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Marlins maintain team development and improve contention with trade

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On the final seconds of the non-waiver trade deadline, the Miami Marlins struck a deal with the Houston Astros to acquire starting pitcher Jarred Cosart and outfielder Enrique "Kiké" Hernandez for minor leaguers Jake Marisnick (AAA) and Colin Moran (High A) along with their competitive balance draft pick for the 2015 MLB Draft.

The Marlins went into trade season knowing that they needed to acquire a starting pitcher and a second baseman. They also didn’t want to give up their top pitching prospect, Andrew Heaney, and anyone from their active roster. This trade gave them both what they needed for this season’s Wild Card contention and their overall development for the long run.

The acquisition of Hernandez may come as a head scratcher at first. They already have their outfielders, why did they give up one of their top prospects for another outfielder?

Hernandez was utilized as the Astros’ starting center fielder during much of his rookie year. However he spent the majority of his minor league career (357 games to be exact) at second base. So in reality, Hernandez gives the Marlins a .284 hitter (all in July) at second base.

The only loser in this aspect of the trade is left fielder Christian Yelich, who is Marisnick’s closest friend. Marisnick was in Triple-A New Orleans for most of the season and when he was with the Marlins, Yelich was in the disabled list. So he’s used to this harsh reality.

“We’ve gone about it where we understand it’s a business,” Yelich said. “[When] he was down in New Orleans and we stayed in contact.”

They’ll likely keep in contact with Marisnick now in Houston with the Astros.

As far as the Cosart aspect of this trade goes, the 24-year-old righty had a 1.95 ERA in ten starts last year and has a 4.41 ERA in 20 starts this season. Don’t be fooled by the traditional ERA. Cosart averaged an estimated six innings pitched per start this season. That makes his actual ERA 2.94.

The question is now who goes to the bullpen? Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Tom Kohler will keep their spots, so this is between Jacob Turner and Brad Hand, who both helped propel the Marlins from eight games below .500 to 4.5 back of the second Wild Card spot.

Turner was brought back to the rotation after the All-Star Game – he recorded a 6.22 ERA prior to the break after recording a 3.74 ERA in 2013 – and responded by winning both of his starts and allowing three earned runs in 10.2 innings.

“I think he’s getting confidence every fifth day,” Jeff Mathis said. “The confidence comes from being able to throw strikes with multiple pitches and that’s what he’s been doing. His slider’s been good for him, his two-seamer is coming around again and he’s throwing it for strikes, and the changeup has also helped him out a lot.”

Turner originally lost his spot in the starting rotation in June and was moved to the bullpen as a long reliever who was either utilized in losing situations or extra inning stalemates where he would give up the losing run. Even then, the Marlins never gave up on him.

“You’re not in the big leagues because you stink,” Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “You’re in the big leagues because you’re good. He’s been starter then back to the bullpen then starter. That’s tough, especially for a young pitcher. I think he’s handled it very well.”

Should Turner go back to the bullpen, he should be able to handle that transition well. Hand started the season as a long reliever and went to the 15-day disabled list in May and missed all of June. He came back in July and was slotted in the rotation after the failures of veteran Randy Wolf and prospects Andrew Heaney and Anthony DeSclafani.

Hand went through the month recording a 2.70 ERA in six starts. Saltalamacchia pointed to excessive walks as the cause of his early season issues and the reason why he’s pitching better now. As a long reliever in April and May pre injury, Hand walked 16 batters in 22 innings. He’s only walked ten in 36.2 innings in July.

“[Hand went] back down and worked on things that he needed to work on and came back with a vengeance,” Mathis said.

This trade gives the Marlins a boost in the postseason chase while allowing their young core to further develop with new members. There has been much cohesion within the starting rotation even without Jose Fernandez and the addition of Cosart only makes them stronger.

“I think these guys feed off each other too,” Mathis said. “When they’re around each other, they motivate each other a lot to go out and do better than the other one each day.”

Time now to see what they can do in the final two months. Even if they don’t reach the postseason this season, they’ll be in a far better position next season.

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