The Florida Marlins begin the second half of the 2011 season tomorrow evening against the Chicago Cubs, facing long odds of making the playoffs.
With a record of 43-48, Florida sits firmly in last place in the NL East, 14 games behind first-place Philadelphia. In the Wild Card race, the Marlins are only 10 and 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves, with 6 more teams between them and Atlanta in the standings.
If Florida wants to sneak into the playoffs, they would likely have to win 90 games, meaning they would need to go 47-24 the rest of the way. That is not impossible, but it does mean the Marlins would have to win nearly every series remaining this season, with a good dose of series sweeps for good measure.
Making matters worse for the Marlins is the fact their staff ace Josh Johnson remains on the disabled list and might not return until August at the earliest. Florida has struggled to replace Johnson in the rotation, using an assortment of minor leaguers and occasional bullpen days in his absence.
Coupled with the ongoing struggles of Hanley Ramirez and Chris Volstad, and the unsettled situations at centerfield and third base, a miracle playoff run in the second half seems highly unlikely unless the team were to add a few pieces before the July 31 trade deadline.
That too is unlikely, though. Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest said this week he does not expect the team to make any major deals before the deadline.
But instead of trying to bolster the team for the small likelihood of a playoff run, perhaps the Marlins would be better served trading off the few attractive (and expendable) pieces they do have for some prospects that could help them in 2012 and beyond.
Starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez is having the best season of his career, but it is unclear whether the Marlins can afford to lock him up long term, having already given multiyear deals to Johnson and Ricky Nolasco. Sanchez can be a devastatingly effective starter, having already thrown a no-hitter once in his career and flirting with his second no-no a few times already this season.
Closer Leo Nunez is not as good a pitcher as Sanchez, but he is a mostly effective closer with a live fastball and decent changeup. If there's one thing that other teams will overpay for, it's bullpen help.
With the Marlins farm system depleted (recent top prospects Chris Coghlan, Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison have all been promoted, leaving little help left), now might be the time to stock up on prospects.
It may be too late for the Marlins to salvage the 2011 season, but with a few moves on the trade market, they could bolster their roster for 2012 and beyond. Marlins fans will not like the idea of giving up on the current season, but in the long run it may be the better move.
David Hill is a Miami native and co-founder of Marlins Diehards, the only Florida Marlins blog with perspective on the eccentricities of Marlins fandom.