Sport: Marlins’ bullpen generating trade interest

López fans 11 in 7 dominant innings, Marlins edge Reds 2-1

  López fans 11 in 7 dominant innings, Marlins edge Reds 2-1 CINCINNATI (AP) — Pablo López allowed two hits and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts over seven dominant innings and the Miami Marlins edged the Cincinnati Reds 2-1 Tuesday night. Joey Wendle hit a two-run single off Hunter Greene as Miami for the third time in nine games. A day after Cincinnati piled up 11 runs in a romp, López turned in a stopper-like performance for the Marlins. He overcame Mike Moustakas’s solo homer to finish with a flourish, retiring his final nine batters and striking out the side in the sixth. He didn’t walk anybody while retiring 21 of his last 22 Cincinnati batters.

Just as Detroit will be receiving interest in a huge chunk of its bullpen, Miami figures to have several relievers on the block. Longtime Marlins beat writer Joe Frisaro tweets that the Fish have gotten interest on lefties Tanner Scott and Steven Okert as well as right-handers Dylan Floro and Anthony Bass.

Miami Marlins relief pitcher Tanner Scott (66) has the highest price tag out of the team's bullpen. © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports Miami Marlins relief pitcher Tanner Scott (66) has the highest price tag out of the team's bullpen.

The 28-year-old Scott surely has the highest price tag, as he is leading the club with 14 saves and has long tantalized scouts with a blistering fastball and power slider, dating back to his time in Baltimore. He’s averaged 96.8 mph on that heater this season and ramped up the usage of his slider to a career-high 66 percent. The result is a career-best 31.8 percent strikeout rate, a huge 15.3 percent swinging-strike rate and a 31.3 percent chase rate on pitches out of the strike zone.

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Scott’s command — or lack thereof — is the elephant in the room. The southpaw has walked 15.3 percent of his opponents this season, plunked three hitters and tossed a pair of wild pitches. That is been par for the course throughout Scott’s career, evidenced by a bloated 14 percent walk rate. Were Scott’s command even average or just slightly below-average, his overpowering fastball/slider blend could make him one of the sport’s most dominant relievers. That has not been the case, however, which is surely why the Marlins were able to acquire both Scott and Cole Sulser from the Orioles this past offseason in exchange for a Competitive Balance draft pick (Round B) and a pair of low-level minor leaguers.

It was still a surprising return for a player with Scott’s stuff, particularly given that he’s controlled through the 2024 season. That remaining control will obviously appeal to clubs but also make the asking price on him fairly steep. The Marlins are known to be looking for immediate offensive upgrades in trade returns, and Scott’s two-plus seasons of control could embolden them to do so when teams call about the power-armed lefty.

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Okert, meanwhile, has been a great find for the Fish. The 31-year-old signed a minor league deal after spending nine years in the Giants organization and never establishing himself in their bullpen. He’s been great in Miami dating back to 2021 however, working to a combined 2.74 ERA, 29.3 percent strikeout rate  and 10.9 percent walk rate. Okert doesn’t have Scott’s power stuff and has also been homer-prone, but the late nature of his breakout means he can be controlled another five seasons.

Both Floro and Bass are closer to free agency and, as such, seem likelier to change hands. The 31-year-old Floro is earning $3M this season and has pitched to a 3.49 ERA with a below-average 17.7 percent strikeout rate but strong walk and ground-ball rates (5.3 percent and 50 percent, respectively). He is excelled at keeping the ball in the yard throughout his career with the Rays, Cubs, Dodgers and now Marlins, yielding just 0.5 homers per nine frames.

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Floro is not without red flags, though. He is never been an especially hard thrower but has seen his average heater drop from 93.8 mph in 2021 to 91.8 mph in 2022. And after posting one of the lowest hard-hit rates in the Majors from 2016-21 (31.5 percent), he is yielded a 41.4 percent hard-hit rate this season along with a career-high 88.7 mph average exit velocity (the latter of which is right in line with the league average, to be fair).

Of the whole group, Bass seems the best bet to go. The 34-year-old signed a two-year, $5M contract with Miami prior to the 2021 season and posted a solid but unremarkable 3.82 ERA through 61 1/3 innings in his first season in South Florida. This year, however, Bass is toting a pristine 1.41 ERA with a career-high 26 percent strikeout rate and a very strong 5.8 percent walk rate. Like Scott, he’s throwing his slider at a career-high rate (56 percent) and has enjoyed terrific results thanks to the change.

Bass is also controlled for the 2023 season by virtue of an eminently reasonable $3M club option. That could be good reason for the Marlins to hang onto him, as they’re intent on competing in the near future, but there is some risk in hanging onto a reliever for what would be his age-35 season as well.

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Any of the relievers here could make sense as trade candidates on their own, but it is also intriguing to think about the possibility of them being packaged as part of a larger deal. Pairing any of the four together would be appealing for a contender seeking bullpen help (which applies to pretty much every contender), and the Marlins could also add a bullpen arm to a package if they are trying to coax out an even bigger return for a pitcher such as Pablo Lopez, on whom they are reportedly at least listening to offers.

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