The Marlins announced that they’ve designated right-hander Nick Wittgren for assignment. His roster spot will go to veteran infielder Neil Walker, who signed a one-year contract with Miami this evening.
It registers as at least a moderate surprise to see Wittgren cut loose, as the right-hander pitched to a 2.94 ERA with 8.3 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, 0.27 HR/9 and a career-best 46 percent ground-ball rate in 33 2/3 innings with Miami this past season. However, Wittgren isn’t likely to repeat the success he had in limiting homers last season (one allowed; 2.7 percent homer-to-fly ball ratio), and the four walks he averaged on a per-nine-inning basis was the highest mark of his career.
Last year was a roller coaster for Wittgren. He allowed just one earned run through his first 15 2/3 inning, posting a 17-to-7 K/BB ratio along the way before being absolutely destroyed over the next month. Wittgren missed a bit of time with a finger injury along the way and was ultimately torched for eight runs on 14 hits and six walks through just 6 2/3 innings before being optioned to Triple-A. He returned as a September call-up, though, and posted a brilliant 1.59 ERA (two runs in 11 1/3 innings) with an 11-to-2 K/BB ratio.
All of that said, Wittgren is a 27-year-old righty (28 in late May) with a career 3.60 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 127 2/3 of big league relief. He also has a minor league option remaining, which could boost his appeal should the Marlins look to find a trade partner. Wittgren did miss some time in 2017 due to an elbow strain, but he avoided elbow troubles in 2018. His 92.1 mph average fastball in 2018 falls right in line with his 92.2 mph career mark, though he relies heavily on that offering and doesn’t generate much spin on it.