Dodgers, Marlins Should Reignite Jose Fernandez Blockbuster Trade Talks

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2016

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez (16) delivers in a baseball game against the New York Mets, Tuesday, April 12, 2016, in New York.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

On Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins will kick off a four-game series in Southern California. Jose Fernandez, who is slated to pitch the fourth game, will be a Marlin.

Fans on both sides, however, are permitted to picture him in Dodger blue.

Fernandez-to-the-Dodgers rumblings are nothing new. The Marlins ace simmered on the hot stove all winter amid the club's usual parade of dysfunction and mixed signals, as Bleacher Report's Scott Miller outlined in December.

"Multiple sources close to the Marlins acknowledge that Fernandez has grown more and more blunt with management, and there are those who do not appreciate the way he sometimes speaks to his superiors," Miller reported at the time.

Fernandez has struggled a bit in the early going this season. Through four starts, the right-hander is 1-2 with a 4.37 ERA. He's also racked up 32 strikeouts in 22.2 innings, so his stuff is as nasty and bat-missing as ever.

The 23-year-old Fernandez is a generational talent coming into his own. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2014, the former first-round pick and 2013 National League Rookie of the Year owns a 2.54 career ERA with an eye-popping 368 strikeouts in 311.2 frames.

Slot him into any rotation, and it instantly becomes exponentially more dangerous.

Slot him next to Clayton Kershaw, and you could be looking at one of the better lefty-righty duos in recent memory.

A Fernandez trade would be huge, and admittedly fraught, for Miami and L.A.

But as the Dodgers attempt to snap their quarter-century-plus championship drought and the floundering Marlins try to get on a winning track, it's a risk both sides should strongly consider taking.

Fernandez could join Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to form one of the most potent lefty-righty duos in baseball.
Fernandez could join Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw to form one of the most potent lefty-righty duos in baseball.Alan Diaz/Associated Press

The Dodgers, with their deep pockets and loaded farm, seemed like a natural fit for Fernandez, who is under team control through the 2018 season and is a candidate for a monster extension that Miami is unlikely to dole out.

A trade never materialized during the offseason, possibly because the Marlins were asking for the moon, the stars and a few spare solar systems.

"If we gave them what they wanted, we wouldn't have one young pitcher left in our organization," an unnamed Dodgers official told Peter Gammons in December.

So Los Angeles moved on, opting to fill out its rotation by signing left-hander Scott Kazmir and Japanese ace Kenta Maeda. 

Maeda, who inked an incentive-laden deal because of concerns over his health, has exceeded expectations so far with a minuscule 0.36 ERA through four starts.

Kazmir, however, sports an unsightly 6.63 ERA. And with Brett Anderson, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy all injured, the Dodgers' rotation depth is suddenly in doubt. 

That doesn't mean they have to engineer a megadeal. The club could get contributions from top minor league arms such as Julio Urias and Jose De Leon at some point this season. And Anderson, Ryu and McCarthy are all expected back in 2016.

Counting on untested youngsters and injury comebacks, however, can be dicey. So can selling the farm for a single player. So can trading away a franchise talent.

That's why these are tough decisions.

If you're betting on what the Dodgers will do, bet against a Fernandez blockbuster. Under the regime of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, the team has exercised restraint, "consistently preaching the value of depth, refusing to acknowledge public panic, emphasizing the long-term sustainability of the organization while still competing in the present," as the Los Angeles Times' Andy McCullough recently put it.

President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has been reluctant to raid the Dodgers' loaded farm system.
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has been reluctant to raid the Dodgers' loaded farm system.Richard Vogel/Associated Press/Associated Press

There's merit to that approach. It helped Friedman overachieve and build a reputation during his days with the small-market Tampa Bay Rays.

But he's sailing in deeper waters now, at the helm of a club that isn't interested in merely getting to the postseason. The Dodgers, owners of baseball's biggest payroll, want to hoist a Commissioner's Trophy for the first time since 1988. 

Fernandez doesn't automatically get them there. They had Zack Greinke and his MLB-leading ERA last year alongside Kershaw and still lost in the division series. 

It's possible, however, that Miami's asking price could inch downward as the trade deadline approaches. 

Speaking with MLB Network Radio in February, Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi suggested the Marlins would move Fernandez if they were out of contention by July.

There's a lot of baseball left before then, but entering Monday, the Fish are floating at 6-11, in fourth place in the National League East.

There's also no telling what direction Miami's brass, led by polarizing owner Jeffrey Loria, will zag. The team that fires its manager midseason and replaces him with a general manager who has zero professional coaching experience in the dugout will do just about anything. 

If Miami demands Los Angeles' entire cache of prospects, plus the deed to Dodger Stadium, forget it. And L.A. ought to put some players, including shortstop Corey Seager, on its no-fly list. 

Los Angeles, though, should be willing to pluck a handful of names from a gilded system that ESPN.com's Keith Law ranked No. 2 in baseball.

This winter, yours truly proposed a package of Urias, outfielder Joc Pederson, infielder Micah Johnson and catcher Austin Barnes, plus possibly another arm from the bottom of L.A.'s top 20 prospects, for Fernandez.

Dodgers pitching prospect Julio Urias could help the team in 2016 or be dealt to Miami as part of a package for Fernandez.
Dodgers pitching prospect Julio Urias could help the team in 2016 or be dealt to Miami as part of a package for Fernandez.Chris Carlson/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

That's a lot to give up and quite possibly less than Miami would require. But it'd be a fine starting point.

The Dodgers can't afford to be complacent. Not with the archrival San Francisco Giants and reloaded Arizona Diamondbacks challenging for division supremacy, and certainly not with the hyper-talented Chicago Cubs and pitching-rich New York Mets lurking as potential October foils.

The Marlins, meanwhile, can't afford to keep treading water. There's plenty of talent on the roster—headlined by slugger Giancarlo Stantonbut restocking their system and ending the flare-ups between Fernandez and the front office seems like the best course. 

For this upcoming series, Fernandez is a Marlin. For the best interests of both sides, everyone should at least imagine him in Dodger blue.

All statistics current as of April 24 and courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.