Miami’s need for starting pitching is well-known. The tragic loss of Jose Fernandez in September dealt a crippling blow to a rotation that wasn’t very good outside of him last year. The team already made a significant addition to the pitching staff earlier in the offseason by signing veteran Edinson Volquez to a two-year deal. Straily figures to further boost the ranks.
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However, did the Fish pay too great a cost to bring in a pitcher of Straily’s caliber? That is to say, a hurler who has been below average (career 95 ERA+) for most of his five seasons in the big leagues? The minor leaguers the Marlins traded were among the best in their farm. 24-year-old Castillo was ranked second in the Miami system just last month by Baseball America. He arrives at #8 on MLB Pipeline’s rankings of the Reds’ top prospects, where he is praised for his power arm and high-90s fastball.
MLB.com estimates a 2018 debut for Castillo, so while he may not have been able to help the Marlins this season, he wasn’t too far off in the future. Is Straily’s potential contribution this year enough to make the exchange worth it?
Straily put together a solid campaign for the Reds in 2016. He generated a career-best 3.76 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 2.22 K/BB ratio over 191.1 innings. Those numbers might look a bit better considering he pitched half his games in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. (It also explains the NL-most 31 home runs he served up.) Nevertheless, his 4.88 FIP tells a much bleaker story.
The 28-year-old Straily doesn’t exactly have the most extensive track record as an MLB starting pitcher. In fact, last year and 2013 with Oakland were the only seasons in which he made at least 25 starts. Aside from those two years, he has spent a lot of his time in the minors, posting ERAs of 4.42 and 4.77 at the Triple-A level in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
Moving to Marlins Park should help Straily cut down on the home run propensity, but is he really going to transform into more than a mid-to-back-end starter? At 28, he still might have some room to grow, but a big leap forward doesn’t seem likely.
Elsewhere in the rotation, Miami will be hoping for a bounce-back performance from Wei-Yin Chen in the second year of his contract. The lefty sputtered to a 4.96 ERA in 22 outings last season. 26-year-old Adam Conley, another southpaw, is coming off a 3.85 ERA and 1.40 WHIP over 133.1 innings. Righty Tom Koehler led the team with 33 starts, offering a 4.33 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. The newly-arrived Volquez just had an ugly year with Kansas City (5.37 ERA), but should round out the staff as an experienced innings-eater.
Obviously this is a rotation that is going to need a lot to go right in order to become an effective group next season. Miami will probably once again be leaning on its offense to keep it in games. Straily won’t right the ship completely, but he should help over what they otherwise had.
In an already weak pitching market, the Marlins aren’t going to go after the bigger names, so they will need to make do with the Strailys and Volquezes of the world. Whether they should have given up a package headlined by three of their consensus top-20 prospects in the process is up for debate.