The Marlins have optioned struggling former closer Steve Cishek to Double-A, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. It’s a startling turn of events for the righty, who had already been taken out of his 9th-inning role.
Cishek, 28, had been one of the game’s more effective relievers in recent years — good enough to be viewed as a building block in the pen. Despite heavy speculation, the Fish held off on dealing Cishek — despite his rising cost — and expected him to lock down wins for a contending team.
Now, 19 1/3 innings into the 2015 season, he’s headed back to the minors to sort out his problems. Cishek has worked to a 6.98 ERA thus far, and while advanced metrics suggest he’s been better than that, there’s no denying that he has produced at a below-replacement-level clip this year.
Cishek’s velocity is down by more than a full tick on both his fastball and slider, and even more on his little-used change. Once a heavy groundball pitcher, he’s continued a notable decline in inducing grounders that started last season. Meanwhile, the same pitcher who produced better than 11 K/9 and less than 3 BB/9 in the 2014 campaign has posted just 7.9 strikeouts against an even more-troubling 4.7 walks per nine innings.
As things stand, Cishek looks to be a near-certain non-tender after the current season. Though he comes with two more years of arbitration control, Cishek commanded a saves-fueled $6.6MM arb salary this year after qualifying as a Super Two the year prior. Even assuming a minimal increase, that’s a lot of money to invest in a reliever, and he’ll have to show quite a bit to earn another payday from Miami.
Of course, the news is also the latest sign of trouble in Miami, which has dropped nine of thirteen ballgames since switching managers. While the pen has actually been quite good as a whole, there are plenty of problems elsewhere. First and foremost is the rotation. Already performing poorly, the staff has now seen Henderson Alvarez and Mat Latos join Jose Fernandez and Jarred Cosart on the DL.