Sometime soon, Jose Fernandez will be an ex-Miami Marlin.

At the latest, it’ll happen in the 2018-19 offseason, when Fernandez is set to hit the open market. The Marlins aren’t entirely averse to handing out mega contracts (see: Stanton, Giancarlo), but someone with deeper pockets will almost surely outbid them for Fernandez’s services.

Unless, that is, Miami unloads its young ace first.

After a winter stuffed with trade rumors, Fernandez has returned to the pinnacle of MLB excellence. He twirled eight shutout innings Tuesday in a 1-0 win over the Washington Nationals, fanning 12 and scattering three hits.

He now ranks second in the game in strikeouts (253) and owns a 2.86 ERA in 182.1 innings. Two years and a few months removed from Tommy John surgery, he’s put doubts about his health and durability to rest.

And at age 24, his prime is yet to come.

He is, in short, the type of franchise-altering talent prospect-rich contenders drool over. A prize among prizes. A whale-size hunk of trade bait.

The Marlins have their heads above water at 76-75 and are clinging to the fringes of the National League wild-card picture, so shipping a star player isn’t on their radar right now.

But Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe recently stoked the speculative coals:

There’s more buzz that the Marlins will listen to offers for Fernandez this offseason. Fernandez has long been the apple of the eye of a lot of big-market teams that wouldn’t mind writing that extension check. The Dodgers, Red Sox, Yankees and Cubs for sure would all be in line. Right now, it doesn’t appear there will be any extension talks early this offseason between Miami and Fernandez’s agent, Scott Boras, if at all.

The upcoming free-agent class is underwhelming, to put it diplomatically, particularly in the starting- pitching department. If Fernandez is shopped, an epic bidding war is inevitable.

The Yankees have ample pieces to dangle from their restocked farm system. The Marlins could ask for seemingly untouchable names such as catcher Gary Sanchez, but New York may have enough other chips (Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Luis Severino) to get something done.

The other clubs Cafardo name-dropped are likewise flush with trade capital. The Dodgers could offer prize arm such as Jose De Leon or Julio Urias. The Red Sox aren’t going to move Yoan Moncada, but they have other high-upside bats, including Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.

And they wouldn’t be the only ones to at least put loafer to Goodyear. Every executive worth his mahogany desk would have to pick up the phone.

Fernandez has a checkered relationship with Miami’s front office, as Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller detailed in December.

Around that time, when asked about reports that he’d rejected the Marlins’ attempts to lock him up long term, Fernandez only said, “I’m not allowed to comment on it,” per Walter Villa for the Miami Herald.

This season has been relatively dysfunction-free under new skipper Don Mattingly, even with problems like Dee Gordon’s performance-enhancing drugs suspension. Fernandez is back in peak form. And the Fish have life behind a solid, youthful core that includes the outfield trio of Stanton, Christian Yelich and All-Star Marcell Ozuna.

It’s possible to imagine them keeping Fernandez, adding a few reinforcements and going for it in 2017.

Last winter, their trade demands were reportedly ludicrous.

“If we gave them what they wanted, we wouldn’t have one young pitcher left in our organization,” an unnamed Dodgers official told Peter Gammons in December.

But the dearth of top-shelf free agents this winter, coupled with Fernandez’s 2016 performance and two remaining years of club control, means his stock may never be higher.

The Marlins can demand and land a king’s ransom. The allure will be strong. In other words: Enjoy him while you can, South Beach faithful.

Fernandez deserves many labels: All-Star, stud, rotation anchor. Soon, we may need to add ex-Marlin to the list.


All statistics accurate as of Tuesday and courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

Read more MLB news on