Marlins boost 'pen, deal for O's Scott, Sulser

Miami to send pair of prospects, Draft pick to Baltimore

April 4th, 2022

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Marlins shored up their bullpen by acquiring right-hander Cole Sulser and southpaw Tanner Scott from the Orioles on Sunday night. In exchange, Miami will send a Competitive Balance Round B Draft pick, left-handed prospect Antonio Velez, outfield prospect Kevin Guerrero and a player to be named.

In order to make room on the 40-man roster, the Marlins designated for assignment right-hander Nick Neidert and placed lefty Sean Guenther on the 60-day injured list. Neidert, the organization's No. 20 prospect, had been optioned to Triple-A Jacksonville and was converting to a relief role. Guenther is dealing with an arm issue that may require surgery.

General manager Kim Ng, whose main priority during the 2020-21 offseason was to revamp the bullpen, saw immediate results. Miami relievers posted the seventh-highest FanGraphs WAR (5.0) and 11th-lowest WHIP (1.28) despite tossing the seventh-most innings. That core returns in '22. But with reliever Dylan Floro (team-high-tying 15 saves in 2021) set to begin the season on the injured list after his throwing program was delayed due to soreness, Miami added two high-leverage options to the back end of its bullpen. Manager Don Mattingly recently said the club was likely to go with 10 relievers as part of expanded 28-man rosters through May 1. A closer-by-committee approach appears likely without a proven closer.

"I just think the bigger the group of guys that you feel like you can bring into games at any time the better," Mattingly said. "I think that's what we're trying to build as far as having a group of guys that you know if it's in the fifth or if it's the fourth or if it's in the eighth or the ninth, that we feel good about who we're bringing into the game."

Sulser and Scott will join the main group of right-handers Anthony Bender and Anthony Bass, along with southpaws Richard Bleier and Steven Okert. Options to round out the relief corps include righties Louis Head and Cody Poteet and lefty Daniel Castano, with non-roster invitees Shawn Armstrong and Grant Dayton in the mix.

Across 86 big league appearances between the Rays and O's from 2019-21, the 32-year-old Sulser has a 3.18 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, 13 saves and seven holds. He isn't arbitration eligible until next offseason. An over-the-top righty with a nice changeup he uses to get reverse splits (.172/.258/.258), Sulser is considered more of a setup man.

"I think the big thing for me was just consistently trying to stay ahead in the count and attack the strike zone," Sulser said. "Hoping that's something I can repeat this year and kind of take that same approach coming in this season. Trying to attack the strike zone with multiple pitches -- not just fastballs -- but being able to throw splitter, slider, fastball all in the zone early."

The 27-year-old Scott, who agreed to a $1.05 million contract for 2022, has a 4.73 ERA, a 1.55 WHIP, one save and 28 holds in 170 career outings. More importantly, lefties have a slash line of .199/.330/.293 against him. Scott has a huge fastball-slider combination but has trouble with control (5.5 walks per nine innings).

"You get strike one and it's a completely different game," Scott said. "You get strike one and you're in the driver's seat and it changes the whole game. You don't want to go ball one and then try to work your way back into counts. So that's my main goal is go out there, [get] strike one and then put guys away -- get ground balls, hit fly balls. They want to put it in play? Put it in play. I know we've got a great defense."

When the news broke, Sulser and Scott spoke over the phone and met up at the O's complex in Sarasota, Fla. They packed up their things and drove together to Jupiter, Fla., arriving a little after midnight. With just a couple hours of sleep, they entered a new clubhouse and worked out in Marlins gear. Pitching plans were still being decided upon for the pair. On Sunday, Sulser threw a bullpen, while Scott toed the rubber on a back field.

This isn't the first time the Marlins and Orioles have been trade partners in recent memory. When a COVID-19 outbreak left Miami's bullpen short handed following the opening weekend of the 2020 season, Miami acquired Bleier for a player to be named. Bleier, who recently signed a two-year, $6 million extension with a club option for 2024, has a 1.03 WHIP in 87 appearances for the Marlins. The club's top lefty reliever wasted no time texting Scott. Armstrong also is a former Oriole (2019-21), and Zach Pop was selected from Baltimore in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.

Velez, 25, signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2020, posting a combined 2.55 ERA in 23 games (14 starts) between High-A Beloit and Double-A Pensacola in his first pro season. Guerrero, 17, had a .671 OPS in 40 games in the Dominican Summer League.