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The Miami Marlins’ bullpen additions last Friday were kind of easy to overlook, if only because the two pitchers the team picked up were so understated compared to those they had been chasing earlier this winter. After reportedly bidding high on Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, bringing back Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa instead is bound to feel minor by comparison. But the moves are proof that the Marlins has focused on their bullpen more than anything else this winter, which naturally begs the question: why?
While Miami’s bullpen wasn’t a strength last year — the team was second in blown saves only to the San Francisco Giants — it didn’t seem to be the area that needed the most offseason focus from the front office. That would be the starting rotation, whose woes stem from a far more tragic place than those of the bullpen but are more pressing, at least in terms of baseball needs alone. The Marlins, of course, lost their ace José Fernández when he died in a boat crash in late September at the age of 24. To analyze his death as a loss of baseball talent can feel gross and uncomfortable compared to the grief of mourning his loss as a human being, but it’s an uncomfortable task that Miami’s front office is now forced to carry out. Rather than focus on starting pitching depth to bolster a rotation that’s now full of question marks, however, they’ve chased after relief pitching instead. They wanted Chapman or Jansen to ... close games for Tom Koehler and Wei-Yin Chen?
That’s not to say the Marlins haven’t upgraded their rotation at all; they’ve added both Jeff Locke and Edinson Volquez this winter. But those moves pale in profile compared both to the relief moves the team has reportedly tried and those they’ve actually pulled off. There’s also the fact that even with these bullpen additions, Miami still has a relief corps that could be completely right-handed — the two lefty bullpen arms currently on the 40-man roster, Hunter Cervenka and Elvis Araujo, are far from locks to make the team out of spring training. That the Marlins have focused so much on their bullpen at all should be an indicator that their offseason strategy doesn’t quite make sense this year, but that a focus on relief pitching could still yield a bullpen with zero situational lefties should make it extra clear.
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- It’s highly unlikely that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens end up in the Hall of Fame this year, but Jeff Passan’s latest column for Yahoo! Sports argues that they’ll end up there someday — and it could be sooner rather than later.