Prior to the 2016 season, the Miami Marlins signed lefty starter Wei-Yin Chen to a 5-year/$80 million deal, the largest the franchise had ever handed out to a free agent pitcher. Journalists and fans alike knew the signing was a short-sighted, win-now move, and that the contract would eventually become a huge burden for the small-market team. They were wrong—the contract has been a burden all along due to Chen's poor results.
Through his first three years in Miami, Chen boasted a 4.75 ERA over 289 2⁄3 innings, which was a far cry from what the Marlins thought they were getting when they agreed to deal with a pitcher who was coming off consecutive seasons with over ten wins and 185 innings pitched with Baltimore. Lengthy spells on the sidelines with elbow issues undoubtedly impacted his numbers, but Chen quickly turned from a projected number two starter on a contending team to a shaky back-end option instead. Thus, after a full year of analysis, the new ownership group opted to go for youth in 2019, and the Taiwanese hurler was removed from starting duties. Instead of fully committing to a ground-up rebuild by releasing him and eating the $42 million remaining on his contract—as we suggested—Chen was moved to the bullpen, and results got even worse.
Over 45 appearances, Chen's ERA skyrocketed to 6.59 (5.23 FIP), and his crazy numbers at Marlins Park which had salvaged his season in years past were nowhere to be seen. His 1.54 WHIP was by far the worst of his career and he just could not keep the ball in the park, allowing 15 homers over 68 1⁄3 innings. While he was not the sole perpetrator in one of baseball's worst bullpens, Chen allowed countless games to slip away, and consistently demoralized a promising yet inexperienced team. For that reason alone, Miami should consider releasing Wei-Yin Chen before the start of next season, despite still owing him $22 million.
The rebuilding Marlins still have a long way to go in terms of competing at the highest level, but everyone involved is expecting tangible improvement in 2020, and that boils down to wins and losses. In that regard, Chen is not doing the team any favors. Furthermore, with an upcoming roster crunch due to the Marlins having to protect a number of top prospects from the Rule 5 Draft in December, the 34-year-old is taking up a spot which would be best utilized by a younger player who has the ability to contribute at a high level for years to come.
The Marlins paid $20 million for -1.1 WAR from Wei-Yin Chen in 2019. Put that way, an extra $2 million for him not to play in 2020 does not sound like too bad of a deal.