Reliever Steven Okert is attempting to return to the Major Leagues, and he’ll get his chance to earn that accolade after signing a minor league contract with the Miami Marlins on Monday, March 1.
Okert, a former prospect of the San Francisco Giants, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2018, where he left off on a good note, pitching to a 1.23 ERA in 7 1⁄3 innings. The former 4th round pick spent 2019 in AAA Sacramento, struggling to the tune of a 5.31 ERA in 57 2⁄3 innings, where he allowed 14 home runs. For his career, Okert owns a 4.28 ERA (98 ERA+) in 48 1⁄3 innings.
Per team beat writer, MLB.com’s Christina De Nicola, the deal does not include an invite to spring training, utterly guaranteeing that Okert starts the season at the Marlins’ alternate training site.
Okert joins South Florida native Gio González among the list of notable names who’ve recently agreed to non-guaranteed deals with the Fish.
Miami enters spring training with two left-handers—Richard Bleier and Ross Detwiller— slated to open the season on the active roster. While the soft-tossing Bleier, who pitched to a 2.16 ERA over 21 games last season, appears a lock to stick at the majors all season, Detwiller could be the first man to go amid early season struggles.
The 6th overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft as a promising starter out of Missouri State, Detwiller owns a 4.56 ERA and just 0.1 rWAR (baseball-reference) over parts of 12 seasons, for which he has pitched for 7 teams. 2020 was, in fact, Detwiller’s first season since 2012 in which he pitched to an ERA under 4, finishing the pandemic shortened year with a 3.20 mark in 19 2⁄3 innings pitched, though he had a sub-optimal 6.9 K/9.
Beyond Okert, the team has fellow-lefty, former Cleveland Indian Shawn Morimando, who hasn’t appeared in a big league game since 2016, in camp as a non-roster invitee, so left-handed options aren't limited for the club as far depth is concerned. Morimando pitched two scoreless innings in his spring debut against the Mets on March 1st.
Whether or not Okert has a role on the 2021 roster remains to be seen, but a strong showing in the minors could merit some consideration later in the season should an injury or the aforementioned struggles among the names in the major league bullpen come to hurt the team once the game’s count for real.