Miami Marlins

When it comes to worst Marlins trades, this one might take the cake

Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Trevor Williams delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Pittsburgh, Monday, Sept. 3, 2018.
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Trevor Williams delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Pittsburgh, Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. AP

The forecast for Sunday calls for rain. Lots of it.

The Marlins can only hope it does, hope that they don’t have to face the hottest pitcher in the majors, a pitcher who once belonged to them but was traded to the Pirates in what might rank as the worst deal in franchise history.

Yes, worse even than the Miguel Cabrera trade to Detroit.

Trevor Williams is scheduled to take the mound Sunday for the Pirates, serving as a painful reminder of what might have been had the Marlins held on to him rather than give him up as compensation to the Pirates for pitching coach Jim Benedict.

Benedict is no longer with the Marlins, let go after two seasons in which neither he nor the Marlins pitchers he tutored managed to distinguish themselves to any visible degree.

Williams, in case you haven’t noticed, has gone 12-9 with an ERA of 3.15, the ninth-best figure in the National League.

Wait, it gets better.

Since the All-Star break, Williams’ ERA of 0.66 in eight starts is the lowest post-break ERA in major league history.

If that’s not enough to make a Marlins fan cringe with dismay, consider this: Williams is both young and affordable, a 26-year-old right-hander earning slightly more than the major league minimum salary and five years out from free agency — in other words, the type of player the Marlins are trying to acquire and cultivate in their rebuild.

Only he’s a Pirate, not a Marlin, because of a fateful decision made by former owner Jeffrey Loria following the 2015 season.

According to sources with knowledge of that decision, former assistant general manager Mike Berger convinced Loria that the Marlins should try to pry Benedict away from the Pirates.

Loria was told that “Benedict will make everyone great” and “be the answer to your prayers,” according to one source with knowledge of conversations at the time.

Benedict had earned a glowing reputation in his work with pitchers. Benedict’s name and the word “guru” appear together more than 200,000 times in a Google search.

But the Marlins couldn’t just take him from the Pirates without compensation, especially after the Marlins had just hired Marc DelPiano, a player development executive, away from Pittsburgh.

The Pirates agreed to allow Benedict go to the Marlins, but only if the Marlins gave up Williams, a former second-round draft pick and a Top 10 prospect in their farm system.

Loria was cautioned by some members of the front office that Williams was a future major leaguer, but he pushed ahead with the trade anyway.

Since players can’t be traded for coaches, the Pirates tossed in a non-prospect to give the appearance of a legitimate, player-for-player trade. That player was Richard Mitchell, who never threw another professional pitch for any team after the Benedict “trade.”

While the Marlins gave up a likely Hall of Famer when they dealt Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in 2007, they at least received two major league players — Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin — in return.

They have nothing to show for Williams

No player. No coach. Nothing.

Weather permitting, Williams, the hottest pitcher in the majors, will face the Marlins — the team that all but gave him away — on Sunday at PNC Park.

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