The Miami Marlins completed a signing of free agent reliever Jon Rauch yesterday, presumably with the intent to add depth to a bullpen that was not good last season and lost a few names along the way. While Rauch does not fit the team's needs as a lefty reliever, he does add yet another mediocre but acceptable arm to the pen, and while his impact will be minimal, he is really not taking up anyone's spot.
But the Marlins were not recently tied to this free agent reliever's name. The team was more often tied to another name, a bigger name in former Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde. Valverde had supposedly signed with the Marlins yesterday before the rumors were vehemently denied, leading to agent Scott Boras even angrily calling Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald to explain the situation. The Marlins presumably had interest in Valverde because the team wanted a veteran reliever who could step into the closer's role should incumbent Steve Cishek falter. In addition, Valverde's more recent stint as a closer could still compel teams to make midseason offers for him if he does perform well in his time with the Marlins.
The same cannot be said of Jon Rauch, who is a step or two below the talent level of Valverde, even in Valverde's decline. Rauch once was a closer himself, but major league teams long since realized that he did not have the makings of a closer thanks to a distinct lack of overpowering stuff. Since then, Rauch has more or less gotten by thanks to his former closer reputation and his passable numbers, but he has not been entrusted with high-leverage roles consistently since 2010. Nevertheless, the point remains that Rauch does not fill all of the qualifications that Valverde would have as a Marlin, in that he simply is not much in the way of trade bait.
So does that mean that the Fish remain interested in Valverde for their bullpen? A quick glance at the team's bullpen depth via MLB Depth Charts should reveal that answer.
The Marlins have a number of young players amid those names, but the truth is that the team should have young names there. If there is a position in which placing young players will not have a significant team impact, it would be in the bullpen, particularly in the dregs of the pen. The Fish are currently boasting Rauch and Ryan Webb as veteran setup men behind Cishek. When we go down to the middle relievers, you can see names like Chris Hatcher, Dan Jennings, and Tom Koehler, all of whom the Marlins should evaluate thoroughly this season. This does not even consider A.J. Ramos, who should also be in this conversation.
A Valverde signing would likely take away a spot for one of these three or four rookie relievers, and the Marlins are in no position to be giving veterans spots over young players. The team could afford to sign one veteran reliever, but two in this case would be a crowd. Combine that and the cost of acquiring a former closer like Valverde under the eye of an agent like Scott Boras and you get a recipe for a sudden lack of interest. Expect the Marlins to stay away from Jose Valverde now that Rauch is aboard; the team likely only wants one veteran reliever to tutor the young arms in the 2013 bullpen.