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The Marlins should have Sandy Alcantara on the trade market, just as the Reds should have Luis Castillo and the Rockies should have German Marquez.
There is no joy in recommending that your favorite team should shop its ace. But context matters. The current market is bereft of controllable, high-end starters. So any club willing to move one might find it can turn $1 of value into a $1.50 return — and none of these starters should be traded without their current club being overwhelmed.
Here is what Miami, Cincinnati and Colorado should be asking internally: In the next 60 starts for Alcantara, Castillo and Marquez, would we have a high-end contending team? If not (and the answer is “no” across the board), are we doing the following: 1. Avoiding the right hard choice because it will be unpopular with our fan base? 2. Running the risk over the next two years that this pitcher will degrade in value due to falling performance, rising salary, lessening control or injury? 3. Tabling the inevitable — that this starter will be traded in 2022 or 2023, but potentially will not return as much with less control, higher salary, etc.?
As the weekend began, the Rangers’ Kyle Gibson was the most desirable starter with a high likelihood to move. Though he was a first-time All-Star and has a manageable $7 million salary in 2022, the righty will turn 34 in October, and his career suggests a second-half downward veer.
Minnesota is listening on ace Jose Berrios. But the Twins, AL Central champs in 2019-20, believe they could rebound quickly to contend again. Berrios will be a free agent after next season, and the Twins could just run it back with him and reconsider next July if they collapse again. The Indians have shown a willingness to trade starters, so perhaps they could surprise by dealing anyone from Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac up to ace Shane Bieber to capitalize on this market. But all remain cost efficient, and Cleveland still believes it can contend behind its rotation.
The Nationals have Max Scherzer, who will be a free agent after this season. And with so many needs and a poorly reviewed farm system, perhaps they should maximize him. But Washington’s DNA is to go for it. Scherzer is an icon and has 10-and-5 veto rights. So the industry expectation is, short of losing a bunch of games going into Friday’s deadline, the Nationals will run through the finish line with one of the best free-agent signings ever.
A case can be made for the Phillies, also without much of a farm system, trading Aaron Nola or Zack Wheeler, not to rebuild, but to diversify their talent and payroll. But Philadelphia wants to contend now, and the strength of the team is its top two starters.
All of that should motivate Miami, Cincinnati and Colorado. Here is why:
Syncing quality hitting and pitching is vital for sustained contention — more so for a small-market team that has to have inexpensive parts throughout to make it work. Think about how the other small-market Florida team, the Rays, have stayed competitive with a low payroll by being fearless about trading young starters with control — think, among others, Chris Archer, Matt Garza and Blake Snell — to maintain roster depth and flexibility.
Miami has warehoused desirable young starters Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, Trevor Rogers and Sixto Sanchez, plus prospects Edward Cabrera, Max Meyer and Jake Eder. But the fragility of pitching shows. Sanchez will not pitch this year due to a shoulder injury that needed surgery. Lopez is on the injured list with a shoulder ailment.
Meanwhile, the only controllable quality position players on the Marlins’ major league roster are Brian Anderson and Jazz Chisolm (both have been hurt). Miami obtained Chisolm by trading a good pitching prospect, Zac Gallen. Starling Marte, who is likely to be traded this week, is in his walk year. Miguel Rojas has a 2022 option. Both are 32.
Alcantara is a top-of-the-rotation workhorse. He will turn 26 in September and will be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason. Miami made Alcantara a contract extension offer that he recently countered, and now the Marlins must decide if they will respond, a source told The Post. If Miami can sign him long term, great. But if not, would the Dodgers combine, say, elite catching prospect Keibert Ruiz and Gavin Lux to front a trade? Again, Miami should only do it if overwhelmed by the offer.
Cincinnati is in the race and has a soft schedule left. But the Reds began the weekend 6 ¹/₂ games behind the Brewers in the NL Central and both wild cards are almost certainly going to come out of the NL West. The Reds can wait to see how their current seven-game stretch versus the Cardinals and Cubs goes. But their bullpen is cripplingly bad, and their best hitter, Nick Castellanos, has a wrist fracture.
The conventional move would be to trade an older starter. Sonny Gray has two years at $22 million left if his 2023 option is picked up. Wade Miley has a $10 million option for 2022 with a $1 million buyout. Considering the market and how well Miley is pitching, perhaps the Reds could fetch something good.
But Castillo could bring great. The righty had a 7.22 ERA after his first 10 starts. But in the nine starts since — coinciding with the crackdown on illegal sticky stuff and subsequent rise in offensive numbers — he had a 1.76 ERA and a .510 OPS against (he was scheduled to start Saturday). He is 28 and cannot be a free agent until after the 2023 season. The Reds have had a long-standing shortstop issue. Could they get CJ Abrams from the Padres or build a package with the prospect-deep Rays around Taylor Walls or get the Mets to construct a deal around Ronny Mauricio or the Yankees around Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza?
Colorado ownership, like that of Cincinnati, has tended to overrate its talent and has preferred not to move stars until it is too late (Troy Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado and perhaps, in the next week, Trevor Story). Acting GM Bill Schmidt told me (among others) he will not trade Marquez. The Rockies made a courtesy extension offer to walk-year starter Jon Gray, who rejected it and is available.
But look at the Colorado roster. Now look at the rosters of the Dodgers and Padres. Look at the Giants and realize they will have $100 million-ish to spend this offseason. The Rockies are not close to crashing that party. They need to be assembling more long-term talent. And the right trade with Marquez would help.
Like Alcantara and Castillo, Marquez is durable and groundball-centric. He has thrived despite pitching home games at Coors Field. From 2022-24, he will be due $42 million with his option included. If he were available — like Alcantara and Castillo — every contender and many non-contenders, considering the control years, would make a push for him.
In a market in which that bidding could get frenzied, don’t the Marlins, Reds and Rockies at least have to learn how far teams desperate for this level of starter would go?
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