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Marlins among teams interested in Bud Norris...but why?

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Entering his age-34 season with mixed results, Norris should not be atop anybody’s wish list this holiday season.

Norris celebrates a Cardinals win at Marlins Park last August
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

We have been waiting the entire offseason for the Marlins to be credibly connected to a major league free agent. Hey, look!

Craig Mish, SiriusXM/Five Reasons Sports host, is indeed credible. And 10-year MLB veteran Bud Norris meets the criteria. They conducted multiple interviews together this past season, so the source is likely somebody close to Norris, if not the pitcher himself.

Minutes after his original report, Mish detailed why the 33-year-old “would seem to be a good fit” with the Fish:

Uh...well, let’s dive a bit deeper into that.

Absolutely, the Marlins could use an upgrade at closer. They repeatedly crumbled in save situations last season, allowing the highest batting average against (.287) and opponents’ OPS (.854) in the ninth inning among all MLB teams. Brad Ziegler and Kyle Barraclough handled the lion’s share of those duties; both of them are off the roster now, retired and traded, respectively.

The 2018 Marlins relievers were terrible in high-leverage situations. This table sorts all ‘pen arms with 50-plus innings pitched by Win Probability Added, from worst to best (out of 148 qualifiers). Familiar faces Barraclough and Tayron Guerrero are on top, unfortunately.

Baseball-Reference

But there’s also Mr. Norris, ranking 10th-worst with a -1.49 WPA. Despite his wealth of big league experience, that campaign was his first as a full-time reliever. Look beyond the solid run prevention numbers overall—Norris was responsible for several crippling Cardinals losses, ground that the club couldn’t make up for down the stretch.

Can’t be doing this against the Reds:

Or the Tigers:

To be fair, Norris was hindered by a hamstring issue at various points of the year, including during his final appearance on Sept. 28. No reason to believe that would follow him into 2019.

That being said, still seems like a weird target for the Marlins. This is a buyer’s market for relievers with so many of them available in free agency, the vast majority of whom will ultimately settle for one-year deals.

The Marlins have already trimmed payroll, and figure to continue in that direction with an inevitable trade of All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto. Those resources can be reallocated toward signing closer candidates with better pure stuff and pedigree than Norris has. If those individuals succeed, they could be flipped to a contender at the trade deadline for impactful prospects.

Mish pointed out that Norris endured the infamous Houston Astros rebuild. He was a rotation fixture on several rosters that were engineered to tank (2011-2013).

However, it’s unclear if that would make him amenable to joining up with the Marlins in their current state. Norris told Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times in 2017 that he “really enjoyed” making it to the big leagues with the Astros, while admitting that the hopelessness affected him deeply:

“There were multiple people in the league making more than our entire payroll, and we were out there trying to play Major League Baseball games. There were some really dark days here, man. It was not easy coming to work every day. It was not easy shagging fly balls, as dark as it was.”

St. Louis Cardinals v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

I’ll be curious to find out which other relievers the Marlins front office has legitimate interest in, because Bud Norris is not atop anybody’s wish list this holiday season.