Miami Marlins Monitoring Remaining Free Agent Starters

With a rotation that could still use some work, the Miami Marlins are reportedly keeping an eye on the remaining free agent starting pitchers.

After the tragic passing of Jose Fernandez last September, the Miami Marlins knew they would need to address their starting rotation this winter. Did they succeed? Well, that largely depends on what your expectations were.

The most prominent addition was veteran Edinson Volquez, who the Marlins signed to a two-year deal. The 33-year-old right-hander is coming off a rough season in which he posted a bloated 5.37 ERA and 1.55 WHIP over 34 starts for the Royals. Miami hopes he can get back to being the pitcher he was over the previous two seasons, when he generated a 3.30 ERA and 1.27 WHIP for the Pirates and Royals. At the very least, Volquez has been a workhorse, logging at least 30 starts in each of the past five seasons

The Fish also acquired Dan Straily from the Reds. The 28-year-old righty had a solid 2016 for Cincinnati, producing a 3.76 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 191.1 innings. The Marlins gave up a package of prospects including well-regarded Luis Castillo, but Straily is under team control through 2020 and could be on the upswing.

Even by those relatively optimistic evaluations, it’s hard to get too excited about Miami’s rotation heading into the 2017 campaign. However, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, the club is still keeping tabs on the pitchers who remain unsigned. The hurlers Spencer names in particular are Doug Fister, Jake Peavy, former Marlin Henderson Alvarez and Colby Lewis. He says that right now the Marlins are only considering such free agents “in case of need.”

A need could perhaps be brewing with left-hander Jeff Locke, who underwent an MRI on his shoulder on Thursday. Spencer reports that Locke – who was signed as a free agent in December – felt discomfort while throwing recently, but that the team is confident he’s alright. If that turns out not to be the case (or if any starter suffers an injury during the spring), having some extra depth in the form of a cheap veteran wouldn’t be a bad thing.

The Marlins’ starting pitchers finished sixth in the National League last year with a 4.32 ERA, but that was mostly on the strength of Fernandez’s stellar numbers (2.86 ERA in 182.1 IP). If Miami is going to compete for a Wild Card this year, they will need a mediocre-on-paper rotation to perform well beyond its means. Taking a flyer on a buy-low, moderate-reward pitcher could help achieve that.

Jake Peavy, who recently told ESPN about the issues that have kept him unsigned thus far, had an ugly 2016 for the Giants, but he has a Cy Young on his resume and was solid in 2015. Doug Fister has been a middling pitcher the last two years (4.48 ERA), but he worked 180.1 frames for the Astros last season and has consistently posted a ground ball rate of 45 percent or higher. That could play well in front of the Marlins’ infield defense.

Of course, the Marlins’ rotation will also be looking for a bounce-back showing from Wei-Yin Chen, who disappointed in his first season in Miami. After four quietly solid years with the Orioles, Chen posted an ERA near 5.00 and missed time to injury in 2016. If the lefty can come back and steady the staff the way the Marlins imagined he would when they signed him, that will likely help more than any late-offseason free agent addition.

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