Wei-Yin Chen became the most expensive pitcher in Marlins history last winter when he signed on the dotted line for $80 million guaranteed over five years. However, the Marlins did not get what they hoped they were paying for last season.
A slow start and injuries led to the lefty posting a 4.96 ERA over 123.1 innings in 2016, and that will not carry this team to the playoffs next year, especially since he is arguably the team’s ace at this moment in time.
Historically, Wei-Yin Chen had been stung by the long ball, but that was predicted to change once he started to pitch in the spacious Marlins Park on a regular basis. However, Chen gave up home runs to opposing batters at a career-high rate this past season, and was only the fourth-best starting pitcher on the team behind Jose Fernandez, Adam Conley, and Tom Koehler.
Therefore, the pressure is now on Chen to pick his game up and produce at least career-average numbers to lead this rotation by example, especially considering that his poor season may have an adverse impact on how aggressively the Marlins target pitchers, and free agents in general, this off-season.
If Chen cannot bounce-back in 2017, then the rest of the rotation and more so the bullpen will be put under significant strain. The Marlins are in the difficult situation of being in desperate need of two dependable starters, starters who have already established themselves in the big leagues, in order to field an effective rotation. That is presuming that Chen can, in fact, be effective next season. If he cannot, then this team could be doomed before the first pitch is even thrown.
Wei-Yin Chen had some success after returning from injury towards the end of the regular season, so fitness should not be an issue entering Spring Training. That will be important as the veteran will need to hit the ground running and show that he can fulfill the role of leader as soon as possible.
After giving up five runs on Opening Day, Wei-Yen Chen never could get into a consistent, winning rhythm in 2016. He has the chance, though, to turn the page and prove that he is worth what he is being paid. He has big shoes to fill at the top of Miami’s rotation, but out of every pitcher on the current Marlins roster, he has the best tools to succeed.