DECEMBER 12: Locke will earn $3.025MM, Heyman tweets.
DECEMBER 7, 10:05am: Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald tweets that it’s a one-year deal, and FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that Locke will be guaranteed about $3MM on the deal.
9:52am: The Marlins have agreed to terms with free agent left-hander Jeff Locke, who was recently non-tendered by the Pirates, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The ACES client’s deal is pending a physical. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets that it’s a Major League contract for Locke.
[Related: Updated Miami Marlins Depth Chart]
Locke, 29, joins Edinson Volquez as the second former Pirate that the Marlins have added to their rotation mix this offseason. Former Pirates special assistant Jim Benedict, renowned for his work with starting pitchers, moved to the Miami front office last winter, and he’ll now be reunited with a pair of pitchers with whom he is greatly familiar.
Locke spent the better part of four years in the Pittsburgh rotation, making an even 100 starts (plus 11 relief appearances) for the Pirates from 2013-16. In that time, he logged a solid 4.29 ERA with 6.3 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9 with a 50.6 percent ground-ball rate in 593 1/3 innings. However, Locke’s performance began to decline in 2015 and cratered in 2016; over the past two years, he’s turned in a 4.90 ERA, including a 5.44 mark in 127 1/3 innings this past season. The 2016 season saw both Locke’s strikeout rate and ground-ball rate hit career lows, though his average fastball velocity held strong at 91.5 mph.
That performance led the Pirates to designate Locke for assignment (effectively non-tendering him). MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected Locke to receive a $4.2MM deal in arbitration, so he’ll come up a bit shy of that mark with his new organization. However, Locke will benefit from remaining in a pitcher-friendly setting, and the move to Miami figures to promise him a greater opportunity to accumulate innings. Locke should slot into the back of a rotation that also includes Volquez, Adam Conley, Wei-Yin Chen and Tom Koehler.