The Marlins began the season with 25 players they thought could take them to the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. By the time the dust settled Friday on a feverish week-long trading period, six of them — nearly a quarter of the team’s Opening Day roster — were gone, the season in ruins.
Starting pitcher Dan Haren and reliever Sam Dyson were the latest to be dealt, as the Marlins worked right up to Friday’s 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline to unload players who no longer fit in their future.
Haren was traded to the Chicago Cubs for a pair of minor-leaguers, and Dyson was sent packing to the Texas Rangers for two more young prospects.
“When you have to trade pieces away instead of add pieces at this time of year, it’s because something has not gone according to plan,” said a somber Mike Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations. “This was not the plan as we put our club together in the offseason. It’s not anything I ever want to do again.”
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As a result of the team’s poor play, the Marlins traded five players in a span of eight days, starting with reliever Steve Cishek and ending with Dyson. The team on Friday also released backup infielder Jeff Baker. Starting pitcher Mat Latos and first baseman Michael Morse were dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday.
All of the players the Marlins received in the deals were minor-leaguers, though one of those — switch-hitting catcher Tomas Telis, who was acquired in the trade with the Rangers — will be added to the Marlins’ big-league roster Saturday.
The Marlins also received left-handed reliever Cody Ege from Texas.
Haren went to the Cubs for right-handed pitcher Ivan Pineyro and infielder Elliot Soto. The Marlins also agreed to pick up $500,000 of Haren’s remaining salary.
Latos, Haren and Baker are set to become free agents after the season and became expendable once the Marlins dropped out of contention. The Marlins now own the second-worst record in the majors, only 3 1/2 games ahead of the woeful Philadelphia Phillies.
“When we put this together [over the winter] and coming through spring training, there’s no way you’d think we would be this far back,” said Marlins manager Dan Jennings, who helped put the team together when he was serving in the front office as general manager. “It’s just too talented a team. You can look at under-performing. You can look at injuries. There’s enough blame to go around.”
The result was the busiest trade deadline week in Marlins history.
Privately, some of the team’s remaining players expressed anger and resentment over the turnover, largely due to the fact the Marlins traded away big-league teammates for minor-leaguers that don’t help the team now.
But, aside from Morse and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was released in April, the Marlins are still left with the rest of their Opening Day lineup. Pitching ace Jose Fernandez is back. And the Marlins will likely add new pieces, presumably to the starting rotation, following the season to shore up for another run in 2016.
“From our standpoint, we still believe very much in our core,” Hill said.
For the final two months of this season, though, the Marlins will be without two starters in Haren and Latos, their key pickups last winter who provided veteran mound presence to a young staff.
Haren was one of the team’s steadiest starters, going 7-7 with a 3.42 ERA.
As a pending free agent, though, the Marlins got what they could for him now rather than lose him for nothing by hanging on to him until the end.
To get him, the Cubs gave up two players from their Double A affiliate in Tennessee. Soto, who projects as a utility infielder, is hitting .275 with 18 RBI, and Pineyro, perhaps the best piece in the deal for the Marlins, is 7-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 19 starts.
For Dyson, the Rangers parted with Telis, who has hit .291 and has some big-league experience in parts of two seasons with Texas.
“It’ll give us something we haven’t had in a while, which is a third catcher,” Jennings said. “And the fact he’s a switch-hitter gives us that bat off the bench.”
The Marlins also acquired Ege, who has split time at High A and Double A this season, going 6-2 with a 1.00 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 45 innings.
To fill roster spots immediately, infielder Donovan Solano was brought off the paternity list while pitcher Jose Urena was recalled from Triple A New Orleans. Urena will start Saturday for the Marlins.
“It will create opportunities for guys to come up here,” Jennings said of all the roster changes. “This will be a showcase audition to help us win now and for their status on the 2016 ball club.”
The 2015 season, though, was an unqualified bust.
“Is there one thing to blame? No,” Jennings said. “But from a pure talent standpoint, I don’t think this team performed to his level of capabilities for many reasons.”
Said Hill: “Everyone in this organization is frustrated with what’s happened to this point.”
FLURRY OF TRANSACTIONS
A look at the Marlins’ moves in the past week:
▪ Traded: Pitchers Steve Cishek, Mat Latos, Dan Haren and Sam Dyson; first baseman Michael Morse.
▪ Acquired: Double A closer Kyle Barraclough (from Cardinals); minor-league pitchers Jeff Brigham, Victor Araujo and Kevin Guzman (from Dodgers); shortstop Elliot Soto and pitcher Ivan Pineyro (from Cubs); catcher Tomas Telis and pitcher Cody Ege (from Rangers).
▪ Released: Infielder Jeff Baker.