After beginning the offseason signing pitcher Edinson Volquez, the Miami Marlins have continued to stay busy during the Winter Meetings and the offseason overall, signing pitcher Jeff Locke and catcher A.J. Ellis to one-year contracts.
Locke has played all of his six major league seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, compiling a record of 35-38 and an earned run average of 4.55 and appearing in the 2013 All-Star Game. Last season, Locke pitched in 30 games with a 9-8 record and an ERA 0f 5.44.
Locke should immediately slot in as the fifth starter in a weak Marlins rotation that is still mourning the tragic death of Jose Fernandez. However, Locke may not be the best option for the starting rotation. While Locke is 29 years old, he has never had a Wins Above Replacement above 1.1 and four of his six seasons have seen him post a negative WAR. Regardless, Locke’s one year “prove it deal” at $3 million should prove to be good value.
Behind the plate, the Marlins had been left with a hole following the Arizona Diamondbacks’ signing of Jeff Mathis. Ellis, however, should fill that hole almost immediately. Last season, Ellis batted for a batting average of .216, hitting two home runs and batting in 22 runs. While the numbers don’t jump, Ellis had a much better time after moving to the Philadelphia Phillies midseason, where he posted a .313 batting average in 32 at-bats.
Ellis job’ with the Marlins projects as the backup to J.T. Realmuto, who had a career-high in batting average (.303), home runs (11), RBIs (48) and stolen bases (12). While there was talk of Realmuto being traded, the signing of Ellis puts any of that to rest.
Should Realmuto go down with injury, Ellis will bring great fielding behind the plate. Last season, Ellis threw out 27 percent of potential base stealers and had a .998 fielding percentage. In 2015, Ellis caught 45 percent of runners attempting to steal on him, a career high.
The Marlins also inked a new major-league contract with 38-year-old Dustin McGowan, who posted a 2.82 ERA last season.