In a famed, but never finalized, young player for young player deal, the Houston Astros traded one of their best young pitchers in RHP Jarred Cosart along with SS Enrique Hernandez and OF Austin Wates to the Miami Marlins for OF Jake Marisnick, 3B Colin Moran, RHP Francis Martes and the Marlins first compensation pick.
Though Marisnick is no small name in this trade, the headliner seems to be Cosart. The Marlins are in an unenviable position, that of a team that is 4.5 games back of the Wild Card game in the National League and having to decide between being a buyer, a seller, or standing pat. Much the same situation as the Tampa Bay Rays, who decided to sell…for now.
That’s why, despite it not being an impact talent, the trade for Cosart was a good decision for the Marlins. They’ve traded for a 24-year-old starting pitcher that isn’t arbitration eligible until 2017. Exactly the type of buy that the Marlins can make with confidence for competing this season and retaining their ability to compete going forward with a strong rotation.
Though Cosart features decent stuff, a 95 mph cutter and a knuckle-curve are his main pitches, he doesn’t produce much variety. This is the likely culprit of his low strikeout totals and percentages (75 Ks at a 14.8% K-Rate). Cosart throws his cutter an amazing 65% of the time and his knucle-curve 26% of the time, resulting in about 91% of his total pitches according to BrooksBaseball.1
The right-handed starter had a much more impressive 1.95 ERA in 60 innings in 2013 compared to his 4.41 ERA in 2014. However, his more recent results are likely more in line with his abilities as his FIP is 4.02 this season and was 4.35 in 2013. All of this despite having lower walk totals, higher strikeout rates and equal home run percentages. The only appreciable differences in his pitch selection come in the small percentage of pitches that aren’t cutters or knuckle-curves. In 2013, Cosart used his changeup about 9% of the time, compared to just 3% this year. This isn’t likely enough to account for the stark result differences and is more likely a result of the all-important luck factor.
To help even out the trade, the Marlins also received Enrique Hernandez. The soon-to-be-23-year-old is listed as a shortstop, but it is much more accurate to describe him as a super-utility player. Hernandez has actually played the majority of his innings in centerfield in the majors this season. Take minor league stats with a huge grain of salt, but AAA stats are more reliable than low-level lines. For what it’s worth, Hernandez showed a .337/.380/.508 triple slash with 8 HRs in 289 plate appearances before being called up to Houston. In his 89 major league plate appearances, Hernandez has a .284/.348/.420 line; more than adequate for a young utility player. His versatility is the key to his value.
Finally, the Marlins finish their side of the trade with Wates. He is a “throw-in” type of player. At 25 years old in AAA and lacking much power, Wates will have to keep his batting average up and be able to stick in center field to have a spot on the Marlins in the future.
As noted above, Cosart is the likely headliner, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the current value of what the Astros received in Marisnick. The five-tool center fielder will likely take over there at the major league level for the Astros ASAP. Dexter Fowler has recorded the majority of innings in center field this season and is a -13 in Rdrs (Defensive Runs Saved Above Average), with center field being a total -16 this season. Alex Presley was the only “plus” defender so far. For all his as-of-yet offensive shortcomings, Marisnick will be an average to plus defender in the middle of the outfield for the Astros.
Marisnick spent half of June and one game in July with the Marlins but hit a robust .277/.326/.434 with 10 HRs in AAA (Remember, oh so many grains of salt). The problem is the quality breaking/off-speed pitches that Marisnick sees in the majors. If he can learn to adjust, he has the potential to be a plusish defender in center with decent power. An invaluable piece.
Moran is a name that will click with many and will make many believe that the Astros got a huge haul for Cosart. However, the 2013 sixth overall pick has struggled in pro ball and has begun to fall out of many evaluators’ good graces.
— Jason Parks (@ProfessorParks) July 31, 2014
I can’t do any better at explaining Moran than BP’s Jeff Moore, so I’ll let his eyewitness report guide you.2
The one tool that is supposed to carry Moran – the hit tool – did not impress me over a three game stretch. He failed to put together quality at-bats, often making weak contact and swinging at pitcher’s pitches. His approach does not lend itself to much power, so unless he adds significant strength, I don’t see him becoming a home run threat. While he has no glaring weaknesses, none of his tools stand out. Couple that with what appeared to be a general disinterest in the game taking place around him and I came away feeling very underwhelmed with the player.
The Astros reportedly though highly enough of Moran to consider him at #1 overall when they drafted Mark Appel, so this is a high-upside redemption attempt by the Astros front office.
We are here, the final piece of this trade; Martes. I don’t have much information on him as he’s never left rookie ball yet. Being just 18 years old however, Martes is striking out 9.6 per 9IP in the Gulf Coast League. Once again, I’ll defer to those much more informed than I.
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) July 31, 2014
In the end, these two teams will both feel that they got better, both this season and in the future. Though only the Marlins are particularly concerned with getting better this season. This trade features some big name former-prospects, but once looking deep into it, it comes off more and more like a trade of formerly elite prospects that neither team is sure what will happen to. All of this players have major flaws. Marisnick has yet to get his astronomic strikeout rates down in the majors, Cosart can’t seem to increase his strikeouts and only feels confident using two pitches and Moran has fallen down prospect lists because of countless reasons.
Though the Astros got some nice upside here, I think the risk is high and the Marlins may end up with the best player in this trade with a Ben Zobrist style utility player in Enrique Hernandez.