MIAMI — Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline has taken on a new look for the Miami Marlins fresh off a historic 6-1 roadtrip and a key matchup with the National League East leaders.
The Marlins entered Monday seven games behind the Washington Nationals in the division and 5 1/2 in the Wild Card race.
"I would say you could take us out of the seller category and we’re just looking for ways to build on what has been a very positive year for us," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "We’re continuing to try and build and upgrade our talent where we’re able to upgrade our talent and make decisions in the near-term, short-term but also help us in the long-term.
"I don’t think we ever saw ourselves as a seller. We always felt like this club can do good things and win a lot of games. We’ve always felt that was the case. Obviously had it gone differently it might’ve changed your idea of where you’re at but this club is capable of doing these things. We hope it doesn’t stop with the roadtrip and we keep it going."
Miami’s main target for an upgrade continues to be controllable — meaning more than a rental — starting pitching. The market doesn’t have many options, especially after the Oakland Athletics traded for right-handers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
With the recent emergence of lefty Brad Hand and righty Jacob Turner in the rotation, perhaps the Marlins don’t find a worthy enough trade.
"As you know the starting pitching market is quite a difficult market to be in," Hill said. "We couldn’t be happier with the strides Brad Hand and Jacob Turner have made in the rotation. We’ve given the ball (to them) every fifth day. We have the confidence they’re going to give us a chance to win every time they’re out there. But if we’re able to upgrade one of our five starters we’ll look to do so."
In terms of second base, Hill is pleased with the platoon between Jordany Valdespin and Donovan Solano.
Valdespin, who the Marlins took a chance on with a minor-league deal in December, didn’t receive an invitation to spring training. But he proved himself in Triple-A New Orleans and had his contract selected July 19. Since joining the club, he has hit in the second spot, batting .250 with a double, a triple, a homer and three RBI in eight games.
Solano has a .373 average with four doubles and four RBI over his past 18 games, which included a season-long seven-game hitting streak. Of the 25 games he has started, he has a hit in 21 of them.
"The combination of he and Solano have been very productive since he’s arrived in the big leagues," Hill said. "I would say if we’re able to acquire something that’s better than that arrangement than you look at that but that’s the case with any position if you have the opportunity to upgrade and a better talent. I can say we’re definitely happy with the production we’re getting from both players."
When asked which players teams have been calling about the most, Hill said guys in the bullpen. Two names that have gone around the rumor mill are closer Steve Cishek and setup man Mike Dunn.
"At this time of year relievers are always in demand because clubs have had a chance to see what their pens are doing," Hill said. "If you have a chance to strengthen an area you try to improve it. I would say we’ve gotten a tremendous number of calls on relievers with clubs not knowing where we’re at. Clubs saw we went 6-1 on our roadtrip and within the division playing now and still 17 games remaining with Atlanta and Washington. We know what’s in front of us but take it one game at a time and build on the positive things we’re doing."
It’s always a good sign when a club’s closer regularly appears in games, an almost sure sign of a victory.
The Miami Marlins can say that about Cishek after he saved five of the six wins of their record-setting roadtrip in Atlanta and Houston.
For his efforts, Cishek was named co-National League Pitcher of the Week with New York Mets starter Jacob deGrom for the second time in his career.
Cishek recorded five saves during this stretch, allowing one run on two hits with eight strikeouts and no walks in five innings for a 1.80 ERA. He became the only closer in Marlins history to earn five saves in a seven-game trip, and the first major leaguer to do so since Addison Reed saved six of seven games from Aug. 15-22, 2013.
The 28-year-old also has six saves in Miami’s last eight games, the first pitcher in club history to achieve that in that span.
"It’s been busy," Cishek said. "If I’m getting busy out there that means the team is playing well. Obviously we’ve been playing very well lately. I’ve pitched a lot — that’s just a clear indication we’re winning ballgames going into the ninth. As long as our starters can keep us in the game, put up runs and the bullpen has been outstanding giving us the lead and hopefully we can take it home from there."
Manager Mike Redmond delivered the news Monday afternoon before Cishek saw his name flash on the TV. Redmond joked that Cishek was available "every day now" through the end of the season.
Cishek is 4-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 47 outings. His 26 saves (in 29 opportunities) rank fifth in the NL.
Prior to the All-Star break, he was considered a candidate for the NL team but his ERA jumped from 1.93 to 3.76 after three poor appearances. Cishek lost to the Oakland Athletics June 27 when he suffered a worst career outing, surrendering four runs on five hits in 2/3 inning. He then blew two saves in a week against the Philadelphia Phillies July 3 and Arizona Diamondbacks July 9.
"It’s great for him," Redmond said. "He’s a guy who loves to win, loves to be in the fire, compete. To see him bounce back after that one tough outing he had in Arizona, which I know he took that one hard. To see him bounce back and have an unbelievable week and exactly the time we needed it was great. That just shows you about his character and the way he’s made. He wants to win for this ballclub, this team. So proud of him for the bounce-back week he’s had. It’s huge."
— On the injury front, here are updates: Second baseman Derek Dietrich (right wrist strain, July 4) has played catch and taken grounders. He hopes to play in rehab games by the end of the homestand.
— Righty Kevin Gregg (right elbow inflammation, July 18) played catch on Monday and has begun the process of building his arm back up. Second baseman Rafael Furcal (left hamstring strain, June 22) is still moving around and still has no timetable.
— Right-handed reliever Carter Capps (right elbow sprain, May 27) has started long toss but there is no timeframe on bullpen sessions yet. Hill believes he could possibly return in a month.