With the trade deadline just days away, the trade landscape has been eerily quiet so far. When MLB announced that we would no longer have a waiver trade deadline, making this the last chance that any team can pick up talent or dump salary, most expected that to put the trade talks into overdrive. Throw in the fact that so many teams, especially in the National League, are in contention, and I expected many moves to be made.
But for now, we wait. The one semi-major move that came this weekend may just go down as one of the most head-scratching moves of all-time. The New York Mets, a team that is eleven and a half games back of first place in their division, and five games under .500 on the year, made a blockbuster move to acquire one of the better starting pitchers available on the market, Marcus Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays.
All the talk this week in New York was not if they were going to have a fire sale, but just how deep it would go. Jason Vargas, Zack Wheeler, Edwin Diaz, Noah Syndergaard are all guys that were speculated to be moved. But now the Mets front office has come out and basically announced that they are not going to burn it down, and at this point it wouldn’t shock me to see this team trying to buy more pieces, looking to close that big gap between them and the Atlanta Braves for the NL East Division crown.
So, while trade season has gotten off to a slow start, it has certainly given us lots of stuff to talk about. Another team that is expected to move several pieces before the trade deadline, the Miami Marlins, play host tonight to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and we will break it down for our pick of the day.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are in Miami tonight, looking to salvage a split in the four-game series against the Marlins. The DBacks are in baseball purgatory, as they are decent, but not good enough to win it all. They could stand pat this week before the trade deadline or dump veteran players. The big names on the trade block for Arizona are starting pitchers, Robbie Ray and Zach Greinke. If one goes, you can expect both to go. It should be an interesting couple of days for DBacks fans as they wait and see if their team gets dismantled.
For Miami, they are in the midst of a multi-year rebuild, and while they are going to make some minor moves, I doubt any real high impact players are going to be on the move. They did ship off their closer Sergio Romo to the Twins for prospects, but that was a standard sell high pick that made a lot of sense, and Romo wasn’t all that great anyway, so I don’t see it hurting the club very much. I mean, how bad do you really need a closer when you are the worst team in the league?
Starting for the Marlins is Caleb Smith (6-4 3.30 ERA), and for the DBacks it is Merrill Kelly (7-10 4.22 ERA). The game total over-under is set at seven and a half runs. The Marlins are -109 home favorites. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 PM PST from Marlins Park in Miami.
My first reaction to this number was, what? The Marlins are favored? How? But when I took a closer look, I started to see why. The Marlins actually opened as home underdogs before the early morning betting sharps pushed the number towards Miami. And there are two main reasons as to why this number is moving toward the Marlins.
One, the DBacks just aren’t playing very well right now. They have lost six out of their last ten games. And half of those losses have come to awful teams like the Baltimore Orioles and these Marlins. When you are right on the edge of buying or selling the week of the trade deadline, going on the road and losing a series to the last-place Marlins might be the final nail in the coffin for your season.
And two, Caleb Smith, the Marlins starting pitcher tonight, has been pitching really well as of late. Smith has made four starts in July, and he is 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA. He has racked up twenty-eight strikeouts in twenty-four innings pitched. And on the season, despite the Marlins being mostly awful, they have a winning record with Smith on the mound. He has allowed two runs or fewer in twelve of his sixteen starts this season.
Merrill Kelly was having a solid rookie season until the wheels started to fall off in the dog days of summer. Through June 12th, Kelly was 7-6 with 3.73 ERA. Those aren’t what I would call elite numbers, but he was pitching well. But since then, he has hit that rookie wall. In his last seven starts, he has pitched a total of thirty-seven and a third innings and has gotten rocked for twenty-six runs.
The problem for Kelly recently has been something that has plagued him all year long, and that is the long ball. He has allowed nineteen home runs in twenty-one starts. You aren’t going to have great results if you are giving up a home run in nearly every start. He has given up eight home runs in his last seven starts, and the DBacks are 1-6 in those seven games.
I try to never back awful teams. It is just a generally good guideline to follow, don’t back bad teams. But I am going to make an exception here tonight. Yeah, Miami is bad. But Caleb Smith is a budding star, and I see him shutting down this Arizona team tonight. The Marlins came into this season looking to build towards the future, so while they aren’t going to love losing some talent like Romo, they expected it.
Whereas the trade rumors swirling around Arizona are clearly causing a disturbance to the team, and they are playing poorly. Nobody likes to think that this game might be their last game for their team, and many of the Arizona players must be feeling that way. Knowing your front office may just be a day or two away from throwing in the towel for the year, makes it hard to focus on the task at hand, which is winning a baseball game.
I think all of that distraction, as well as Smith being tough to hit, gives us ample value to back the Marlins as slight favorites. I liked it better last night when you could have gotten Miami as home dogs, but where the number stands now, at just -109, I think a play on Miami is still the right thing to do.
It wouldn’t shock me to see this number correct some as I expect the squares to see Miami as favorites and bet the other way, but if that doesn’t happen, and this number continues to move towards Miami, I would be very hesitant to make a play. I just can’t justify laying any type of significant wood on a team that is as bad as Miami. So, take it now, or wait to see it move towards Arizona, and if it doesn’t, just go ahead and stay away. Give me the Miami Marlins at -109 tonight in game four!
The Bet: Miami Marlins -109