The Miami Marlins are not likely to be heavy spenders heading into the remainder of the offseason. Given their massive trade-off of multiple high-salary players from earlier this offseason, this should come as no surprise. The Fish are looking to stay as budget as possible in filling out the remaining roster spots.
But that does not mean that the team is not still interested in spending a little bit of money. According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, the Fish have a few million remaining in their budget with which to acquire some relief pitchers to fill out their bullpen.
The Marlins are sifting through the batch of unsigned free agent relievers as they focus on a bullpen that was looking rock solid this time a year ago but is now filled with holes. After signing Placido Polanco for $2.75 million, they still have a bit of leftover money from the Yunel Escobar trade with which to obtain an inexpensive relief arm or two. (Remember, after trading Escobar and his $5 million salary to the Rays last month, the Marlins vowed to re-invest that net savings in payroll.)
This is an interesting comment for a number of reasons. The fact that the Marlins "vowed" to re-invest the money they saved in trading Yunel Escobar to the Tampa Bay Rays has little predictive value in whether the Marlins actually do use the cash. The team has more than proven itself unreliable in its money-based decision-making; at any given moment, that re-investment plan may have gone down the drain quickly.
More importantly, it is odd to see the Marlins decide to spend money again on one of the least important areas on the team, relief pitching. The Fish are not exactly replete with bullpen arms, but the team is not missing them entirely either. The Marlins are set at the closer position with Steve Cishek, but the club has young upstarts like A.J. Ramos and Tom Koehler along with more established players like Ryan Webb potentially filling out the back end of the 'pen. In previous years, a group like this one would have been supplemented with scrap-heap pickups at bare-minimum prices. Is that what the Marlins have in store this season?
I browsed the remaining free agents and took a look at a few names the team could consider with the $2.5 million or so remaining of Escobar's salary.
Will Ohman: In 2010, Ohman spent 17 games with the Marlins as a late-season acquisition and did fairly well, but his game collapsed in the last few years while playing for the Chicago White Sox. He lost a lot of strikeouts in 2012, but for $1 million or less, the Marlins could do worse than a guy whose primary problem in recent years has been the one thing Marlins Park stops the most, home runs.
Rich Hill: Hill worked parts of the last few seasons with the Boston Red Sox out of the pen and had decent success in very limited innings. The Marlins could take Hill for a trial to see if his still excellent stuff can find any semblance of control while at the same time being assisted by Marlins Park's favorable dimensions.
Francisco Cordero: As late as 2011, Cordero was still somebody in that he held a closer job and was a passable bullpen pitcher. The 2012 season was a complete collapse year, and it is not surprising that Cordero played poorly given that his numbers were on the decline. But with his name being tied to the closer role in the past, a hot start may net the Marlins a minor prospect at midseason.
Matt Lindstrom: It is surprising to see Lindstrom with less interest than expected given his good year last season (47 innings, 2.68 ERA, 3.16 FIP). He still has the same BABIP problem he always had with the Marlins, but it seems he has found a way to harness some control and thus not rely on getting more strikeouts to be effective. With an improved Marlins defense and deep fences, maybe Lindstrom could establish himself for a midseason trade.
None of these options are worth the full amount the Marlins have to offer, but if the team can get one or two of these players on one- or two-year deals a la Randy Choate before 2011, it may benefit the Marlins in the end. At the very least, the Fish will give themselves more opportunities to turn a hot start into a middling prospect to add to the team's sudden minor league depth.