Potential trade chip Hechavarria a valuable defender

Potential trade chip Hechavarria a valuable defender

MIAMI -- As much as the Marlins are committed to retaining their core, the reality is that they may have to trade some mainstays to improve their rotation.

Adeiny Hechavarria, who has locked down the shortstop position since 2013, is a potential option to be dealt once the Hot Stove season gets underway after the World Series.

Hechavarria is one of the top defensive shortstops in the game. He was an NL Gold Glove Award finalist in 2014 and '15. But the 27-year-old is coming off a down season, and he is entering his second year of arbitration. Estimates have his salary rising from $2.6 million in '16 to about $4.5 million in '17.

When it comes to trades, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said in the season wrapup news conference that the team would explore all options.

"I think we're going to have to look at everything," Hill said, speaking generally about players. "We know what our goal is. We know it's not going to be easy. We know what the market place is."

Realistically, not everything is on the table.

Outfielder Christian Yelich, catcher J.T. Realmuto and left-hander Adam Conley, for instance, are basically untouchable, and third baseman Martin Prado just signed a three-year, $40 million extension. So there are core pieces not in line to be moved.

Hechavarria's two-run double

Hechavarria, however, could be a trade piece in the right situation. His name was floated at the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Plus, the club has Miguel Rojas as an in-house candidate to step in. But even in that scenario, Miami would likely seek additional candidates to at least share the position.

The question the Marlins will be asking themselves is if Hechavarria simply had a down year after a solid 2015?

This year, his slash line was .236/.283/.311 with three homers and 38 RBIs, compared to .281/.315/.374 with five homers and 48 RBIs in 2015.

According to Fangraphs, Hechavarria's WAR in '15 was 3.1, and it fell to 0.4 in '16.

Still, a case can be made that Hechavarria also had a bit of bad luck this year, especially at the plate. His percentage of hard-hit balls was greater in '16 (32.3 percent) than in '15 (24.7 percent).

Hechavarria also walked more in '16 (6 percent) than in '15 (4.6 percent), and his strikeout percentage was down -- 13.3 percent from 15.6 percent a year ago.

Defensively, Hechavarria's ultimate zone rating (UZR) also dropped in 2016 to 8.3, compared to 15.8 in '15. But in each of the past two seasons, his defensive runs saved (DRS) were the same at -9.

Hechavarria's diving stop

The organization also must consider how much it values Hechavarria's defense over his offense.

The Marlins likely will prioritize defense, especially as the organization continues to recover from the death of ace Jose Fernandez. As a rotation, the Marlins ranked sixth in the National League in strikeouts with 809, and Fernandez had 253 of those.

If more balls are put in play, the Marlins may need a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, especially matched with second baseman Dee Gordon, a Gold Glove Award winner in 2015.

More clarity on the club's direction will be known after its organizational meetings later in the month.

"Whenever you enter an offseason, you have to enter it with an open mind and keep every option on the table," Hill said.

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.