Jeremy Hellickson and Rich Hill highlight what is set to be a relatively thin free agent class of starting pitchers, yet Joe Frisaro of MLB.com thinks that it is unlikely that either pitcher will end up in Miami.
If Miami truly wants to contend next year, they should do their best to sign Hellickson or Hill, though.
It was confirmed by the organization at the end-of-season meetings that payroll is set to increase for the upcoming year, so the team should have the financial flexibility to go after the top free agents for the first time in a number of few years.
With regard to upgrading the rotation, Hellickson and Hill are the top two free agent names which would satisfy that need. Hellickson, 29, is coming off a solid year in which he posted a 3.71 ERA over 189 innings to go along with 154 strikeouts and only 2.1 walks per nine innings, a career low.
While he is obviously due a raise, Hellickson’s salary was $7 million this year, so even a significant increase in that figure for 2017 may be manageable for Miami with a larger projected payroll. The Marlins already inquired about Hellickson before the Trade Deadline, so there is definitely interest in the right-hander.
Rich Hill, 36, was one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball over 110.1 innings in 2016. After recording a combined 2.12 ERA between his time with the Athletics and Cubs and striking out 10.5 batters per nine innings, Hill will likely demand a lot more than the $6 million he earned this season.
While Hill’s age and the fact that he has recorded more than 100 innings in a season only twice in his career after serving as a reliever between 2010 and 2014 are reasons the Marlins may not want to pursue him, he is one of the best options available for solidifying the club’s starting pitching.
This is because if Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto really are untouchable this winter, the pieces Miami currently has (aside from Marcell Ozuna) will probably not warrant high returns via trades.
Miami should also keep an eye on Gio Gonzalez and Edinson Volquez, two starters with more impressive track records than Hellickson and Hill, who may decline club options and test the open market as well. While they would be more expensive options, deals with Gonzalez and Volquez would be more likely to propel this team forward and closer to the playoffs.
In the position player department, Yoenis Cespedes could be firmly on Miami’s radar, too, especially if they are able to trade Ozuna for starting pitching, considering he is the organization’s best big league trade chip. If Adeiny Hechavarria is moved in a similar deal, then Ian Desmond would be another potential signing which would have a huge impact on the offensive production of this ball club.