The Miami Marlins not only have a dependable young closer in Steve Cishek, but the back of their bullpen was a surprising strength in 2013. But the Fish felt like that could be improved, and they went out to do so in the 2014 offseason. The Fish acquired Carter Capps in the Logan Morrison trade and signed bounce back candidate Carlos Marmol to a one-year contract in the hopes of flipping him for value at the trade deadline. How will those two players fit into the dynamic alongside Mike Dunn and A.J. Ramos, who proved themselves capable last season?
Long Relief: Kevin Slowey / Brad Hand
Dunn proved himself capable last season by decreasing his walk rate to levels that made his always-strong strikeout rates impressive. As a result, we saw his best career season and he returns expecting to maintain the primary setup man position in the eighth inning. Almost all of the advantage has come from improving the placement of his fastball; after placing the pitch in the zone to the tune of a 2.0 balls-to-called strike ratio, he improved the rate to 1.6 balls to called strikes. That 1.6 mark is equal essentially to his career rate versus lefties, meaning that he is capable of using the more limited fastball-slider combo just as effectively against righties and lefties in terms of control. The slider performs worse against righties naturally, but now Dunn does not also suffer the problems of added walks. He displayed that last year, as he struck out and walked exactly 36 and 14 batters of each handedness respectively in an almost even split of opportunities against each side.
The projections are obviously more conservative with Dunn, but it seems he definitely turned a slight corner and has evolved into a more complete reliever. Still, he is not as good as Cishek and will remain the primary LOOGY and setup man on the roster thanks to his good work from last year. He may not be as good as he was last season, but the propects are better heading into this year.
Projection: 64 IP, 3.57 ERA, 0.4 WAR
Marmol signed a one-year deal to try and rebuild his drastically fallen value after an ugly 2013 season. Last year, he lost his closer job in Chicago, was traded in a deal that served to switch international money more than anything else, and found himself in and out of the minors since then. Given all that he went through, it was surprising and rather silly for the Fish to hand him a guaranteed contract rather than a minor league deal like they did with Chad Qualls last season.
Having said that, Qualls did great last year for Miami, and Marmol has a chance to do the same. There are signs that Marmol was not as outright terrible as his numbers suggested last season, and that a bounce back is not that far away. His contact rate is not that far off from his career norm, and it is not as though he was walking that many more batters last year than usual. Combine some better luck on home runs inside of Marlins Park and the likely increase in strikeouts based on his track record and Miami may not have a terrible player for 50 to 60 innings.
That being said, Marmol has been quietly decreasing in quality over the last three seasons, and the expectations are more likely that he continues that bad trend.
Projection: 60 IP, 4.21 ERA, -0.1 WAR