On Friday, we got the news that the Marlins designated James Houser for assignment and replaced him on the roster with former bullpen punching bag Jose Veras. The team had DFA’d Veras earlier in the year for being terrible (6 1/3 IP, 8 K, 6 BB, 1 HR), but apparently his performance in the minors has convinced the Fish to bring him back up to the bigs to help the bullpen.
On the same day, a few other Marlins bloggers and I were discussing the more ideal solution to this problem on Twitter: free Rick VandenHurk.
The guys at Marlin Diehards and I all agree that, rather than tossing up innings of importance to a meaningless middle reliever like Veras, those innings should go to someone with a potential future on the team in VandenHurk. I’ve already discussed the topic of moving Hurk to the bullpen here before, and I think this would be a good way to get him into the majors and pitching against big league hitters. When the Marlins had better options in the bullpen, the team could afford to let VandenHurk stew in the minors, but the promotion of Veras to the big leagues (along with the recent callups of Houser and Alejandro Sanabia) means that the Marlins are indeed out of options.
VandenHurk has not impressed in the minors so far this year, which could be part of the reason why the team passed him over for this bullpen spot. Baseball Prospectus’ Davenport Translations have his Triple-A performance at a 6.40 FIP after translating to the major leagues. However, most projection systems had favorable outlooks to start the year, ranging from ZiPS’ generous 4.25 FIP to CHONE’s more pessimistic 4.66.
Even including this season’s 64 innings of poor performance, VandenHurk’s projection could not possibly dip past 5.00 ERA/5.43 RA. However, that performance would represent a projection of Hurk as a starter. As a reliever, we would expect that RA to drop about one run per nine innings, down to a 4.43 RA that is essentially replacement level for relievers. Veras, on the other hand, is projected by ZiPS to finish off the season with a 4.50 ERA/4.43 FIP, translating t about 4.81 runs per nine innings allowed, well below the replacement level for an NL reliever.
Even after updating for this season, VandenHurk is likely the better player than Veras. But there is also the consideration of age and development. Jose Veras is a veteran of many years in the majors; he is 29 this year and already well on his way to being out of the majors. VandenHurk, on the other hand, just turned 25 last month. While he may not have much in the way of development left, his new approach last year that yielded better control is most certainly worth a look. If the control issues have indeed been muted (and the minor league performance doesn’t indicate this, mind you), it would be in the best interests of the Marlins to find out if VandenHurk can get major league hitters out with regularity. At this point, he has little left to work on in the minors and would be better suited facing tougher competition. The team spent its final option on Hurk and would have to make its decision on keeping him next season. Bringing him up now would serve as an extended trial for a pitcher who, while still young, has very little time left to establish himself.
Jose Veras has no future on the Marlins. Rick VandenHurk may still claim some semblance of a future, even as a reliever. Why waste this time giving innings to a player the Marlins will not care about after this season when there is another younger player whose future has yet to be determined? I implore the Marlins front office brass to free Rick VandenHurk! If you agree with me, use the #FreeHurk tag on your Twitter account and let me hear about it!