Even though the Marlins seem to be seeking a top bullpen arm at the Winter Meetings, the club arrived in Maryland with the intention of adding another starting pitcher.
On Wednesday, the club did so, signing veteran lefty Jeff Locke to a one-year deal worth $3 million. Miami likely filled its final rotation spot and did so with losing any major pieces of its core.
From the outset, it was evident this free agent pitching market was comparably weak, and that got worse when Jeremy Hellickson accepted a qualifying offer and returned to the Phillies. The Marlins weren’t going to be able to compete for the best available starters, for instance Rich Hill. There also wasn’t a need to overpay.
Though Locke had a down 2016 season with the Pirates, pitching to a 5.44 ERA and 4.84 FIP over 127.1 innings, he has proven to be a middle tier starter in the past. After the Marlins signed Edinson Volquez to a two-year deal, that’s all they really needed.
Locke becomes the third left-handed starter on Miami’s roster, and assuming he joins the rotation, the Marlins’ rotation would be predominantly left-handed. In the National League East, and the National League in general, that’s OK.
The Marlins were able to make the best out of a weak starting pitching market and added starting pitching help without trading any major league players. At the start of the offseason, that didn’t seem like as much of a possibility.
Marcell Ozuna and Adeiny Hechavarria are likely among the Marlins that will continue to draw interest. But now that the Marlins have five starters, there is no need to trade either one.
Even without a clear ace, the Marlins seem prepared to build a competitive team next season. They wanted to adding pitching depth and did so, enabling them to focus on upgrading the bullpen at the Winter Meetings.
Locke wasn’t necessarily the best starter available, but with pitching guru Jim Benedict now in Miami’s system, he might have been a top candidate.
Over a span of about two weeks, the Marlins have added two starters who improve their rotation without significantly increasing the payroll or trading major league players, which seemed to be a reasonable goal.