Per Ken Rosenthal, Marlins brass is said to be considering a move for free agent starter Wei-Yin Chen (30) – despite the ongoing blood-feud between Jeff Loria and Chen’s agent Scott Boras (see Marcell Ozuna, St. Jose Fernandez, et al.). Chen, a lefty hailing from the island of Formosa, rejected the Orioles’ qualifying offer after a career year and is the consensus best remaining free agent starter. If signed, Chen would slot in as the number two behind St. Fernandez, pushing back Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler, and bumping two of – young guns Adam Conley and Justin Nicolino, and newly-signed Edwin Jackson (sigh) out of the rotation. Chen’s signing would certainly provide depth, and the rotation is far and away the Marlins’ glaring weakness (Henderson Alvarez, ftw!). Still, Chen is not much more than an above league average starter, and the purported asking price of $100m over five years is way too much (for the Marlins) for what is likely to be #3 starter production.
Chen has proven to be consistent, if not awe-inspiring, posting a 110 ERA+ over 700+ innings over four seasons – averaging 190 innings per year outside of an injury-shortened 2013. Though Chen’s improvement in results over the last two years shows signs of flukiness with his ERA (uncharacteristically) diverging from his FIP (3.54 ERA / 3.89 FIP in 2014, and 3.34 ERA / 4.16 FIP in 2015). Also of note, as a lefty, he’s struggled against righties throughout his career, and seems to have tired as the year wore on – posting noticeably weaker second-half numbers. In his defense, Chen has aided his own cause, lowering his walk rate in that time while maintaining his respectable 7 K/9. Not that I begrudge him his success – pitching against the DH, in the AL East, and in a hitter’s park – he’s certainly earned his payday.
Still, Chen is not the difference between a .500 Marlins and a ticket to the Clint Hurdle Invitational ($2, Joe Sheehan). I’d advocate for the cheaper gamble on a Doug Fister bounce-back (despite every conceivable statistic to the contrary); coupled with further rotation reinforcement near the deadline if contention is within reach – replacing the weakest of Koehler/Cosart/Nicolino/Conley. Though if the Marlins were to move for Chen, I wouldn’t nay-say too much (still a Marlins fan after all). Especially considering the Marlins would not be on the hook for 1st round draft pick compensation, keeping their protected 7th overall pick and instead forfeiting the 46th overall pick. Ideally, a Chen-signing would include a player opt-out after a year (a la Scott Kazmir – NB: early opt-outs are always team-friendly – ignore what you’ve read elsewhere); or a back-loaded deal that the Marlins are able to offload if 2016 starts to look anything like previous seasons – apparently there is precedent for such a thing!