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Making the Case: Why the Marlins Should Sign Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman

The Marlins have been linked to both Cueto and Chapman this week as potential free agent targets. How would they fit on the roster?

85th MLB All Star Game

The Marlins have only signed one player to a Major League contract so far this offseason, Jean Segura, but the stove is getting hotter than Miami in the summertime. While Bryan Reynolds and Pablo López trade rumors continue, two new names have recently popped up that would reinforce Miami’s pitching.

Wait, pitching?

Yes, a team that is known for developing great arms is in talks to potentially sign two veterans with strong resumes. Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman, who rose to prominence as teammates on the 2010-2015 Cincinnati Reds, could reunite for the 2023 season and continue their successful MLB careers with the Marlins.

These two pitchers had different fortunes during the 2022 season. Cueto rejuvenated his career, posting a 118 ERA+ in Chicago that was identical to his overall career mark. As for Chapman, it was by far his worst MLB campaign in every statistic possible. He was booed out of the Bronx and didn’t even factor into their postseason run.

It’s time to make the case for why the Marlins should sign Cueto and Chapman.

Johnny Cueto

Minnesota Twins v Chicago White Sox Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Cueto put up some awesome numbers during the 2022 season with the Chicago White Sox. In a few key pitching statistics, he was actually comparable to Pablo López.

Player A was Pablo, while Cueto was Player B. The vast majority of poll respondents favored Player B.

Why is that comparison significant? The Marlins have been shopping Pablo around recently as he fast approaches the end of his club-controlled years. Hitting is absolutely still a need for Miami, and Pablo can be used to fetch a bat or two to bolster the lineup. If Miami were to trade Pablo, trade one of Trevor Rogers or Edward Cabrera in a package for Bryan Reynolds, and sign Cueto, here’s what the Opening Day rotation could look like:

  1. Sandy Alcantara
  2. Jesús Luzardo
  3. Trevor Rogers/Edward Cabrera
  4. Johnny Cueto
  5. Braxton Garrett/Dan Castano

This doesn't even include potential midseason call-ups Eury Pérez and Jake Eder, the former being one of the most hyped pitching prospects in recent memory. Cueto could serve as a mentor to some of the younger pitchers. If he doesn’t live up to expectations, or if the team as a whole fails to contend again, just trade him at the deadline. The Marlins are no strangers to that strategy. Whatever salary they pay to Cueto would be largely offset by a Pablo trade—he’s owed approximately $5.6 million in arbitration, MLB Trade Rumors projects.

All in all, another Dominican former All-Star would give the Marlins the flexibility to construct a more complete roster.

Aroldis Chapman

New York Mets v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

As previously mentioned, Chapman was not good in 2022. That’s putting it nicely. A once-dominant closer accustomed to getting 30-plus saves per season converted only nine for the Yankees, struggling in the high-leverage situations that he used to thrive in. At age 34, he had his lowest average fastball velocity ever. Repeating that performance wouldn’t be of much help to a struggling Marlins bullpen, but there’s hope Miami can fix him.

Chapman’s Hall of Fame-worthy career is winding down and his playing opportunities are dwindling. He certainly won’t be returning to the Bronx after burning that bridge with his unprofessional conduct at the end of the season. It’s entirely possible that “The Cuban Missile” starts the 2023 campaign without a job, but the Marlins do have some interest.

Chapman lives in Miami during the offseason and the Marlins lack a strong internal option to serve as their closer (Dylan Floro would be the frontrunner). If they were to offer him a contract, he could stay close to his loved ones and surround himself with adoring fans. It’s no secret that Miami loves its Cuban players—mostly notably José Fernández and most recently Jorge Soler—and Chapman is one of the biggest names that the island has ever produced.

Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. would have a field day with a flame-throwing reliever like Chapman. If he doesn’t work out, the Marlins should be able to walk away without much hesitation. Chapman made $16 million annually under the terms of his previous extension, but could be had for a fraction of that price if other MLB teams decline to get involved in the bidding.

Fish Ties

Miami Marlins v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

New Marlins manager Skip Schumaker played with both Chapman and Cueto from 2014-2015 in Cincinnati. Earlier that decade, the Reds were fairly successful with Chapman and Cueto on their roster, winning the NL Central twice and appearing in the 2013 NL Wild Card Game.

Schumaker has often talked about bringing a shift in culture to Miami’s clubhouse, and his coaching staff hires back the claim up. While there isn’t anything out there about the trio’s relationship, could Skip bring in two of his former teammates to help add to this new era in Marlins baseball?