2017 stats: 33.0 IP, 2-1, 3.82 ERA (3.73 FIP), 1.03 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 0.5 WAR (Baseball-Reference)
When the Marlins signed the Orioles’ Wei-Yin Chen to a five-year $80 million contract before the 2016 season, it was seen as a risky move given the length and expense of the contract. Chen has a history of a prior Tommy John surgery and any initial fears which were felt after the signing have been more than justified.
Emblematic of the Marlins’ payroll issues, Chen has gone 7-5 with a 4.72 ERA in 27 starts and only 156 1/3 innings of two injury plagued seasons with the Fish. Chen was placed on the disabled list on May 5th with left elbow discomfort. Despite coming back as a bullpen arm late in the season, Chen was shut down again in September with shoulder discomfort.
At that point, Don Mattingly stated that “I really didn’t count on him being back this year, honestly,” Mattingly said. “I’m not really sure if he’s going to be able to get back next year. I think this is — I don’t know. I don’t know.” Not a statement that Marlins fans can feel too comforted by.
Chen has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, but, similar to Masahiro Tanaka, he has been advised to rest and rehabilitate the elbow instead of undergoing a second surgery. Tanaka has come back fairly well, though he has not been the consistent top of the rotation starter he was when he first debuted with the Yankees.
Not surprisingly given his injury issues, Wei-Yin Chen picked up his player option at the end of the season. With the combination of annual salary and the continuing payout of his deferred $13 million signing bonus, the Marlins owe him $65 million through 2020.
With Chen and Edinson Volquez questionable at best for 2018, the already thin Marlins pitching staff may be stressed even more this coming season, barring pitching received in trades or in free agency. Given the new ownership’s commitment to fiscal responsibility, one can only imagine how they feel about Chen’s contract behind closed doors.