The Miami Marlins were in the market for a number of free agent relievers, with Matt Capps having been the latest name involved with the team. But today, earlier reports by Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes (via Twitter) stated that the Marlins were very close to completing a deal with free agent reliever Jose Valverde.
However, it turns out that the Marlins are not as close as initially thought. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported that the rumor was "utterly false," with a source telling Spencer that Valverde's agent Scott Boras was merely "drumming up attention when no market exists."
This was confirmed by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, who says that the Marlins are among many teams calling on Valverde.
jose valverde is talking to a few teams, including the #marlins. no deal seems imminent.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) February 4, 2013
On the surface, it seems confusing for the Marlins to be pursuing a free agent reliever, especially one with a closer's price tag and coming off of a bad season. Valverde is coming off of a year in which he posted his worst ERA since 2004 and his career-worst strikeout rate. It was the fourth straight season in which his strikeout rate has dipped, but this decline was far more precipitous; he struck out just 16.3 percent of batters after whiffing a respectable 22.9 percent last season. Valverde lost his closer job to Phil Coke late last season and into the playoffs just one season after recording a perfect 49-for-49 on saves. Despite all of this, he and agent Scott Boras probably still commanded a mid-level, one-year deal simply because of his former closer tag.
Bottom line, however, is that there must be some smoke to this fire, even if a Valverde is not imminent. The Marlins have no strong need for a relief pitcher, though the bullpen is not particularly impressive after Steve Cishek. But Cishek did impress a little with his work last season and found his way into a deserving closer's role. While adding competition cannot hurt Cishek, it can certainly make him feel uncomfortable to know that a guy with 277 career saves is sitting behind him in a setup role.
Despite all of this and the likely silliness of paying a reliever money, I would not mind such a move. Any deal the Marlins sign will be for one year at most, and if Valverde bounces back, he will surely be dealt to a contender by midseason. Provided he is not taking up a roster spot from a deserving bullpen prospect (and given the Marlins' current roster status, that is unlikely) and not taking away Cishek's role, the team could spend its money in dumber ways (or not at all).