Marlins reel in Straily for prospect haul

Miami sends trio of top-ranked youngsters to Reds for righty starter

Marlins reel in Straily for prospect haul

MIAMI -- Before the non-waiver Trade Deadline on Aug. 1, the Marlins explored trade options for Dan Straily. The club was in the market for controllable starting pitching

On Thursday, Miami was finally able to seal the deal, but it came at a high price. The Marlins parted with three of their top 16 prospects -- right-handers Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfielder Isaiah White -- to acquire Straily, who becomes a front-runner to win a rotation spot.

"Dating all the way back to the Trade Deadline, we were looking for that controllable starter that we could move forward with," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said.

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Where Straily, who is a year away from arbitration and isn't eligible for free agency until 2021, fits into the rotation is unclear. The team now has six to eight candidates for five spots. In December, the Marlins signed free-agent right-hander Edinson Volquez and lefty Jeff Locke. Lefties Wei-Yin Chen and Adam Conley and right-hander Tom Koehler return from last year.

The Marlins also aren't ruling out right-hander Jose Urena, who is out of options, and lefty Justin Nicolino from winning either a rotation or long-relief job.

Hill said that Spring Training will decide the roles, with the input of manager Don Mattingly, vice president of pitching development Jim Benedict and pitching coach Juan Nieves.

"All will be given a chance to compete to be one of our starters or one of those pitchers in the 'pen," Hill said. "We're going to be creative in how they are used and creative in how we get the ball to the back end."

Straily is coming off an impressive 2016 season for Cincinnati, going 14-8 with a 3.76 ERA. The right-hander made 31 starts and appeared in 34 games, throwing 191 1/3 total innings. He also yielded his share of home runs (31), with 18 at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. In Miami, he will have the benefit of being in a pitcher-friendly facility while being backed by a terrific defense.

"I think he is one of those high IQ pitchers," Hill said. "He has the ability to change speeds and control bat speeds and keep hitters off balance. We think in spacious Marlins Park, he won't be giving up 31 home runs."

The Marlins are banking on a carryover from last year. But there is uncertainty because the right-hander has had an up-and-down career. The Reds claimed Straily off waivers from the Padres on April 1 and he ended up establishing a career high for innings pitched.

Straily broke in with the A's in 2012, and in five seasons in the Majors, he is 27-21 with a 4.24 ERA.

The Marlins will be Straily's fifth team since 2014. In that span, he's pitched for the A's, Cubs, Astros and Reds. Landing him required a big cost. According to MLBPipeline.com, Castillo was Miami's No. 5 prospect, while Brice ranked No. 9 and White No. 16.

The acquisition of Straily continues what has been a busy offseason for the Marlins. But until this trade, all the other moves were free-agent acquisitions. Along with signing Volquez and Locke, Miami added relievers Brad Ziegler, Junichi Tazawa, backup catcher A.J. Ellis and brought back reliever Dustin McGowan.

The Marlins' top offseason priority was to deepen their bullpen and add durable starters. Brice, who logged big league innings, fit into that bullpen mix.

Castillo, meanwhile, was tracking to become part of the rotation, perhaps as early as midseason. The right-hander actually was traded and returned to the Marlins last July. Initially, he was part of the deal with the Padres that brought Andrew Cashner to the Marlins. But after Colin Rea exited with an elbow injury early in his lone start in Miami, the two clubs reworked the deal and Rea was returned to San Diego, with Castillo rejoining the Marlins.

With his controllable service time years, Straily now fills the void the Marlins felt when Rea didn't pan out.

"As the season ended, we had identified a number of starting-pitching options that we felt might be available," Hill said. "Straily was always a target."

Barring injury, it appears Volzquez, Conley, Chen and Koehler are guaranteed to be in the rotation. That would leave the fifth spot open for either Straily, Locke, Urena or Nicolino.

The bullpen does not currently have a left-hander. It could be Locke, if Straily is the No. 5 starter.

"If [Locke] is one of our best five, he will be in our rotation," Hill said. "If not, he will be in consideration to move to the bullpen."

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Straily broke out in a big way during the second half of 2016 (10-2, 3.10 ERA), benefiting from a .241 BABIP that helped minimize the damage of a 1.8 HR/9 rate in that stretch. While less fortunate batted-ball luck may be in his immediate future, the right-hander could stave off major regression with help from his new pitcher-friendly home venue. Deep-mixed owners should view Straily as a solid streaming option.

Back in Cincinnati, Straily's departure opens up another spot in an unsettled rotation. Youngsters such as Brice, Robert Stephenson and Amir Garrett will open the season on waivers in most leagues, but they should also be monitored by those in deep-mixed formats.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.