Starling Marte knows his days with the Miami Marlins might be coming to an end. He wants to stay in South Florida as long as he can, but he knows the reality of the Marlins’ current situation — buried in the National League cellar, injury riddled and building for the future — might mean he’s playing elsewhere next month.
Until a decision is made, he will be the foundation of Miami’s offense, along with Jesus Aguilar, who also might be gone by the end of the month. The Marlins often go as they go, and sometimes even their individual efforts aren’t enough. On Saturday, they combined to singlehandedly tie the Philadelphia Phillies in the ninth inning to force extras, only to have Miami waste the comeback by losing 4-2 in the 10th inning after rain suspended the conclusion of the game until Sunday.
The loss, followed by a second later in the day dropped the Marlins a season-worst 13 games below .500. With only 12 days until the trade deadline, Miami is 9 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Mets in the National League East and guaranteed to go into deadline day with a sub-.500 record.
Marte and Aguilar aren’t the only trade chips the Marlins have to wave ahead of July 30, but they are the most appealing. They also happen to be hitting hot streaks just as Miami is getting ready to make decisions about their futures.
The Marlins had only eight hits in the first three innings Saturday, then Marte led off the ninth with a single to right and Aguilar tied the game 2-2 with a two-run home run to left. The Phillies eventually won Sunday when All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto hit a walk-off home run off relief pitcher Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the 10th after Miami went down in order in the top of the frame against Philadelphia relief pitcher Jose Alvarado.
Marte and Aguilar combined for three hits Saturday. The rest of their teammates combined for two.
On Sunday, Marte added another double, RBI and run, while Aguilar singled in his only at-bat as a reserve, and the Marlins lost for the third time in four games since the All-Star break. Since the break, the two veterans have carried Miami’s offense.
Marte struck out twice in Game 1 of a doubleheader Friday to fall to 2 of 19 with 11 strikeouts in his last five games, but then busted out of his slump with three extra-base hits in Game 2 and another multi-hit game Saturday. The 32-year-old former All-Star is now 7 of 16 with four doubles and a home run in four games since the All-Star break.
Aguilar also struggled in Game 1 on Friday, going hitless in Miami’s three-run loss before breaking out in the next two games, going 3 for 3 with a homer in Game 2, and hitting another home run Saturday. The 31-year-old former All-Star is now 5 of 11 with two homers and a hit by pitch in four games since the break.
While Marte has been the subject of most trade speculation in the last month, both veterans could be coveted as the trade deadline rapidly approaches and nearly everyone on the roster is potentially available, MLB Network reported.
Marlins said willing to consider anything that makes their club better (meaning no untouchables), though rivals see Sandy Alcantara and especially Trevor Rogers as not especially likely to be dealt. In any case, Fish are expected to be very active!
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 18, 2021
Marte, for good reason, has been at the center of rumors. He’s in the final year of his contract and Miami is increasingly unlikely to contend, sitting in last place in the National League East with 12 days until the deadline. Although Marte said he wants to stay in South Florida and the Marlins have offered him a multiyear contract extension, Miami is likely to move him if the two sides can’t reach a deal by the deadline, a source told the Miami Herald.
Last month, Marte placed the onus on the Marlins to figure out a plan by publicly saying he wants to stay in Miami, but he promptly fell into his worst slump of the year to complicate the issue. In the final 27 games of the first half after he made his position clear, Marte batted just .210 with a .280 slugging percentage. His leverage in contract negotiations shrunk, as did the Marlins’ in potential trade conversations.
As the trade route becomes more and more of an inevitability, a hot streak could only help Miami land a better return in exchange for its most talented offensive player.
“You don’t know how much this talk with him going on is affecting him at all. That’s one thing you don’t know. Guys aren’t going to come out and talk about those type of things, but you do know that they’re humans, so they have these thoughts,” Don Mattingly said Friday. “They have to affect guys. What you don’t know is what kind of affect he’s having.”
The Aguilar situation is more complicated. The right-handed hitter is under team control through next season and a beloved clubhouse presence, but he’s also blocking first baseman Lewin Diaz, who’s the No. 6 prospect in the organization, according to MLB.com, and ready to get his shot in the Majors. Aguilar also has been Miami’s best and most consistent all season and, because he’s locked up through next season, could fetch a nice return for the Marlins.
For a last-place team, Miami has no shortage of pieces teams could be interested in. Outfielder Adam Duvall has 19 home runs and plays great defense, and Garcia and fellow relief pitcher Richard Bleier are both pending free agents performing well in high-leverage roles.
Even shortstop Miguel Rojas, the de facto team captain, has said he would be willing to accept a trade if he the Marlins feel it would be best for the team.
“Regardless of what happens at the Deadline, we can’t really focus on that,” said Miguel Rojas, who racked up five hits across the doubleheader. “As a player, you just control what you can control, which is going into the game and helping the team win.”
Marlins promote prospect Braxton Garrett
Braxton Garrett is getting a third chance in the Majors this season.
Miami called up the rookie Sunday, tapping him to start the finale of a four-game series against the Phillies in place of fellow starting pitcher Pablo Lopez, who went on the 10-day injured list with a right rotator cuff strain Saturday.
The Marlins did not need to option anyone to make room for Garrett. Both teams were allowed a 27th man Sunday because of the suspended game.
Garrett is the organization’s No. 7 prospect, but struggled in two previous call-ups this season. He made one appearance out of the bullpen in May, giving up three earned runs in three innings, then returned to the Majors in June to make a pair of starts in place of injured starting pitcher Cody Poteet. Garrett gave up four earned runs in 8 1/3 innings with six strikeouts and four walks before Miami optioned him back to the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
The left-handed pitcher entered Sunday with a 5.56 ERA, eight strikeouts, five walks and 1.765 walks plus hits per inning pitched. Last year, he made a pair of starts with a 5.65 ERA.
Garrett, who was unanimously regarded as a top-100 overall prospect ahead of the 2017 MLB season, has also struggled with the Jumbo Shrimp this year, posting a 4.41 ERA with 49 strikeouts and 17 walks in 51 innings.