Piecing together the back end of the Marlins rotation


In all likelihood, Dan Haren will retire before the 2015 season because he doesn’t want to pitch in Miami and the Marlins have had a hard time finding anyone to take him off their hands on the trade market.

Haren is not the pitcher he once was, but he would have still been slotted for a spot in the Marlins’ starting rotation in 2015. Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler should make up the top three on the staff, with Haren probably taking the fourth spot ahead of Tom Koehler. Now, Koehler should hold that spot after an impressive 2.5 WAR 2014 season, leaving the Marlins with an open spot in the rotation. The internal candidates for last spot in the rotation all equate to a whole lot of “meh,” but that’s not to say there aren’t some serviceable arms to call upon. Brand Hand improved last year and David Phelps started 17 games for the New York Yankees and was replacement level, which is not necessarily a bad thing for the back end of a big league rotation.

The Marlins should, however, use the $10 million they will receive from the Los Angeles Dodgers to bring in another starter. The problem is, the free agent starting pitcher market has almost completely dried up at this point in the offseason. Max Scherzer and James Shields are still, somewhat inexplicably, available. But neither are realistic options for the Marlins. Oh, that’s not to say they can’t afford one of them; the Marlins seem almost content with the options they already have in the system. If they were going to make a serious run at either pitcher, the deal would probably be done by now. Scherzer and Shields are both borderline-elite arms, and there’s no question that both will have jobs by Spring Training and will earn very lucrative contracts. It just probably won’t be with the Marlins.

There are other free agent options right now that the Marlins could consider courting with the money they get for Haren. Unfortunately, none represent much of an upgrade, if any, over what the team already has.

Ryan Vogelsong is the best pitcher still not under contract for 2015. The 37 year-old spent the last four years with the San Francisco Giants and was an All-Star in 2011. Last season, he pitched to a 4.00 ERA, 3.85 FIP and 1.2 WAR. Vogelsong could probably be had on a one-year deal, and he made $5 million each of the last two seasons in San Francisco. That’s a relatively affordable security blanket for the Marlins in the event of an injury or the regression of one of their other starters.

A less attractive candidate is Carlos Villanueva, who was also replacement level last year with the Chicago Cubs. He has started 76 games in his career, but pitched almost exclusively out of the Cubs bullpen in 2014. Villanueva owns a 7.8 career-K/9 rate and 4.23 FIP, and was a 1-or-2-win player each year from 2011-13. He’s still only 31, and might benefit from pitching in Marlins Park over the hitter-friendly Wrigley Field. He too made $5 million in 2014, but could likely be had for less than that after an unremarkable 2014 season.

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If the season started today the Marlins wouldn’t have a left hander in the rotation. That bodes well for Brad Hand who, despite improving somewhat in 2014, isn’t a very good pitcher and it seems like he just won’t go away. Hand is also out of options, so the Marlins would probably lose him if they took him off the 25-man roster. Right now Hand is the only lefty with a shot to make the staff, and he will get another long look in Spring Training.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if the Marlins should pursue another free agent starter. They won’t have Jose Fernandez until around July, and the rotation is thought to be a strength of the team, even without Fernandez. The $10 million they’ll get if Haren retires would be better spent solidifying the bench and bullpen, and to figure out the fourth outfielder situation. If they went after anyone, I wouldn’t mind bringing Vogelsong into camp for some depth and giving him a chance to make the team. If not, they should go with what they have and maybe give a Justin Nicolino or Jose Urena a look sooner than later.

What do you think about the starting rotation, Marlins fans? Would you try to bring in another piece, or do you think the team is ready to sort things out in Spring Training? Let us know in the comments below!

Next: Miami Marlins: 5 potential 4th outfielder candidates