The gaiety of the All-Star Game is gone.
Now reality sets in for the Marlins, who open the second half on Friday night submerged in the standings, the July 31 trade deadline looming and negotiations involving the sale of the franchise ongoing.
Expect a busy two weeks.
Just don’t expect a roster fire sale.
With their playoff prospects remote at best, the Marlins have made it known to other teams they’re prepared to trade certain players, but not enough of them to constitute a full-blown roster gutting.
Most prominent among those likely to be dealt include relievers A.J. Ramos and David Phelps.
Barring any trade offers that are too tempting to refuse, those players who the Marlins intend to keep include outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, catcher J.T. Realmuto, starting pitcher Dan Straily and first baseman Justin Bour.
“I would do a complete fire sale,” opined one National League source who has had conversations with the Marlins’ front office. “But they’re not going to. I’ve been told Realmuto, Yelich, Ozuna and Straily are untouchable.”
To varying degrees, most everyone else is fair game.
Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president of baseball operations, spoke in generalities. But it’s clear the team’s position in the standings makes it more likely than not the team will be in seller’s mode in advance of the deadline.
“We are playing better,” Hill said. “But I think we have to be realistic of where we are and what we have to do in order to get to the playoffs. I think you have to take stock of where you’re at and take a look at if trades are presented that make sense.”
And right now, the Marlins are not in striking position.
They sit 10 1/2 games out in the NL East and nine back in the wild-card race, with a number of teams ahead of them. With a record of 41-46, they are in a worse spot than a year ago when they were 46-41 at the same point.
While the Marlins are proving they can score runs — they rank 17th in the majors in runs scored, a vast improvement over last year’s 27th-place ranking — their lack of quality starting pitching provides little reason to think their fortunes will suddenly improve.
With a 5.00 staff ERA, Marlins starters rank ahead of only two teams in the majors: Baltimore and Cincinnati.
The bullpen hasn’t lived up to promise either.
“And that’s definitely the concern,” Hill said of the Marlins’ pitching shortcomings. “We knew it was going to be a challenge with the loss of Jose [Fernandez] and what he meant to the rotation. We’ve had some guys who have performed as expected. We’ve had guys who have overachieved. But then we have guys who haven’t performed to the level that we felt they were capable of, and that’s in the rotation and in the bullpen.”
Though first up on the Marlins’ second-half schedule is the Dodgers, the team with the best record in the majors at 61-29, and there are 13 games left against the first-place Nationals, the remaining slate is hardly imposing, with 47 of their final 75 games against teams with losing records.
“We try to take everything into account,” Hill said. “Obviously, we have played a difficult schedule, and we look at what’s ahead of you. But you also look at your current inventory.”
The Marlins’ farm system in terms of prospects is in dire need of talent, and trades are one place to start.
“I fully believe that the Marlins have a [poor] system,” the NL evaluator said. “They need to replenish with prospects if they’re ever going to be good.”
But the same person also said he doesn’t see the Marlins giving away players for nothing.
“Mike Hill’s got his work cut out for him,” he said. “In order to re-load your system, you have to eat some of your cash [in salaries]. But Mike is not going to make it a farce. He’s not going to do something completely asinine.”
The majority of the Marlins’ front office wanted to begin the rebuilding process last winter. But owner Jeffrey Loria vetoed the idea, preferring to give it one more stab with the roster he had, going so far as to court (unsuccessfully) free agent closers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen.
It hasn’t worked. And now it’s time to re-configure in what could well be the final act of Loria’s ownership tenure.