaguer Gaby Hernandez to the Seattle Mariners for left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes, who went 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA in 25 appearances.
- In 2009, the Marlins were just two games back of the Colorado Rockies and San Francisco Giants for the wild-card spot. Trying to bolster their offense, the Marlins traded Aaron Thompson to the Washington Nationals for Nick Johnson.
Now that the Marlins look to be on their way back, they might not be afraid to pull off another trade to mask their flaws. It's our job to figure out what they need and what kind of trades they should start considering.
Without further ado, from most important to least important, here are four areas where the Marlins should already be thinking about making a trade.