One of the biggest issues for the Marlins during the 2021 season was their bullpen. The team fell out of contention quickly due to their blown saves and struggles in high-leverage situations. None of their relief pitchers were truly consistent from start to finish.
The 2021-2022 offseason will give the Marlins a chance to improve. There is always a deep pool of veteran relievers available on the free-agent market and this upcoming class should be no exception. Needless to say, the Marlins have gone the cheap route to get relievers in the past and I believe they will stick to that. However, it’s definitely possible to find good arms on a budget (Anthony Bender, Steven Okert, Brandon Kintzler the previous year, etc.).
2021 Team/Salary: Arizona Diamondbacks/$2 million
Tyler Clippard immediately came to my mind when starting this article. He did well in 2021, but got overlooked because he spent most of the season on the injured list (1-1, 3.20 ERA, 26 G, 6 SV, 25.1 IP, 21 SO, 1.30 WHIP). Historically, durability has actually been what he’s known for. When it comes to money, the Marlins may be able to lock him up to a similar deal he signed in 2021 or even a bit less because of his advanced age (36). Clippard is a great option and it can pan out if it happens.
2021 Teams/Salary: Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds/$4.05 million
Givens is a really good and cheap option to add to the bullpen. This season, (4-3, 3.35 ERA, 54 G, 8 SV, 54 SO, 1.37 WHIP) Givens was pretty excellent when entering save situations and high-leverage situations. He has put together an impressive career despite always playing in hitter-friendly home ballparks. Wherever he goes, he will make an impact in a big way and can be a setup man at the very least.
Givens has had a taste of every bullpen role through the years, showing he can fit in with his teammates and his manager’s tendencies.
2021 Teams/Salary: Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics/$2.75 million
Chafin this season had an extremely low ERA at 1.83 along with 5 saves and 64 K’s all in 68.2 IP. He limits home runs and has the perfect demeanor for coming out of the ‘pen. Before he officially enters free agency, we’ll have to see what happens with his $5.25 million mutual option for the 2022 season—those almost always get declined by either the player or the team.
2021 Teams/Salary: Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres/$6 million
Hudson has superior strikeout stuff to the other guys I’ve already mentioned, which might drive up the price for the Marlins. This past season with the Nationals and the Padres, he was pretty good (5-3, 3.31 ERA, 54 G, 51.2 IP, 75 SO, 1.08 WHIP), but he was less reliable than usual when dealing with inherited runners. Hudson would be a do-it-all type of reliever since he is extremely experienced and has a World Series ring to prove it.
2021 Teams/Salary: Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox/$16 million
Craig Kimbrel, Overpowering 96mph Fastball...and Fist Pump. pic.twitter.com/rlp5WNEsi0— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 17, 2021
The least likely of these Marlins targets is Kimbrel. He’s one of the best relievers of his generation and is still near the top of his game (4-5, 2.26 ERA, 63 G, 24 SV, 59.2 IP, 100 SO, 1.27 WHIP). Kimbrel initially closed for the Cubs early in 2021 and got traded to the White Sox who are still competing in the postseason. Despite his effectiveness, his $16 million club option for next year is not a sure thing to be picked up. The Marlins don’t want to be paying big bucks to any individual bullpen piece, but they may have to make an exception for Kimbrel if he’s on the market—he could single-handedly turn their ‘pen into a strength by sliding into the closer’s role.
Honorable Mention: Josh Staumont
An option that came from Fish Stripes’ own Ely Susman was Staumont, an overpowering 27-year-old who has begun his major league career with the Kansas City Royals. This past season Staumont was a good overall player (4-3, 2.88 ERA, 64 G, 5 SV, 65.2 IP, 72 SO, 1.07 WHIP). Staumont is not a free agent—doesn’t even reach arbitration eligibility until 2023—so he could be contributing long term for the Marlins. However, they would need to be prepared to send multiple players to K.C. in exchange.