The Marlins traded shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to the Tampa Bay Rays for a pair of fringe prospects on Monday as the first step in what could turn into a major roster rebuild for Miami.
The trade, which had been rumored for days, came as no surprise.
With rookie shortstop JT Riddle settling into an everyday role for the Marlins, the slick-fielding Hechavarria — and the approximate $2.35 million still owed to him this season —became expendable.
Multiple sources told the Herald that the trade for the Marlins was more about shedding Hechavarria’s contract than it was about acquiring high-end prospects to help strengthen a depleted farm system.
“I think this one really just focused on the emergence of JT,” said Michael Hill, Marlins president of baseball operations while disputing the need to cut salary. “I don’t think any of it was salary driven.”
Neither of the two minor-leaguers acquired by the Marlins in the deal — center fielder Braxton Lee and right-handed pitcher Ethan Clark — ranked among the Rays’ top-30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.
Lee, a 23-year old right-handed throwing center fielder who bats lefty, has hit .318 with two home runs, nine doubles, three triples and 16 RBI for the Rays’ Double A affiliate in Montgomery, Alabama.
Lee (5-10, 185 pounds), who is from Picayune, Mississippi, was a 12th-round pick of the Rays in the 2014 draft (367th overall) out of the University of Mississippi.
Clark, a 22-year old right-hander from Oklahoma City, was a 15th-round pick in the 2015 draft for the Rays out of Crowder Community College in Missouri.
Clark started nine games (12 appearances) at Single A Bowling Green where he compiled a 3-2 record with a 3.11 ERA in 55 innings.
Hechavarria, who played just 20 games this season before landing on the disabled list with an oblique injury, is a light-hitting shortstop whose bat never matched his skills with the glove. In his five seasons with the Marlins, Hechavarria hit just .255 with 13 homers.
The Marlins acquired Hechavarria following the 2012 season in a blockbuster deal with Toronto in which they dealt Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to the Blue Jays. Along with Hechavarria, the Marlins received Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeSclafani, Yunel Escobar, Jake Marisnick, Jeff Mathis and Justin Nicolino. Of that group, only Nicolino remains.
Hechavarria has one more year of salary arbitration remaining before he becomes eligible for free agency.
The Marlins are likely not done dealing.
More moves are expected to follow in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, especially with the Marlins (34-40) sitting 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Nationals in the National League East and 11 games back in the NL wild-card race.
“We do know the deadline is quickly approaching,” Hill said. “We do know that if we were to go to market, we have players that would be attractive. But our goal continues to be to win as many games as possible.”