The Cutoff Man: The 2010 trading block

If baseball had a crystal ball — and I’m sure there’s someone out there who’s made one — it would most likely be diamond-encrusted and covered with the logos of each World Series winner. If you knew the right words to utter, you could look into it every off-season and see which players will switch uniforms come Opening Day. Shop, I believe I’ve just found your new Christmas bestseller. Without looking into any crystal ball, one already has an idea of how the 2010–11 off-season will shape up. Unlike the hype surrounding the NBA’s 2010 off-season, it looks like one of baseball’s big questions this winter will be about who will be taking his talents from South Beach. The Florida Marlins have already traded second baseman Dan Uggla — to divisional rival Atlanta — along with trading former future stars Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. Both Miller and Maybin were the centerpieces of the Marlins’ deal with the Tigers during their last fire sale, when they traded pitcher Dontrelle Willis and third baseman Miguel Cabrera to Detroit.

Don’t expect Florida to be done dealing, either. Florida has been known to have fire sales every few off-seasons, usually coming after a successful year. After winning the World Series in 1997, the Marlins infamously traded away catcher Charles Johnson, first baseman Jeff Conine, third baseman Bobby Bonilla, shortstop Edgar Renteria, outfielders Moises Alou and Gary Sheffield, starting pitchers Al Leiter and Kevin Brown, and closer Robb Nen. They then proceeded to finish with the worst record in baseball in 1998 at 54–108. After winning the 2003 World Series, the Marlins spent their next few off-seasons dismantling their winning team again, and although they were only an 80–82 ball club in 2010, it looks like team owner Jeffrey Loria and his crew have deemed it time to rebuild again.

A Marlin guaranteed to garner trade offers is ace Josh Johnson, who, if healthy, could help push many contenders out of the role of also-ran and into the role of champion. Starters Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, and Ricky Nolasco are all contenders to wear new uniforms come 2011, with Nolasco the most likely of that bunch to be traded. They all possess the talent and potential for greatness, and the only question will be how much a team is willing to give up for that potential. 2009 Rookie of the Year (ROY) Chris Coghlan (outfield) and 2010 ROY contender Gaby Sanchez (first base) could find themselves on different teams soon enough; however, it’s unlikely that either will be traded until at least next year. Coghlan is coming off an injury-shortened campaign, and Sanchez only has one year of Major League experience, so the Marlins will want to wait for the players’ values to go up before using them as trade bait.

A year ago, the big question on the trade market was whether or not the Padres’ big bopper Adrian Gonzalez would find a new home in 2010. Despite heavy rumors to the contrary, Gonzalez stayed in San Diego and helped lead the Pads almost to a division title that once seemed firmly in their grasp. Don’t expect Gonzalez to be moved this winter; after signing manager Bud Black to an extension, the Padres now seem committed to building up and winning with the squad they have, and Gonzalez is the centerpiece of that crew.

While this off-season will no doubt be defined by where pitcher Cliff Lee signs, there are a few other free agents that will warrant nearly as much attention. There will still be 29 teams that don’t sign Cliff Lee, and look for trades to be the big difference-makers come April 2011. Florida, I offer you my condolences now.