2017 stats: 47.0 IP, 1-4, 4.79 ERA (3.73 FIP), 1.55 WHIP, 5.0 K/9, -0.7 WAR (Baseball Reference)
By looking at the stat line above, one could come to the conclusion that Brad Ziegler, who the Marlins signed on a two-year, $16 million contract before the season began, had a bad year. There is evidence to back that up as, overall, the 37 year-old posted career highs in ERA and WHIP, and a career low in innings pitched.
So, bearing in mind that he was brought in alongside Junichi Tazawa to form a Marlins 'super bullpen’, should Ziegler be considered a bad investment and a sunk cost moving forward? Not necessarily, especially if his post-DL stint numbers in a new role were anything to go by.
Before Ziegler was placed on the ten-day disabled list on June 22nd with a back strain, he gave up 24 runs in 29 innings while allowing opposing batters to hit .342 against him. After he returned nearly six weeks later, he threw 13 scoreless innings in a row to secure a perfect August in which he saved nine games out of a possible nine and his WHIP (0.77) was almost a third of what it was before the All-Star Break (1.83).
September was a little rocky for the right-hander, but his numbers in the second half were still arguably the best of any Marlins pitcher who threw more than ten innings after the festivities in Miami were over. What this shows, then, is that Ziegler might have been trying to pitch through an injury during the first half of the season, and his overall numbers may not tell the whole story when it comes to how his 2017 season should be rated.
This is important for Miami as although Kyle Barraclough was shaping up to be the replacement closer after the departure of A.J. Ramos, Ziegler was the only Marlins pitcher still on the roster to save more than one game in 2017, and his up-turn in form coincided with this new late inning role. He did save 30 out of 32 games with Arizona in 2015, so he has a lot of experience in high-leverage situations, and the Marlins definitely have a need for that kind of production in the final frame.
While Brad Ziegler had an up and down 2017, the Marlins may have just found the most effective use for him late on in the season. If his numbers after coming back from injury are truly representative of what he still has left in the tank, then he will prove to be a solid arm in 2018 and a potentially valuable trade chip at next year's deadline, helping to speed-up the rebuild process.