The Marlins’ top target in free agency is not a starting pitcher, but rather right-hander Kenley Jansen, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Recognizing the difficulty they’ll face in building out a rotation that is still reeling from the shocking death of Jose Fernandez — there are few options in free agency and Miami’s woeful farm system makes trades difficult — Miami could instead look to build out a “super pen” to help shorten games and prevent leads from escaping when their starters provide them. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick wrote earlier this week that with few rotation options available to them, the Marlins could look to upgrade the back of the bullpen instead.
Obviously, the Marlins aren’t exactly frequent shoppers at the very top of the free-agent market, and the team’s perennially low payroll is a significant strike against their chances at landing Jansen this winter. However, Miami did spend $80MM to add left-hander Wei-Yin Chen last offseason, and while the results of that deal (in year one, anyway) weren’t what the team had hoped, their willingness to spend at that level was a departure from their most recent free-agent ventures. Jansen could very well match or exceed that $80MM sum — we at MLBTR pegged him for a five-year, $85MM deal this winter — but with Miami only one year removed from spending that type of money and forfeiting a draft pick to do so, it’s tough to definitively rule out an earnest pursuit.
Jansen, as Heyman notes, is plenty familiar with Miami skipper Don Mattingly from the pair’s days together in Los Angeles, and Miami’s proximity to his native Curacao could be another minor point in the Marlins’ favor. There’s probably some allure based on those factors, though it seems unlikely that Jansen would concede any type of significant discount based on familiarity or geography.
Miami already has a the makings of a terrific bullpen in 2017, with right-handers A.J. Ramos, Kyle Barraclough and David Phelps all having contributed ERAs of 2.85 or better to go along with impressive K/9 rates (14.0 for Barraclough, 11.8 for Phelps and 10.3 for Ramos). Phelps, of course, could conceivably move back into the rotation out of necessity, though the Marlins’ plans for him are seemingly undetermined at this point. Adding Jansen and his lifetime 2.20 ERA and 13.9 K/9 to that group, with or without Phelps, would make for an imposing group to finish out games for the Marlins, though it remains to be seen whether they’ll be comfortable spending at the assuredly record rate it’ll take to land Jansen.