Today we shift our attention to the free agents that could man the Marlins’ bullpen next year. Miami’s bullpen was one of the brighter spots for the Marlins on the season. The bullpen has two question marks heading into the off-season. One of the more consistent relievers last year, Chad Qualls, is a free agent and the Marlins need to decide whether to try to bring him back or fill his spot with someone else. The second, less pressing, question is whether or not Dan Jennings can be a productive member of the bullpen and hold down one of those spots. Just a note, we are not ranking the closers today, just relief pitchers.
Why not start with the guy whose spot the Marlins are trying to fill. Qualls had a fine season last year, posting some better than expected numbers across the board. He finished with a 2.61 ERA, 5 wins against only 2 losses and a K/9 rate of 7.11. He showed an uncanny ability to strand runners on base, preventing 82.9% from scoring.
I am sure that the Marlins would be happy to bring him back next season, but I would exercise serious caution by doing so. Qualls is 35 years old, not exactly a spring chicken. It is also very unlikely that he would be able to duplicate his season last year due to some of his peripheral statistics that speak more to his luck, rather than actual skill level.
His FIP was 3.32, well above his actual ERA of 2.61, and remember that LOB percentage I mentioned earlier? That is not a sustainable strand rate for Qualls year after year. He is likely to see that number dip back into the low 70′s. His strikeout rate was higher than it has been since 2010 and his home run allowed rate was its lowest since 2008. If the Marlins sign Qualls, they should expect more along his career averages, rather than one good season in the twilight of his career.
Qualls may be interested in resigning with the Marlins based mostly on their park. His low home run rate may be able to be attributed to the expansive dimensions of Marlins Park, a cozy home that he may not want to leave. Pitching in Miami may prolong his career an extra year or two.
Let me be clear, I am not in favor of resigning Qualls, but I think the Marlins are going to be. Therefore I can see them offering him a one year deal worth 2.5 million and him accepting it.
Likelihood of Becoming a Marlin Again: 8/10
Now we are getting to a pitcher that I can support signing. Before you laugh me off the site, just hear me out. If anyone has ever needed a change of scenery, it is Joba. New York can be a brutal place to pitch (just ask A.J. Burnett), and Joba has run the gambit of emotions in the big apple. They have loved him, and hated him, and he has pretty much deserved all of it with his play.
Last year he threw 42 innings and allowed an ERA of 4.93. In the launching pad of Yankee Stadium he surrendered 1.71 home runs per 9 innings. His walk rate was 5.57 per 9 innings, also abysmal. So why would I be remotely interested in this guy? I am glad you asked.
First of all, Chamberlain is only 28. He still has some years left. Second, just as Qualls benefited from pitching half of his games in Marlins Park, so would Chamberlain. That astronomical home rate would certainly come down. Third, don’t expect his walk rate to remain that high, it more than doubled from his previous 4 years. Finally, his strikeout rate is still over 8 per 9 innings. These should all contribute to a rebound season.
Chamberlain should be had for a contract in the 1.5 million range for 1 year, with possible performance incentives for more money. Keep an eye out for Chamberlain to be a sleeper signing for Miami this winter.
Likelihood of Becoming a Marlin: 5/10
I can’t really see any of the other potential relief pitchers on the Marlins radar. Miami has significant depth in the minors, and I believe they will fill an opening with one of those arms before they sign a poor free agent. Remember, this is not analyzing any closers. They will get their own post tomorrow. Here is the entire list of free agent relievers, not including the closers.
David Aardsma (32)
Matt Albers (31)
Hector Ambriz (30)
Luis Ayala (36)
Matt Belisle (34)
Michael Bowden (27)
Joba Chamberlain (28)
Jesse Crain (32)
Octavio Dotel (40)
Kyle Farnsworth (38)
Frank Francisco (34)
Matt Guerrier (35)
Phil Humber (30)
Kameron Loe (32)
Brandon Lyon (34)
Jeff Manship (29)
Carlos Marmol (31)
Zach Miner (32)
Brett Myers (33)
Pat Neshek (33)
Chad Qualls (35)
Francisco Rodriguez (31)
Henry Rodriguez (27)
Jose Valverde (36)
Jamey Wright (39)
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