Posted on December 17, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
For the second time in as many days, the Miami Marlins have agreed to terms with a relief pitcher, helping to fulfill their top offseason priority of improving their bullpen. After signing Junichi Tazawa on Thursday, the Marlins on Friday night agreed to terms with Brad Ziegler. As of Saturday morning, the Marlins have not formally announced the deal, but reports indicate it is for two years and $16 million. Ziegler will reportedly make $7 million in 2017 and $9 million in 2018, as relief pitchers continue to sign for big money all throughout baseball this winter.
The Marlins will become Ziegler’s fourth big league team since the 37-year old came up with the Oakland A’s in 2008. He served as a closer for the A’s early in his career and then again for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2013, 2015, and the first half of 2016 before being traded to the Boston Red Sox. Ziegler pitched primarily in a setup role during his time in Boston, but did so with great success, posting a 1.52 ERA in 33 appearances with the Red Sox.
In nearly 600 innings of work throughout his career, Ziegler has an ERA of 2.44, making him a sound bet even in his late 30’s. He can be particularly difficult for right-handed hitters, as he uses a drop-down style delivery, helping lead to a high ground ball rate. However, he has avoided drastic splits throughout his career, remaining almost equally effective against left-handed hitters.
The Marlins, as has been reported, would have preferred to make a big splash this offseason by signing either Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen to become the team’s closer, striving to create a “super bullpen.” Despite reportedly making competitive offers for both players, the Marlins were unable to sign either, forcing them to alter their strategy for rebuilding their bullpen. “We know there’s competition for players,” said president of baseball operations Michael Hill about the team coming up short on Chapman and Jansen. “You have a Plan A, but you have a Plan B, C and D to accomplish your goal.”
Miami’s Plan B has turned out to be signing Tazawa and Ziegler on consecutive days, giving Miami two of the better setup men on the market this winter. The Marlins have also re-signed Dustin McGowan, who will likely serve as the team’s long reliever. Of course, the Marlins have also lost lefty Mike Dun from their bullpen, as Dunn signed a three-year deal with the Colorado Rockies.
Even though Ziegler has experience as a closer, A.J. Ramos is likely to remain Miami’s closer after being an all-star in 2016. After his success in Boston in that role, Ziegler figures to be the team’s top setup man, with Tazawa and Kyle Barraclough also available to pitch late in games. On paper, it’s not the “super bullpen” the Marlins were hoping to build, but with the addition of Ziegler, it looks solid, especially if Ramos is healthy after struggling with a broken finger late in the 2016 season.
If the Marlins still covet anything close to what could be considered a “super bullpen,” they may not be finished spending this winter. The team could still target a true lefty specialist to help replace Dunn. Whether they pursue more relievers or not, the Marlins have done a fine job of building what should be a stable and reliable bullpen, even if they didn’t get the frontline closer they so badly wanted.