Miami has sought starting pitching all off-season but before last week has been relatively quiet. Suddenly that has changed, and for the better.
The Marlins have agreed to a five-year deal with free agent lefty Wei-Yin Chen that should prove to be beneficial for both sides. Miami gets the top pitcher it wants, and Chen has the opportunity to opt-out after the second season if he is not pleased pitching for the Marlins.
Since the end of the season, the Marlins have been linked to starters who would have been comparably inexpensive but could have success in 2016. Edwin Jackson was one of them. Doug Fister and Yovani Gallardo were among the others.
Chen's deal reportedly could be worth up to $96 million, which if true, would be one of the largest contracts the Marlins have ever given to a starting pitcher. The last free agent starter signed, Mark Buehrle in 2011, was sent to Toronto the following season.
Instead of signing multiple veterans, the Marlins notably went out of their way to pursue one of the top available names. They were not linked to Zack Greinke or Johnny Cueto, and rightfully so. Chen is thought to be one of the best remaining free agent pitchers. The Marlins expressed interest, made an agreement with Scott Boras, and got a deal done. They deserve to receive credit for that.
Chen, 30, pitched to a 3.34 ERA and 4.16 FIP over 191.1 innings with the Orioles last season. He will not consistently strike hitters out with a power fastball but has proven he can get hitters out regularly. With Jose Fernandez and Chen in the front of their rotation, the Marlins likely believe they can compete with anybody's top two starters. They would probably be correct.
The Marlins paid for a valuable starter, making a statement. But the deal works really well for both sides. Chen has incentives and an chance to pursue other opportunities. Miami gets at least two years of a top left-handed starter.
Chen will almost certainly help the Marlins in another way, too. Miami has two young left-handed starters in Adam Conley and Justin Nicolino. Both will likely benefit from working with Chen for at least the duration of spring training.
Although they landed their veteran starter, the Marlins should not stop now. One more middle tier pitcher could be added, and the addition of another bat might be ideal.
Miami has expressed interest in extending Dee Gordon and that could get done in the coming days. Another right handed bat could be added, and that might be realistic soon too.
For most of the winter, the Marlins have been mentioned in rumors. Jose Fernandez. Marcell Ozuna. And the list continues. But the club has not acted upon any of the rumors and instead added to the roster instead of moving key pieces.
Signing Chen does not mean the Marlins are now favorites to win the World Series. But it is a step in the right direction.