MacDougal another Marlins bullpen retread

If you’ve got some career saves and a fastball of some kind, you’re good to come to the Marlins’ Spring Training and compete for a job!

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com is reporting the Marlins have agreed to a minor league deal with reliever Mike MacDougal.

MacDougal will earn $700K if he makes the roster as well as possibly $75K in performance bonuses. He was non-tendered by the Nationals in a somewhat surprising move, considering he converted 20 of 21 save opportunities this past season. He finished 1-1 with a 4.31 ERA. He has 70 career saves and holds a career 4.09 ERA.

(H/T Hotstove.com)

Jack Moore of FanGraphs had a little to say on Mike MacDougal too.

Here’s the question: is MacDougal worth a roster spot? He’s projected to be the prototypical replacement player. At 33 years old and with an injury history, however, upside is minimal. How many 24-28 year old minor league players can offer similar production with the opportunity for upside and/or development? Looking at the Marlins’ bullpen situation, MacDougal has a substantial chance at making the team and kicking in the $700,000 guaranteed ML part of his split contract.

Of course, this is a minor-league deal, but considering the fact that MacDougal saved 20 out of 21 games last year, would you hedge your bets on the Marlins considering MacDougal as a replacement level reliever? I wouldn’t.

Here’s what MacDougal is. He’s a pitcher who, in his last three seasons in the big leagues, has faced 524 batters not including intentional walks, and has struck out 85 of them (16.2%) and walked 75 of them (14.3%). Last season he walked more batters unintentionally than he struck out! That is a recipe for disastrous results. Remember our good friend Renyel Pinto? Imagine if Pinto lost the capability to strike out hitters. That’s what MacDougal is currently experiencing. Yeah, let that sink in for a bit.

Now, that’s selling him a little short. MacDougal has two things going for him. First, he has a fastball that regularly sits 93-95 mph (last season, his fastball averaged 95.7 mph according to BIS data on FanGraphs). Secondly, he has a career ground ball rate of 58%, very helpful in preventing home runs. Both those things would be excellent on a pitcher with better control, or better strikeout ability, but MacDougal has lost those things and can’t seem to find them again.

The funny thing is that the Marlins gave up on a pitcher very similar to MacDougal. Remember Matt Lindstrom? Yeah, that’s a younger MacDougal who can still strike some people out. Now of course, Lindstrom came with a heftier price tag (the Houston Astros settled with him $1.6M for 2010), but remember the problems Lindstrom ran into with walks? MacDougal may be even worse.

Here’s the other funny thing: the Marlins have signed minor-league pacts with Derrick Turnbow, Jose Veras, Seth McClung, and now MacDougal. However, the team seems to nonplussed with regards to one player who is still on the market and played well for us last year. You would think the team would show a bit more interest in Kiko Calero based on last year’s performance; the 1.95 ERA/2.56 FIP had to impress, and that FIP was worth 1.4 WAR on the year. Of course, Calero isn’t likely to repeat allowing one home run with his fly ball tendencies, but he still should be a solid reliever better than the rest of the players we picked up. Now, I don’t know if there’s an indication that Calero would not be interested in a minor league deal with the Fish again, but from what I hear, the primary concern the Marlins have on Calero is that his arm and shoulder could pose potential health problems for him down the road. But on a minor-league contract, what would be the risk? If he goes down, the team would not have sunk any significant money into him. The situation would be very similar to if one of the other retread relievers failed, like Luis Ayala did last season, and no one would be surprised if they did.

So the Marlins idea of filling out the pen so far has been interesting. I’m all for reclamation projects, and the Marlins have done well with these before. At the very least, we’re not signing Fernando Rodney or Brandon Lyon. But I sincerely hope the Marlins are planning on a low-leverage usage for the winner of the reliever retread contest, because none of these guys are going to be good enough to pitch significant innings.

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