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 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.


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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Tags: Miami Marlins Mike MacDougal

  • MacAlex7

    Dang man, seems like all your doing is bashing on the Marlins front office. Don’t get me wrong they are a bunch of cheap O’s but give them a shot. So many times they’ve done this routine and so many times they’ve come out shining. Have a little faith why don’t you? remember Todd Jones, Armando Benitez, Joe borwaski, Kiko Calero, Joe Nelson, all these guys came here and resurected their career. So let the Marlins keep doing what they are doing and when they go to the playoffs and win it you can hop on the bandwagon. You call yourself a Marlins fan?

    • Michael Jong


      First, welcome to Marlin Maniac!

      Second, hey, I don’t mean to bash, but I just call it as I see it. MacDougal has not been a good pitcher for three years, and I have a fear that the Marlins picked him up because he has saves under his belt. I hope I don’t have to tell you that isn’t a good way to measure a pitcher’s performance.

      Sure, the Marlins have made these projects work in the past, so I’ll hope for another solid season. But the staff in 2005 isn’t here in 2009, so there’s no reason to believe there’s something magical about our team that makes relievers better. All I can go by is the pitcher’s previous performance, and that previous performance hasn’t been good.

      That having been said, it’s only a minor league deal, so they aren’t expecting much. If MacDougal does end up playing, the Marlins would be wise to put him in the 7th inning and lower leverage, like they did with Kiko last year. If they think he’s an 8th inning guy and backup closer, then I think we have problems.

      And if we somehow make it to the playoffs, I will be right with you cheering. Trust me, I will have been on the bandwagon for a while.

  • Bigfan

    Mac faced three the other day, threw five pitches, one strikeout and two groundouts. Don’t underestimate the guy, he still has some good years ahead. The White Sox screwed him up and he shined in DC. I like him, I hope he makes the team. Last year in a game verse the phills he made Ibanez and Werth look like chumps, striking them both out. In fact when he signed with Nats, his first 2 saves were against the Yankees in New York.

    He is one to watch.

    • Michael Jong


      First off, welcome to the Marlin Maniac comments section!

      Secondly, I hope Mac can do some good things too. If he can bump his strikeout rate up a little bit more, he could be of some use. Let’s say 7.5 K/9, 5 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9, that would not be awful. But I’m afraid about whether he can do that, since he hasn’t shown that capability since 2006. I’m pretty sure he’s making the team, let’s hope he plays that way and we get a bargain deal.

      The only difference between him and guys like McClung and Veras who are awful is the ground ball rate. That GB rate may save his value.

  • Bigfan

    Last year he gave up 2 home runs all year. In Florida he should be able to keep ball in the park. If he has a defined role, he will excel.
    Go fish.

    • Michael Jong


      Agreed that MacDougal doesn’t allow home runs, absolutely. His GB% is excellent. My concern is more about his walks and strikeouts. If he’s allowing a lot of baserunners, he’ll naturally be expected to allow a lot of runs, home runs or not. Better strikeout rates would be helpful in that regard, but he doesn’t possess that capability it seems.

      Now, he’s always struggled with walks, so I won’t get on his case on that necessarily. But he needs to return to those decent strikeout rates earlier in his career to be a good high-leverage inning pitcher..