The Giancarlo Stanton trade with the New York Yankees was the final straw for the unsuccessful Miami Marlins rebuild that started in 2013. Once the reigning National League MVP was shipped to a team that has plenty of World Series expectations, it was only a matter of time before Marcell Ozuna was sent packing, too.
This time, Miami looked to St. Louis, which was ironically one of two teams that had made a deal for Stanton before the 2017 home run king refused to waive his no-trade clause. Ozuna is now on a Cardinals roster that desperately needed some help in the outfield to avoid a meltdown similar to Miami and Pittsburgh, but at what cost was the low-profile power hitter for St. Louis? Believe it or not, Miami may have gone sneaky.
Cardinals got: Marcell Ozuna
St. Louis is no stranger in picking up some big talent in trades and free agency. In recent years, they grabbed players like Matt Holiday, Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, and Dexter Fowler to reinstate their claim as a serious playoff team and, in Holliday’s case, help the Cards win a World Series. Veteran acquisitions, however, have caused a sudden decline in outfielders that are ready for MLB play in 2018.
Fowler was unimpressive in his first season under the Arch, and Randall Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty provided little offensive help and were both shipped to the American League. That left Fowler and Tommy Pham as the only outfielders (unless you include first baseman Jose Martinez) that have proven their worth in St. Louis.
Therefore, trading for Ozuna was a solid choice because it plugged a gaping hole for the Cardinals.
Why wouldn’t the Cardinals be excited? They finally got the powerful outfielder that had their attention for over a year, and he knows a thing or two about getting on base consistently. With 37 home runs, 124 RBIs, and a career that has mostly been spent at the giant Marlins Park, there is optimism that Ozuna will have no problems clearing the fences at Busch Stadium, another ballpark that does not specialize in home runs.
Ozuna certainly got rewarded for his successful campaign in 2017, but this was a huge spike from his averages in any of his first four seasons, and that included a demotion to AAA in 2015. Is Ozuna already at his peak at age 27, or will the Cardinals halt what has been a significant decline in their competitiveness because of the Cuban Oso? The upside and downside are extremely far apart for this trade.
Miami got: Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano
What if I told you the top Miami prospect heading into 2018 was not from the Stanton trade? It is true, as Alcantara is the new top prospect for the Marlins following the third salary dump trade. The rest of the prospects are not something to sneeze at, either, so this trade could be one of the better ones of the offseason for Miami if Ozuna returns to his pre-2017 days.
Alcantara and Sierra each landed in the final top five Miami prospects for 2017, and it is not hard to figure out why. Alcantara, despite significant command issues in the Texas League, made his MLB debut for the Cardinals with eight September appearances in the bullpen and four earned runs in 8.1 innings. He certainly knows about velocity with a fastball reaching triple digits and a changeup just under 90 mph, but the Cardinals sent the 22-year-old Dominican to Miami instead of fellow flamethrower Alex Reyes. It would have been difficult to move Reyes anyway because he missed all of 2017 with Tommy John Surgery. Alcantara’s command might be similar to a young Randy Johnson, but a similar development would be excellent news for the Marlins.
Meanwhile, Sierra provides speed on the base paths. He also made his MLB debut in 2017, and he was electric in his first 22 games in the league. No opponent in saw how impressive Sierra was more than Miami. His first full series in the MLB was about as memorable as one could have hoped. He had five hits and scored twice in each of St. Louis’s three games to sweep the Marlins on the road, and Sierra’s average shot up to .421 in his first four games. While he could not keep that pace going, he still finished at an average of .317 in 60 at-bats.
There is some concern as to whether the rest of the lineup can drive him in, especially since none of Sierra’s MLB hits were of the extra base variety. Still, Sierra will only turn 22 in early April, so he could be the first piece of a restructuring lineup over the next two seasons and still not have to worry about passing his prime. He will likely get more than enough MLB playing time in 2018 because the only other outfielder currently on the roster, Christian Yelich, is ready to roll out of Miami. If last year was any indication, there could be a revival of Juan Pierre in South Florida.
The other two prospects are not as glamorous, but Gallen still landed 15th on the Miami prospect list. He was a third-round pick in 2016 out of North Carolina, and he made it all the way to AAA Memphis in 2017. His ERA in AAA was 3.48 in four starts, and his dominance in Palm Beach (1.79 ERA in nine starts) was a big reason why his season ERA was below three. Miami needed all the pitching they could handle, and Gallen, while not nearly as flashy, could make some noise in the MLB this season because of his excellent control. Getting two capable starting pitchers for Ozuna would be a significant win for the Fish.
Castano, a 19th round pick out of Baylor, is the long shot out of this return. He is 23 and has never pitched past A-Short season, and his stats in Rookie ball were not impressive. Perhaps he will get a boost under the new leader of player development, but the focus of the Ozuna trade is more obvious in the three aforementioned players.
Stanton’s trade looks bad at the current glance, but perhaps the ownership is on to something. If getting one top prospect for Stanton pays off in the long run, the Marlins have a great chance at getting three future regulars from the St. Louis trade, especially for what has now become a deep pitching farm system.
Of course, sending Stanton and Ozuna out and moving Sierra in will likely cause home runs to plummet, which may not even matter if that home run sculpture is actually removed. The question, however, is as follows: if the pitchers from this trade and previous transactions (including early draft picks Trevor Rogers and Braxton Garrett) pan out, could that be enough to offset the obvious “power outage” in a park that is not kind to hitters not named Giancarlo?
The Ozuna trade got a strong reaction, just like Stanton’s, but it might be the best trade they confirmed in the salary dump. The number of top prospect pitchers received of the past few months, especially from St. Louis, is very well pointing toward some surprised faces come 2019 or 2020.
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