As bad as the Miami Marlins have been this offseason when it comes to personnel moves, and as questionable as their approach has always been in terms of analytics, one can never doubt the team's ability to find cheap pitching talent when it tries to. The Marlins have previously unearthed numerous bullpen or relief pitchers from the minor leagues or from the fringes of the majors and turned them into successful players in the majors. Players like Joe Borowski, Todd Jones, Kiko Calero, and more have seen great success with the Fish in their years with the team.
It looks as though the Marlins may try again given their interest in pitching dumpster-diving projects of this year. The team has apparently signed former Oakland Athletics stud reliever Michael Wuertz.
Mike Wuertz signs minor league deal with #Marlins with invite to ML spring training @joecapmarlins @joefrisaro @jcrmarlinsbeat @clarkspencer— BHSC (@BHSCouncil) January 16, 2013
Wuertz was last a relevant pitcher in 2009, when he had a fantastic season with the A's, complete with a 2.63 ERA and 2.37 FIP. He struck out 33.6 percent of hitters that season, an extreme career high that season. He also walked a career-best 7.6 percent of batters, a number to which he has not come close since then. Wuertz's classic problem with walks (career 11.3 percent walk rate) will not be improved in the larger dimensions of Marlins Park, but his propensity for home runs should go down. Then again, he allowed terrible home run rates in 2010 and 2011 while playing in an equally large Oakland Coliseum, so the move is not a guarantee to be a success.
Then again, the Marlins do not need it to be a success. Wuertz is a lefty who fits the team's needs for a second punchout left-handed reliever to complement Mike Dunn in the pen, but if he does not work out, the team risked nothing in giving him a minor league deal. If the club strikes gold and Wuertz has a hot first half, the Marlins can safely trade him to a contender for a menial B-minus or C-plus prospect at the midseason trade deadline. With the Marlins playing for almost nothing in 2013, there is nothing to lose if Wuertz makes the team.
Similarly, the team is rumored to be one of many ball clubs interested in a return for Brandon Webb, who was last seen in the majors in 2009 as well.
Several NL East clubs are keeping tabs on Brandon Webb. #Phillies #Marlins #Nationals #Mets— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) January 15, 2013
Of course, Webb was no marginal reliever when he was a big leaguer, but rather was one of the best starters in baseball at one point in his career. But given that he has spent three seasons rehabbing and recovering from an shoulder injury, it would appear as though his comeback trail is reaching an inevitable end. The last time we heard about Webb, he was supposedly throwing in the mid-80's as part of his work with the Texas Rangers in 2011. He pitched only 12 innings (four starts) for the Rangers' Double-A affiliate before he suffered a setback and was eventually released.
Once again, however, Webb's checkered history should not discourage the Marlins in the least. Provided they feel he has a decent opportunity to return to being major league-quality, the Fish should still consider him for a minor league deal. Webb is a former Cy Young pitcher who once threw one of the best sinkers in baseball, so if the team has any reasonable chance of getting any value from him, he should be worth a minor league offer. The Marlins may not be spending the money they saved on the Yunel Escobar trade freely, but in going after high-risk options, at least the team is not spending it in a dumb manner.