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In the third installment of the Marlins’ offseason needs series, starting pitcher is about to step to the plate. After addressing two obvious pressing needs for the coming season, acquiring a SP is less urgent given the number of internal options currently on the team, though both injuries and inconsistencies still make us think that a dependable arm is probably a good idea.
Let us start with what is in place as of today. Without Sandy Alcántara next season, Jesús Luzardo, Braxton Garrett, and Eury Pérez are locked as starters. Then the team has Edward Cabrera, who had an up-and-down season but finished more or less on a high note. After him, Trevor Rogers and Max Meyer come to mind, who were absent all or almost all of the entire 2023 season. Lastly, Ryan Weathers‘ debut in Miami was not ideal yet he left a good impression in that outing vs. the Pirates in the last game of the regular season. There are another 2 or 3 options in the organization, but they’ll be discussed later.
There are so many questions about that group. Will Eury be ready for a full season (170-180 innings)? Will Eddy’s unsustainable walking rates continue to prevent him from being a reliable starter? Are Rogers and Meyer going to be on an innings limit next year? Is Weathers once and for all ready?
So much uncertainty is the main reason why the team’s brand new POBO, Peter Bendix, might be pressed to acquire a so-called “Innings Eater.” As in previous FanPosts, let us explore some names in different categories available.
Contrary to what both C and SS have to offer this offseason, the list of available starters via free agency is deep. Unfortunately, great options will come too expensive for the always frugal Marlins, which means you can forget about the Ohtanis, Yamamotos, Nolas, etc. Allow me to present you 5—in my opinion—very realistic options for joining the Fish next season:
1. Michael Lorenzen—coming from a mixed-bag season where he was pretty solid with Detroit, but faded away after some great starts in a Philly uniform. Never an innings eater, he reached a career high 153 frames last season. He will turn 32 soon and will be looking for 2 or 3-year deals, maybe in the $12-15M /yr range, which is affordable for the FO. He also has extensive experience in the bullpen and can turn into a swingman if the youngsters improve their game.
2. Kyle Gibson—the ultimate back-of-the-rotation, all-innings-you-can-eat, I-don’t-care-about-your-5.00-ERA guy. He did exactly that last season piling up another 192 innings for the O’s at a much better than Cueto’s 4.73 ERA. He did that during his 35 years old season, netting $10M. Since he already turned 36, he can get maybe a two-year at around the same price tag.
3. Kenta Maeda—roughly half a year younger than Gibson, Maeda offers less durability but more quality than the previous suggestion. One can think that Maeda will get a similar contract as well, probably a tad higher AAV.
4. Jack Flaherty—the Cardinals—and to be fair, most of the baseball world—expected Flaherty to become the next Waino in St. Louis. Never panned completely out but everyone can see he has the stuff and makeup to be a top rotation guy. I place him 4th here because he just turned 28 last month and even though he should be looking for a short-term redemption contract (like Bellinger this year), some teams will offer him $15M+ annually with multiple opt-out clauses. That can be a bit outside the price limit for the Fish, but hey, still doable. Makes a lot of sense for both parties even with the injury history behind him.
5. Wade Miley—another 36-year-old with some injury history. Miley has a notorious pattern: Starting in 2017, he is throwing 120+ innings in odd years, while 80 or less in even years. Kind of weird, nah? But still, his ERA over the last 3 years have never been above 3.37. Another swingman profile cheaper than Seth Lugo or Nick Martinez.
Unconventional Free Agents
This subset of pitchers were not in the big leagues last season, but had great results in foreign leagues. All of them are drawing attention to some extent.
1. Erick Fedde—the longtime Washington National jumped over the pacific ocean last offseason looking for a different approach to his arsenal and it paid off, having one of the best seasons for a pitcher in the Korean League ever: a sharp 2.00 ERA in 180.1 IP, coupled with 209 K. Maybe a one-year guaranteed deal with a second -ear option for less than $10M AAV can lure him to come back stateside.
2. Trevor Bauer—the always controversial Bauer is reportedly receiving tons of attention lately. After settling the sexual harassment allegations brought against him, he looks ready to make a comeback. He had a 2.59 ERA in 156.2 IP for Yokohama in Japan. Is Bauer a good fit for Miami?
3. Yariel Rodriguez—the Cuban-born also pitched very well in Japan but last pitched in 2022. His contract can definitely be in the Marlins range but he never threw more than 96 innings in the last three seasons, therefore probably not the best fit.
Spring Training Invitees with Intriguing Profiles
Betting on Mel’s magic to help them taking a step further in their rough careers. None of them should come expensive.
1. Brad Keller—a talented starter through the Royals system who showed some promise. Keller pitched more than 130 innings in both 2021 and 2022, allowing more than 5 ER per 9. This season he suffered a should injury in May but made it back with the team in September, pitching 2 innings as reliever, finishing the season with 45.1 IP and a 4.57 ERA.
2. Chris Flexen—after back-to-back solid seasons in 2021-22, Flexen’s production plummeted this year. He’s still capable of providing 100+ innings of 5.00+ ERA, still younger than 30 and can contribute both as either starter and long reliever.
3. Jake Odorizzi—missed the entire season due to a shoulder injury, which is a big red flag. However, this can be a low-risk, high-reward move if he proves to be healthy. Odo has been around average starter over the last decade, and may look for a short-term deal with lots of incentives based in appearances or innings pitched.
It is very difficult to find a team with a surplus of SP, in fact, the Marlins might be one of them. It is even more difficult to name a specific trade target, so the focus is turned into teams instead. Here three potential trade partners for starters are presented, adventuring to propose the best trade target in each case.
One more thing, if the Marlins are going to pull a trade, the area where they have kind of a surplus is pitching. That means, trade targets here must be acquired over a pitching-pitching swap. With a very decent bullpen last season, one can think the Fish can consider trading pieces like JT Chargois, A.J. Puk or even Tanner Scott.
1. Cleveland Guardians are the AL version of the Miami Marlins: lots of young controllable starters working for a below-average offensive team. Entering his last year of arbitration, Shane Bieber can be intriguing for a team like the Fish as well as for every other team. He made $10.1M this season and should get a rise in his last year of Arb, an affordable rise for the Marlins. After him, Cleveland’s depth chart has 7 potential starters.
2. Toronto Blue Jays have the best quartet in the big leagues is pretty much safe: Gausman, Berrios, Bassitt and Kikuchi are almost locks, barring injuries. After them, the Jays have some interesting options, that’s a reason to believe they can listen to offers for Alek Manoah. (With all due respect, Manoah reminds me a lot of the late José Fernández.)
3. The Seattle Mariners are the most loaded team in terms of SPs, they have already 7 starters in their depth chart while Robbie Ray should be ready to join them this coming Spring Training. Marco Gonzales is clearly the odd man out and by making $12.25M next season with a team option of $15M for 2025, the Marlins would be doing the Mariners a favour. As a matter of fact, a Gonzales/Avisail García trade is not a terrible idea for either team.
Several Marlins players were mentioned at the start of this post as leading candidates to cover all the rotation spots. Beyond them, there are a few other players who made progress this year and can be stretched as starters for some spot starts, but clearly not for a full season. George Soriano and Bryan Hoeing were solid coming out of the bullpen, and even starting one and seven games, respectively. Jeff Lindgren started 17 games for the Jumbo Shrimp and can get a shot if some injuries happen.
Next week we’ll discuss the 40-man roster construction right after the Rule 5 protection deadline.
What do you think? Comments are always welcomed.
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