As expected, the Marlins won’t be picking up their club options on two pitchers. The New York Post’s Jon Heyman reports that Johnny Cueto’s $10.5MM option will be bought out for $2.5MM, and Daniel Alvarez-Montes of El Extrabase reports that Matt Barnes’ $9MM option will be bought out for $2.25MM. (Both links to X.)
Cueto signed a one-year contract worth $8.5MM in guaranteed money last winter, as the Marlins saw the veteran righty as a way to add some experience and depth to an overall young rotation. Unfortunately, the gambit didn’t pay off, as Cueto posted a 6.02 ERA while tossing only 52 1/3 innings over 13 appearances. Right biceps tightness sent Cueto to the injured list for over the half the season, and he had a 15-day IL stint due to a viral infection at the end of August.
2024 will be Cueto’s 17th Major League season and his age-38 season, though there hasn’t been any indication that the right-hander is considering retirement. He’ll probably have to settle for a minor league deal in the wake of his underwhelming year in Miami, but teams are forever in need of pitching, and Cueto will likely get another look to see if he has anything left in the tank. As recently as 2022, Cueto had a 3.35 ERA in 158 1/3 innings with the White Sox, so a return to that form might be possible if he can just stay healthy.
Injuries also ruined Barnes’ season, as his 2023 campaign was prematurely ended by a hip surgery in July. Barnes struggled to a 5.48 ERA in 21 1/3 innings prior to that IL trip. Though a .348 BABIP and 4.35 SIERA indicated that Barnes was somewhat unlucky, he posted a below-average strikeout rate for the second consecutive season.
Between Barnes’ hip surgery, a shoulder injury in 2022, and generally a lot of up-and-down performance over the last three seasons, it was a pretty easy call for the Marlins to decline the option. Miami acquired Barnes in a trade with the Red Sox last offseason, and Barnes’ two-year, $18.75MM deal was initially signed with the Sox back in July 2021. Since Boston covered a good chunk of Barnes’ 2023 salary, it was a relatively risk-free move for the Marlins, especially since Richard Bleier (who went to the Sox in the trade) also didn’t pitch well last year.