Marlins Add Tazawa, But Still Have a Gaping Hole in the Pen

The Miami Marlins signed free-agent reliever Junichi Tazawa to a two-year deal on Thursday worth $12 million, in an effort to make up for striking out on big market relievers such as Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, who had both been on the Marlins’ radar at the Winter Meetings last week. With A.J. Ramos set to take on the closer role for the Marlins, Tazawa will likely settle into a seventh- or eighth-inning role. Tazawa brings an above-average fastball to South Beach and will be able to get manager Don Mattingly strikeouts in high-leverage situations (Tazawa struck out 54 in 49.2 innings last year, but he did finish with an underwhelming 4.17 ERA). Despite adding to an area of the roster that has been a focal point for the team this offseason, there is still a noticeable void in this bullpen that needs attention:

Where are the lefties?

In another move made earlier on Thursday, the Colorado Rockies signed lefty reliever Mike Dunn to a three-year deal. Dunn had handled middle relief duties for the Marlins last year and had been with the organization for the past six seasons. The Rockies shored up their bullpen by adding the southpaw and his career 3.45 ERA, while the Marlins find their bullpen stream rich with righties, but thirsty for lefties. In the era of mixing and matching and playing the numbers, the Marlins could enter the 2017 season without an arm in the bullpen to record a much needed strikeout against a left-handed batter like Curtis Granderson or Jay Bruce (at least one of them will still be in the NL East next season).

Even after adding Tazawa, the Marlins continue to look for bullpen help, and have been linked to relievers like Joe Blanton and Trevor Cahill. Both are serviceable relievers, but carry a similar problem: they both throw right-handed. Having to face the divisional rival Washington Nationals 19 times next season, who will trot out of the bullpen gates to face the likes of Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton?

Of course, the market for left-handed relievers is anything but stocked right now. Most of the decent relievers remaining on the market are right-handed, making it difficult for the Marlins, who don’t want to make a move just for the sake of making a move. Still, this is a fairly strong necessity we are talking about here.

One name still out there is Cubs’ starter-turned-reliever Travis Wood, who has reportedly drawn interest from several National League teams. Wood proved himself to be a reliable arm in the pen last season, stranding 37 of the 42 runners he inherited in 2016. If the Marlins aren’t one of those teams gauging interest in the 29-year-old, they better become one of them.

One of the few options the Marlins have from within their own organization is southpaw Hunter Cervenka, who was acquired in August. He spent much of his Marlins tenure in Triple-A but did post solid numbers with the Braves prior to arriving in Miami. It sure isn’t flashy, but at least it’s something.

Tazawa is a decent addition, but he still doesn’t address the major issue that the Marlins face. Their righty-heavy bullpen is a problem that needs to be solved before the warmth of spring hits in a few months.

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