While the Marlins fanbase clamored for a specific trade, the team did make a deal—just not the one some Fish fans hoped for. On Sunday, the Miami Marlins completed a trade with the Baltimore Orioles to bolster their bullpen, bringing in two relievers with MLB experience. The deal nets Miami LHP Tanner Scott and RHP Cole Sulser for a pair of prospects, a draft pick, and a player-to-be-named-later.
Full Orioles-Marlins trade, per source: Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser for a Comp B draft pick, Antonio Velez, Kevin Guerrero and a PTBNL.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) April 3, 2022
The Marlins continued to tinker with the roster ahead of Opening Day, and used this deal to address a potential weakness in their pitching staff. Miami’s front office remains unwilling to mortgage the future in a potential blockbuster trade, pivoting, instead, to smaller deals in an effort to keep the team competitive this season.
The Return for the Marlins in this Trade
Tanner Scott brings heat to the Marlins bullpen in this trade. His 4-seam fastball averaged 96.8 MPH, and he sat in the 98th percentile in Spin and Whiff percentage in 2021. Scott also sports a sinker and slider combination, with the slider being his strikeout pitch. With the Orioles, Scott posted a 29.4 percent strikeout rate over parts of five seasons.
What’s worrisome about the 27-year-old left-hander is his lack of command. Scott’s control issues led to inconsistencies throughout his career and a terrible 13.6 percent walk rate. In 2021, he threw 10 wild pitches and hit six batters, which contributed to his 5.17 ERA.
Cole Sulser, meanwhile, has less MLB experience (three seasons) despite being older (32). Injuries delayed Sulser’s early development, but following a solid 2021, he was expected to be Baltimore’s closer in 2022. Last season, Sulser posted a 2.70 ERA over 63.1 innings pitched, with an 8.9 percent walk rate and a solid 28.4 percent strikeout rate.
Sulser sports a four-pitch mix with a low-90s fastball, complemented by a changeup, curveball, and slider. He finished 2021 in the 86th percentile in xERA, 85th percentile in xBA, and 83rd percentile in Chase Rate. Sulser tied for the Orioles lead with eight saves (11 opportunities) in 2021.
The Cost for the Fish
This Marlins trade reads as a win-now move. Miami shipped off four assets not part of the Major League team in order to bolster the big club. The team didn’t surrender any of its prized prospects, instead, parting with players Baseball America ranked No. 29 and No. 34 in their system. The draft pick Miami flipped to the Orioles amounts to a third-round selection, and who knows the future value of the infamous player-to-be-named-later.
Outfielder Kevin Guerrero ranked higher among the two prospects headed to Baltimore in this Marlins trade. Guerrero was part of Miami’s 2020-21 international signing class and played with the Marlins’ Dominican Summer League team. At 17-year-old, Guerrero’s still several years away from the big leagues, and his future depends largely upon the development of his 6’3” frame.
Velez, meanwhile, is closer to MLB action but hasn’t pitched higher than Double-A so far. There’s an outside chance he sees a spot-start here or there for the Orioles this summer, but the 25-year-old wasn’t going to contribute to the Marlins any time soon. Undrafted out of Florida State, Velez sports great control and a solid changeup and was slated to start 2022 with Double-A Pensacola.
To fit Scott and Sulser on the 40-man roster, the Marlins designated Nick Neidert for assignment. The team also placed Sean Guenther on the 60-day IL. Miami optioned Neidert to Jacksonville last week and announced he’ll transition to a relief role.
Marlins Trade Upgrades Bullpen
This Marlins trade should indicate the dual nature of the team’s approach to the 2022 season. Miami added offense this offseason to boost a flagging lineup. They remained engaged on multiple fronts to improve further via free agency or trade. The front office clearly sees this group on the cusp of playoff contention but stood steadfast on what they felt were unreasonable demands from other clubs in trade talks.
All this shows the team wants to win this season, but not at the expense of an extended window of contention.
The deal with Baltimore immediately bolsters the bullpen, the Marlins’ glaring weakness entering 2022. In acquiring Scott and Sulser, Miami added a pair of potentially high-leverage arms with low-cost and MLB experience.
Both should immediately see better results pitching at home, considering they’re leaving one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in Camden Yards. They also have plenty of experience dealing with stacked lineups coming from the AL East. The pitcher-friendly confines of loanDepot park should accentuate some of their better attributes, as both relievers tend to keep the ball in the park.
Something to consider: Sulser and Scott now go from pitching in the AL East, in hitter-friendly parks, to pitcher-friendly loanDepot park in Miami. Both AL and NL East teams have strong lineups. But that AL East last year was brutally tough. #Marlins @ManOn2nd
— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) April 4, 2022
Scott likely becomes a situational lefty out of the ‘pen. He’s particularly adept at inducing ground balls (52.9 percent in 2021), which plays the strength of Miami’s defense. As long as he keeps his walks down, he should be a suitable middle reliever with high-leverage upside.
Sulser’s experience closing games should provide Marlins manager Don Mattingly with another option early this season with Dylan Floro potentially starting on the IL. For his career, he has a 3.18 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, 13 saves, and seven holds. Sulser should become a regular part of the backend rotation for this bullpen and is particularly effective against lefties.
Building the Bullpen
For the Marlins, this trade adds a pair of experienced arms to the bullpen. They join right-handers Anthony Bender, Anthony Bass, Louis Head, and Zach Pop, along with lefties Richard Bleier and Steven Okert.
If the Marlins opt to keep 10 relievers to start the season, that means non-roster invitees Shawn Armstrong and Grant Dayton are in the mix. Potential long relievers include Daniel Castano, Paul Campbell, and Cody Poteet.
While unlikely at this point, adding a free agent reliever could further bolster the bullpen. Trevor Rosenthal is among the names drawing interest around the league. However, the former closer didn’t pitch at all in 2021.