The Marlins are in agreement with left-hander Devin Smeltzer on a minor league deal, reports Daniel Álvarez-Montes of El Extrabase (Twitter link). The deal, which contains a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, would pay the ISE Baseball client at a $1MM rate for any time spent in the majors.
Smeltzer has pitched in the majors in each of the past four seasons with the Twins. He’s started 19 of 34 career outings, tallying 140 innings of 3.99 ERA ball at the highest level. Roughly half of that experience came last year, when he was tabbed for 12 starts and a trio of relief appearances that totaled 70 1/3 frames. Smeltzer pitched to a solid 3.71 ERA but without many whiffs or ground balls.
The 27-year-old struck out 13.9% of opponents on a modest 7.4% swinging strike rate. The lack of missed bats isn’t all that surprising for a pitcher who averaged 89.5 MPH on his fastball. Smeltzer compensates for his subpar velocity with strong control. He walked only 6.6% of opposing hitters last season and has doled out free passes at just a 6.4% clip for his MLB career. It was a similar story with Triple-A St. Paul, where he posted a 6.9% walk percentage against a better but hardly overwhelming 20.3% strikeout rate.
Smeltzer’s solid run prevention at the MLB level would’ve been hard to replicate. He benefited from a .252 batting average on balls in play while stranding nearly 83% of the baserunners he allowed. ERA estimators like FIP and SIERA both pegged his work more in the 5.00 range than the sub-4.00 territory he actually managed, and the Twins ran him through outright waivers at the end of the season. Upon clearing, he qualified for minor league free agency.
The former fifth-round pick adds an experienced control specialist to the upper levels of the Miami organization. He owns a 4.40 ERA through parts of five minor league campaigns, walking just 5.5% of opponents along the way. He has experience both starting and working multiple innings out of the bullpen and could factor into either role at some point in 2023. Miami has a deep rotation mix even after trading Pablo López last week, so it seems likely Smeltzer will open the season with Triple-A Jacksonville. He’s out of minor league option years, meaning the Marlins would have to keep him in the majors or offer him to other teams via trade or waivers if he earns an MLB call at any point.