Making a play for Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus would be a step into making Marlins into a serious contender for the future.
The All-Star break has come and gone. With that has arrived the annual trade market, which opened for business with the recent trade of hard throwing closer Francisco Rodriguez from New York to Milwaukee, fresh from the conclusion the All-Star game.
This year the Marlins have themselves in familiar territory around the break, just like they did last year when they were a mere few games under .500 and trying to make a second-half statement.
They are doing just that, currently on their longest winning streak of the season, albeit its comes against mediocre competition (Houston and Chicago). But they are doing the exact opposite of what they did in June.
If they keep on winning, maybe you don't consider making any drastic moves. However, considering the forthcoming holes the team has, you wonder whether a prospect who is barely hitting in New Orleans (Matt Dominguez, hitting .239/.303/.394 in 201 plate appearances) can be a savior at the hot corner or who will step up when impending free agent Omar Infante hits the free-agent market.
With a stadium on the horizon the Marlins would be foolish to trade one of their top pitchers in Ricky Nolasco or Anibal Sanchez, but will they? The Marlins would certainly have to acquire a major league player or top prospects in exchange for either, but the latter is likely not going to happen unless an owner makes a panic move for October.
Nevertheless, here are five moves (three of which are trades) the Marlins would be smart for doing to improve their team for the immediate future:
The St. Louis Cardinals have long been wanting another pitcher when their ace Adam Wainwright went out with an elbow injury in spring training, and even more when Ryan Franklin (8.46 ERA) went from closer to being released after his poor performance all year.
It may seem like a ridiculous proposition, but lets consider what lies ahead for Sanchez. His future includes a contract extension this offseason, which will almost certainly exceed Ricky Nolasco's (three years/$26.5 million) and hover around Josh Johnson's (four years/$39 million).
According to Juan Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel, an Anibal extension could reach over $40 million because of his free agency years.
When you consider the fact Sanchez has never pitched 200 innings in his career (career high 195 innings in 2010) and he is pitching at his peak, one has to consider selling him when he is good and not hurt or struggling.
Acquiring Rasmus, a potential five-tool talent, would place him in what would be hands down the best outfield in the major leagues. With Logan Morrison in left, Colby Rasmus in center and Mike Stanton on the right, the Marlins would have quite the excitement and core entering the new ballpark that they need.
Trading an Anibal Sanchez would deplete the Marlins at a time where they are without Josh Johnson and have two inconsistent starters in Chris Volstad and Javier Vazquez in the back end of the rotation. But the Marlins can always look for a pair of veteran starters in the offseason who might be just as good as Sanchez.
Such candidates include Chris Carpenter (if Cardinals don't swallow a $15 million option and likely won't if they get Sanchez), Joel Pineiro and former Marlins Livan Hernandez and Brad Penny.
If the Marlins want to go a bit big, they could also target Edwin Jackson or Mark Buehrle as a supplement for the loss of Sanchez for similar money that Nolasco's making. However, the latter might be a bit out of their range considering his $15 million salary this season and the durability teams might covet where he might make just about the same for another team in 2012.
Jackson, meanwhile, would only cost the Marlins around $10 million a season (heck they gave $7 million to Javier Vazquez) and would be the ideal replacement for Sanchez.
Regardless of whether they trade one of their big three starters, targeting a free agent pitcher or two is a necessity for the Marlins if they intend on contending.
The Marlins aren't going to get a precious prospect for either Greg Dobbs or Omar Infante if teams come calling.
It's for the best that they keep Dobbs and Infante, because there isn't a steady and ready replacement for either at the moment. Dominguez is in the minors and Bonifacio is platooning versus southpaws. Even though he hasn't hit as much this season, Infante's glove is valuable enough over a replacement.
If they decide to keep both for the remainder of the season, maybe the Marlins can re-sign one of the two in the offseason (Greg Dobbs) and have a platoon of Bonifacio and Dobbs at third base in 2012.
Why Dobbs? Well if a Rasmus for Sanchez trade were to happen, the Marlins could move Chris Coghlan back to the infield at second where he was throughout his minor league career.
Personally, I believe the Marlins should keep Choate at all costs, because he has been perhaps the MVP of the bullpen this season. But you just know a team needing a bullpen arm will come calling and the Marlins might be overwhelmed on this one. What better team to overwhelm them than the Yankees.
Reportedly, the Bronx Bombers covet the left-handed specialist, and considering their trigger-happy approach to dealing prospects for immediate help, the Marlins could cash in.
They are believed to want infield prospects or a major league ready player who is cost effective. One name that comes to mind is Eduardo Nunez, but he appears to be the primary third baseman with the absence of Alex Rodriguez with a knee injury.
Minor league options for the infield include power-hitting third baseman Brandon Laird (.291, 23 home runs and 90 RBIs in 454 plate appearances at Double-A Trenton last season) and second basemen David Adams (.514 batting average, 18-for-35 in the minor leagues; was injured to start the season) and Cordan Joseph (.283/.368/.443, four home runs in 367 plate appearances at Double-A Trenton).
One thought would be to ask for one of the Yankees young catchers with their depth both at the major league and minor league level. Candidates in a Choate deal would be Austin Romine or even Gary Sanchez. Either would be in line to succeed John Buck after his deal ends at the conclusion of the 2013 season.
With the inconsistencies of Leo Nunez, the Marlins are going to be hard-pressed in both keeping him (who will demand a salary in excess of $5 million in 2012) and trading him for what would be a better prospect.
The Marlins are likely to look back on the deal they made with the Cubs in 2008 when they dealt Kevin Gregg for then prospect Jose Ceda.
One interesting trade partner would be the Texas Rangers, who traded for Jorge Cantu at last year's deadline for a pair of pitching prospects.
With the depth of starting pitching prospects and even major league starters, the desperate Rangers might be willing to part with Neil Ramirez (4-3, 3.77 ERA, 82 K's in 72.2 innings) or power lefty Miguel De Los Santos, who despite the atrocious 8.04 ERA at Double-A Frisco this season, has struck out 360 batters in 226.1 career minor league innings.