Congratulations to the new Wold Champion Chicago Cubs, and also, thanks for the first juicy bit of Hot Stove gossip as we fully turn our attention to the 2017 Miami Marlins.
Sunday saw Chicago elect to part ways with a member of their stellar starting rotation, buying out the contract of pitcher Jason Hammel. For my money, he immediately becomes the offseason free agent priority for the Marlins.
Sure, Hammel might have been the fifth best guy in that 2016 super rotation. And yes, he didn’t pitch a single inning in the playoffs on account of a bout of elbow tightness that saw him get left off the playoff roster.
However, his average ERA since 2014 clocks in at 3.66; that would have been the second best mark by a starter on the 2016 Marlins, behind only Jose Fernandez. The past three years have all seen the wins exceed the losses, and he’s certainly been a key part of some of winning clubhouses during that time. That’s the kind of experience the Marlins rotation needs, and the kind of ability that could help them take the next step next season.
Basically, Hammel has spent three years proving he can do what Jeremy Hellickson did for one season, and Ivan Nova did for two months. Until yesterday, those two were the top choices amongst one of the weakest starting pitching markets in recent memory. Consequently, until yesterday, the best way to legitimately improve this rotation seemed to be via trade.
Even with the elbow tightness, Hammel represents a chance to keep the Marlins young corp of position players together while simultaneously shoring up their biggest weakness. He’s good enough to warrant the money he’d receive in this market. I’m not sold that the other currently available starters are.
Beyond this being a move the Marlins should make though, it’s a move that they would make. Look back to 2014, and the horrific in hindsight decision to sign Jarrod Saltalamacchia. A big part of that decision process was bringing someone in who bad been part of a playoff team, and could pass some wisdom down to the younger players. Look at Ichiro. Think Dan Haren. Flash back further to Mark Buehrle. Arguably, even Wei-Yin Chen last season.
This is a front office that likes bolstering their young corp with guys that have either done it all, or at least been in the hunt. Hammel checks all the boxes the Marlins have traditionally looked for. The biggest difference is that this time, unlike 2012, 2014, or 2015, the rest of the roster is talented enough to be worth investing in.