Marlins Bullpen: Chapman, Jansen, Or Bust? Vote For Bust

The Miami Marlins have made it abundantly clear that they are targeting an elite closer this offseason. They had interest in Mark Melancon before he signed with the San Francisco Giants, and they remain interested in Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen.

Chapman reportedly has a $92 million offer on the table, but it does not come from the Marlins. Jansen’s offers have been quieter, as there have been no specific numbers rumored, but he’s likely to earn a similar deal to Chapman. The star closer who signs first will basically set the contract benchmark for the other.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has already agreed to spend the money to sign one of the two stars, assuming of course that the “baseball people” can get a deal done. The Marlins have offered the most money to players before, only to see them choose to play in different cities for less money. That may be an issue for Jansen, but Chapman is rumored to love Miami and would be happy to play for the Fish.

While fans and likely even Marlins players are excited to see the Fish ramp up their efforts for an elite bullpen arm, signing one of these two closers may in fact not be best for the team. The Marlins have an excellent closer on the team already in the form of A.J. Ramos, and some solid back-end bullpen arms in Kyle Barraclough and David Phelps (who manager Don Mattingly prefers to keep in the bullpen, even though Phelps is capable of a starting role as well.) With the Marlins wanting to create a “super bullpen,” which is an excellent idea (albeit one Mattingly won’t manage correctly), it may be better for the team to diversify its offseason free agent plan.

The Marlins bullpen could use an infusion of Red Sox to reach the next level in 2017. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Jansen at the end of a game for the Marlins would be an excellent baseball move and an easy person to root for. Yes, Chapman at the end of a game would be an excellent baseball move and an impossible person to root for. But either player would handcuff the team for several years in terms of future free agent signings. A closer very rarely pitches more than one inning at a time. Sure, the inning he pitches can sometimes be the most important inning of the game, but it’s still just one inning. The Marlins are in desperate need of pitching help far beyond the ninth inning. In fact, the bullpen was not a huge issue last season and shouldn’t be this season either. It’s the rotation that hurts to look at. Unfortunately, there are stunningly few solid starting pitching options available this winter. So what else can the team do to get from inning one to nine?

The Marlins can go with Option C. Right now, it seems like Chapman is Option A, Jansen is Option B. Option C? The other guys. Rather than spending over $15 million per season on Chapman’s left arm or Jansen’s right, why not spend about the same amount (or maybe even less) on TWO solid bullpen arms? If the Marlins rotation is going to be this bad, the Marlins bullpen is going to need to pick up the slack.

Joe Blanton, Jerry Blevins, Santiago Casilla, Neftali Feliz, David Hernandez, Luke Hochevar, J.P. Howell, Daniel Hudson, Seth Maness, Jonathan Papelbon, Sergio Romo, Drew Storen, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Jordan Walden, and Brad Ziegler are all relievers who have had big league success in the not-too-distant past and would sign for far less than half of what Chapman and Jansen will command. In fact, there’s a non-zero chance that ALL of those pitchers combined will earn less than just Chapman and Jansen combined.

The Marlins should go after two, maybe get crazy and even go with three, of these solid to above-average bullpen arms. They can create the “super bullpen” they want without having to mortgage the future by spending close to $100 million on the arm of just one man. Option C seems like a worst case scenario for the Fish right now, but it may actually be the best possible result.

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