Miami Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen looked strong in a win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday night. What will the role of the veteran pitcher be in 2019?
The Miami Marlins have a decision to make next season involving pitcher Wei-Yin Chen. The 33-year-old veteran is expected to make $20 million and is not eligible for free agency until 2021. That’s a lot of money for a pitcher who has spent more time on the disabled list than on the mound for Miami since he signed a five-year, $80-million free agent deal in 2016.
Chen looked like a veteran who could be a valuable commodity next season in a 6-3 win over Toronto at Marlins Park on Saturday night. But with the influx of young pitching talent and the changes expected on the staff next season, where does he fit in the team’s plans for 2019 and beyond?
There is still some value in having the Taiwanese pitcher on the staff, but asking him to become an innings eater after dealing with elbow issues the better part of the past two seasons might be too much to ask.
Chen struck out seven batters over more than eight innings, but may not get a steady dose of starts now that Jeff Brigham and Sandy Alcantara have been added to the 40-man roster. There should be more arms added to the roster in the coming weeks, which will further hamper his opportunity to stake claim to a starting spot next season.
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He threw 107 pitches on the night. It marked the third straight outing he went over the 100-pitch mark, a sign he may finally be healthy and the pitcher the Marlins hoped he would be.
"“He was sharp all night, pitch-count down, ahead in the count, quick innings it seemed like. He’s been really good for a while now,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly via MLB.com. “It’s good to see that confidence in him. We’re seeing a guy that we thought we had a couple of years back before all this elbow stuff went down.”"
Not only do the Marlins see the progress Chen has made, he said it himself. The dynamic of the staff should be greatly different next season. Dan Straily, who was the subject of trade talks this year, could find a new home in the offseason before Spring Training. Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Richards figure to head the rotation. Two other spots are open for discussion.
And Jose Urena is set for arbitration. Chen could be the odd man out or the veteran that holds the young staff together.
"“I probably feel the best over the last two or three years. My shoulder and my elbow feel fine,” said Chen, who added that doing his pregame work has also gone hand-in-hand with his recent success. “I’ve been trying to study hitters, watch videos, and talk to [catcher J.T. Realmuto] a lot. I do the homework day in and day out and I think that helps me execute the pitch during the game.”"
The Marlins will take any success Chen can give them in the final month of the season. He has a 1.77 ERA (71 IP/14 ER) over 12 home starts. It’s something more to give Miami hope for next season.
Chen was the Opening Day starter in 2016. He could make a case for that honor in 2019. The question will be whether the team has a solid plan for him in the rotation. That remains to be seen.