Miami Marlins Should Ditch SP Search, Sign Tyler Clippard
With the news breaking yesterday morning that Doug Fister had signed with the Astros, the most desirable free-agent starting pitcher is now off the market. Another strong choice, Bronson Arroyo, also signed earlier this week. Options are becoming extremely thin for teams like the Marlins that are looking to bolster the back-end of their rotations with cheap, high-upside experience. That’s why the team should abandon the search for additional rotation help at this point, and focus instead on beefing up the bullpen by signing free-agent reliever Tyler Clippard.
Clippard brings a career 2.88 ERA and two All-Star campaigns to the table, not to mention fifty-three saves and a healthy amount of postseason experience. Additionally, having spent almost his entire career in the NL East, he has a proven record of success against the teams Miami will have to fare much better against in 2016; the Fish were 35-41 against their division rivals last year, and even struggled with the bottom feeding Braves and Phillies. Admittedly the team Clippard thrived against more than any other in the division was the Marlins, as he made a career of filleting through them over the years with 1.59 ERA. But the numbers against the rest of the division are all respectable, with 3s across the board.
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While the starting rotation falls short of matching up with the Mets and the Nationals, adding another high quality bullpen arm could arguably give the Fish a chance at claiming the top bullpen in the East. Both rivals have lost some key parts in this department, and there are already high hopes in Miami for what a full-season of Kyle Barraclough and Carter Capps could mean for the club’s chances. In fact, there is some evidence the team has already been thinking along these lines. Early offseason speculation had the Marlins in the Aroldis Chapman hunt. Plus, as cited in an earlier post this week, the team was recently rumored to have been looking into what it would take to sign Fernando Rodney. Having an elite bullpen would help pick up some of the slack for whichever young hurlers land the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation, as well as help to keep the game in check on those nights when Jose Fernandez sees his pitch count run high early.
Two potential snags, beyond this being purely hopeful speculation, are cost and condition. Early projections for the Fister market had him seeking a two-year, $22 million dollar salary. For the reasonable Marlin fan, this was ample grounds for understanding why the team hadn’t snatched him up. But he just signed a one-year, $7 million deal. Granted, incentives can boost this to double-digits, but that’s the same figure Miami signed Javier Vazquez for back in 2011 in another buy low hoping for a bounce back type situation. Either Fister really didn’t want to play here (entirely possible), or Miami considered that too much additional money to lay out (ok, also entirely possible). If the latter is the case, that might price them out of the Clippard market as well.
Then there is condition- just how healthy is he? Clippard faltered down the stretch last season due a string of nagging injuries, always a concern with an older arm. And as Marlins beat reporter Joe Frisaro has already said this offseason, the club is really looking hard at health when it comes to who it pays to play this year. But when it comes to looking at the available arms left on the market, Clippard’s floor is hard to beat. Rather than hope for a Fountain of Youth worthy effort from Tim Lincecum or Cliff Lee, locking down the final three frames of the game would be a much safer bet to make.
It might very pay off just enough to purchase a ticket to October.