The Marlins “have no plans” to exercise their club option on Rodney following the right-hander’s struggles in Miami, according to Jackson. As such, the 39-year-old appears set to receive a $400K buyout and enter the free-agent market in search of his eighth big league team. Rodney inked a one-year, $2MM contract with the Padres this past offseason and pitched brilliantly in San Diego, logging a 0.31 ERA in 28 2/3 innings with the Friars. That performance prompted the Marlins to part with a fairly well-regarded pitching prospect, right-hander Chris Paddack, in order to add Rodney to their bullpen. (Paddack has since undergone Tommy John surgery.) However, Rodney’s arrow-shooting opportunities in Miami were limited, as he regressed to a 3.95 ERA over his first two months with the Fish before turning in a dismal 11.57 ERA over the season’s final month (12 earned runs, 16 hits, eight walks, 10 strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings).
On top of Rodney’s struggles in Miami, the financial component of his option undoubtedly plays a role in Miami’s reported inclination to pass on a reunion. The base salary on Rodney’s option, like his 2016 salary, was $2MM. However, the option was structured so that the price would increase to match any performance incentives he earned in 2016. Rodney finished 41 games between San Diego and Miami this season, earning him $2.5MM worth of incentives and subsequently boosting the price of his option to $4.5MM. As such, the Marlins effectively had a $4.1MM decision on their hands — exercise the option at $4.5MM or pay Rodney a $400K buyout — and elected not to pay a fairly notable rate for Rodney’s age-40 season.
In addition to Rodney’s overall performance, the Fish may simply not with to allocate that level of funds to a reliever when their payroll is already inflating in other areas. Miami’s payroll will go up in 2017, according to Jackson, but a large portion of those increases will come in the form of built-in raises to players like Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Dee Gordon and Wei-Yin Chen (plus arbitration raises for A.J. Ramos, Marcell Ozuna and others). With their guaranteed contracts and a number of arb-eligible players, the Marlins already figure to see their payroll pushed up into the upper-$60MM range, if not the low-$70MM vicinity. That’s a pittance for most teams, but the Marlins have only topped a $100MM payroll once (2012), and they look to be on track for their second-highest team payroll in history, even if that checks in somewhere around a modest $80-90MM.
One asset to which the team could dedicate some payroll is free-agent lefty Mike Dunn, with whom Jackson says the Marlins are interested in a reunion. Dunn’s 371 games with Miami are the most by any pitcher in franchise history, and he’s been a mainstay in the Miami ’pen since coming over in the 2011 trade that sent Dan Uggla to the division-rival Braves. Dunn missed time with a forearm strain this season but returned to ultimately log 42 1/3 innings of 3.40 ERA ball with 8.1 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9. Dating back to the 2013 season, he has a 3.38 ERA in 221 innings of relief with 242 strikeouts. Miami is also open to re-signing Bryan Morris, who was designated for assignment and outrighted after missing the majority of the season due to back surgery. Morris, of course, won’t be anywhere near as costly as Dunn, who figures to have a case for a multi-year pact in free agency.
Of course, the bullpen is hardly the only area of the pitching staff that needs to be addressed in Miami. The tragic death of Jose Fernandez is still difficult to process, but his absence leaves a glaring void in the starting rotation. The Marlins were always likely to pursue some degree of rotation help, but president of baseball ops Michael Hill said today: “Everything changed when we got that call about Jose.” The Marlins will be in the market for two starting pitchers, Jackson writes, and more importantly they’ll be willing to deal a position player in order to add some help to the rotation. Jackson lists defensive wizard Adeiny Hechavarria and the versatile Derek Dietrich as options, also adding that Ozuna could spend another offseason seeing his name in trade rumors if he can return a strong enough rotation arm.
Ozuna, of course, was the subject of many trade rumors last season and has only boosted his value after a terrific season in which he batted .266/.321/.452 with 23 homers in 608 plate appearances. That’s a near-mirror image of his breakout campaign as a sophomore in 2014 (.269/.317/.455, 23 homers, 612 PAs). Teams in need of outfield help — the A’s, White Sox, Blue Jays, Rays and Cardinals are some purely speculative possibilities on my end — figure to show plenty of interest in Ozuna if is indeed made available, but clubs willing to part with pitching talent will hold the leverage in trade talks this winter, given the paucity of available rotation options.