The Miami Marlins may look to free agency or a trade to solve its bullpen woes for the upcoming season if they cannot find help on the roster.
What the Marlins decide to do with their bullpen still remains a mystery. After a season that manager Don Mattingly tinkered with lineups and pitchers for the majority of the season, the rotation looks to be on track for success in the near future. The bullpen is yet another story.
"“The Marlins converted just 57 percent of their save chances, and they are aiming to do something about that during the Hot Stove season,” writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. “That’s why the front office is exploring the reliever market and is open to signing free agents or trading for bullpen help.”"
To say the closer’s role last season was more like a revolving door would be an understatement. Try as the organization might, they cannot find consistency from the one pitcher in the bullpen when it matters most. Brad Ziegler was traded and then retired after this past season. Kyle Barraclough was really good, then really awful, then injured, then traded this offseason.
Anything the team can get in the way of consistency, even a small amount, is a victory in itself. There are plenty of prospects and pitchers to assume the late-inning specialist role. Making a decision and sticking to it is something Mattingly and his staff must do during Spring Training.
Going into the season without a true closer will once again prove disastrous.
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"“Drew Steckenrider, coming off a season in which he appeared in 71 games, Adam Conley and Tayron Guerrero are internal candidates,” Frisaro adds."
There are others I see as possible choices, but they would be a shock should they assume the role. Jarlin Garcia has been a starter and a reliever on this staff, and someone who has logged many innings out of the bullpen in 2017. As a short-time pitcher on the mound, his fastball might be able to do the trick.
The future of the closer’s role out of this bullpen may fall to a minor leaguer still two or three years away. In the meantime, Marlins fans sit and wait to watch this all unfold.
"“We’re open to looking at every way as it fits for us to improve and get better,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “I think a number of our younger players in the ‘pen showed a lot of promise. Steckenrider, Conley, Guerrero all showed they can pitch in high-leverage innings and get meaningful outs for us. But as young players do, they had their hiccups. So overall, as we look at our team, we need to improve.”"
Miami has made securing the bullpen a priority because stats prove just how bad the situation the relief roles are. Miami saved just 30 of 53 opportunities. Relievers pitched a whopping 606 1/3 innings, which was seventh most in the Majors. Miami’s bullpen ERA was 5.34, the highest in the game.
That’s not all (in my gameshow host voice).
The bullpen ERA in the ninth inning towered at 6.10, which was once again the worst in the Majors, as was its WHIP (1.61) and batting average against (.287).
Steckenrider is the logical choice to “promote” from within, but the time in Spring Training will determine if he is ready to accept the challenge. Conley’s ability to start makes him a candidate to be the team’s workhorse in the bullpen as a long reliever. Guerrero is a hard-throwing dominant pitcher who could be the team’s closer by the season’s end.
There are no shortages of candidates. Now comes the hard part of Mattingly picking a winner who can change the outlook of late games with the Marlins in position to win rather than lose.