Miami Marlins much improved, but bullpen still big question

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 04: Dylan Floro #36 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at loanDepot park on September 4, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Bryan Cereijo/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 04: Dylan Floro #36 of the Miami Marlins pitches in the ninth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at loanDepot park on September 4, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Bryan Cereijo/Getty Images) /

The 2022 Miami Marlins are much improved, but still have a bullpen that is a major question mark moving forward.

The Miami Marlins made no secret that improving the offense was going to be the organizational focal point this offseason.

Okay, that and getting a reliable defensive catcher. Mostly though, mostly it was all about bats. Jacob Stallings’ Gold Glove-caliber work behind the plate is a great get for the Marlins, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that deal gets made if he hadn’t proven to be a significantly more consistent offensive force than Jorge Alfaro, Sandy Leon, Chad Wallach, and the rest of your 2022 Miami catchers.

That offense though. Joey Wendle. Avisail Garcia. Jorge Soler. Hopes for healthy seasons from Brian Anderson and Garrett Cooper. Full seasons from Jazz Chisholm and Jesus Sanchez, and maybe even a leap forward as well. No, they didn’t sign any of the elite free agents, or pull the trigger on a trade for an All-Star center fielder. Still, there is a lot to like, and a lot of good work to commend.

But what in the world are the Miami Marlins thinking when it comes to their bullpen?

Presumptive closer Dylan Floro was, overall, generally effective in 2021. On the other hand, he did have six losses, and only two of the 25 closers who had double-digit saves last season had a worse save percentage. To be the fair, those six losses are an improvement over the seven losses earned by Yimi Garcia, and the nine earned by Anthony Bass. Garcia was traded midsummer, opening the door for Floro to assume the closer’s role. Bass remains a member of the Marlins bullpen.

Of course, it’s not all about wins and losses and blown saves. There’s always WAR … and the fact only three Marlins relievers produced one of 1.0 or greater, and the greatest was Floro’s 1.5 mark. Or there’s pitch velocity, and the fact that no one in the Marlins bullpen really has it. Nor does anyone really have the type of late game, big game experience you’d expect to find in the bullpen of a club looking to actually contend heading into the season.

When asked about the team’s plans post-lockout, general manager Kim Ng’s response was that the team would be focused on finding a hitter first, and then worry about the bullpen. It’s the kind of answer that makes you wonder what the organization was doing since the last game of the 2021 regular season. The front office does seem to be looking at the situation now that a bat has been obtained, but the inability to do two things just comes off as inexplicable.

Especially as the club still seems to putting a lot of value on not burning through highly regarded prospects via trade. If the 2022 Miami Marlins are as successful as their front office appears to believe they will be, then it would appear to be a foregone conclusion that Miami will be making a trade for a bullpen piece come trade deadline time, when teams can squeeze more valuable prospects out of hopeful contenders. Teams like the Los Angeles Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks have equal to worse odds of making the playoffs this year than the Marlins do, and still signed multiple free agent relievers. Relievers that were easily better than most of Miami’s options, and that all signed pretty reasonable contracts. And that all would be useful trade chips should the season go south.

It’s just a rough look for the franchise, and a bit of a mixed message. It’s also the closest thing to a validation of departed CEO’s Derek Jeter’s very public concerns over payroll. Expecting the Marlins to sign anyone to a $100 million or more contract is probably unrealistic … but expecting them to drop less than $10 million to shore up the bullpen? That’s the kind of stuff that’s harder to forgive no matter how cash poor the operation is.

Hopefully, the Miami Marlins make a move in the coming weeks. Because this team already has playoff caliber starting pitching. It should have a contender level offense now. The bullpen though? It’s a massive question mark.

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Here’s hoping they find the answer.