Two off-seasons ago, the Miami Marlins were searching for starting pitching to join the rotation. What was once thought to be a solution is beginning to look more and more like a bum deal.
During the off-season before the 2016 season, the Miami Marlins were searching for a starter to join Jose Fernandez. Someone to be a solid number two pitcher right behind the young All-Star. The Fish thought they had found a solution.
Enter Wei-Yin Chen. Chen and the Fish inked a five-year deal with a guaranteed $80 million. A deal that seemed worth it at the time to ink a pitcher coming off of a season where he threw to a 3.34 ERA. With a career WAR, at the time, of 10 it seemed like the Fish found exactly what they were looking for.
Now entering his second season of the five-year deal, Chen has been far from impressive. Since signing with the Marlins, Chen has pitched in 24 games with a 5.10 ERA. Long removed from his success for the Orioles, Chen has been sub-par, at best.
How Long Will We Wait?
The time for Chen to win is now. Fans, especially those who saw him give up six runs to the Mets, are growing impatient. I personally do not blame them. Chen was signed after being the Ace of the O’s staff in some of their best seasons.
With a high ground-ball rate, it was expected that Chen would continue to have the same success. Moving to a larger park has clearly not had the desired effect. The Chen that the Fish and their fans have seen for the past two years is not the same Chen that pitched in the slugger heavy AL East.
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What can the Marlins do though? They could try to trade, but the likeliness of receiving any prospects with true promise is limited. Maybe the Diamondbacks will take him, I hear they give good deals for pitching.
Realistically though, there are likely no buyers out there for an underperforming lefty. Releasing Chen would not help either. Then there is the issue of who would replace Chen? Justin Nicolino and Jeff Locke would be the leading candidates for that role.
Nicolino has struggled in his two years of big league time going 8-10 with a 4.52 ERA. Locke has gone 35-38 with a career ERA of 4.41. Locke has also been injured since Spring Training, so the Marlins still don’t know what they have there.
Something will have to be done eventually, however, the Fish cannot continue putting the pressure on their bullpen. The expectation of the bullpen to be able to sustain a decent pace with starters leaving in the third inning, is something that cannot continue.
Maybe we will get lucky and Chen will just opt out of his contract at the end of this season.