Inbox: What is Chen's future with Marlins?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers fans' questions

March 11th, 2019

What can the Marlins do with ? He makes too much money to trade. Do you see the Marlins possibly shifting him to the bullpen or designating him for assignment, or just riding him out in the rotation? -- @AsherWildMan6

Without question, Chen’s contract makes it extremely difficult to find a trade match, but that doesn’t mean the left-hander can’t have value to the Marlins in 2019, whether that's in the rotation or in relief. Last Saturday, Chen threw four shutout innings of one-hit ball in relief against the Nationals. For those saying Miami should cut ties, that’s not realistic when Chen is making $20 million in 2019 and $22 million in '20, along with a vesting option of $16 million for '21.

Critics of Chen also have to keep in mind that the Marlins used 13 different starting pitchers last year. Over the course of the season, you need pitching depth -- you can’t just bank on five or six candidates, with most of them being prospects or starters with little MLB experience. Chen made 26 starts and threw 133 1/3 innings last year, second on the team only to Jose Urena in both categories.

Out of Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith, who is going to take the biggest step forward this year? -- @jakotak

They all have upside, but they’re mostly unproven. Lopez has really impressed in Spring Training, especially after his four perfect innings with four strikeouts on Saturday night in a 2-1 Miami win against the Nationals. If Lopez’s curveball and changeup look like they did Saturday, he has a chance to be special. Lopez throws strikes and has ramped up his fastball to 96-97 mph, although it sits mostly in the 91-94 mph range -- which is fine, because he’s changing speeds effectively.

The relief pitchers have been a nice surprise this spring. Do you agree or am I just being overly optimistic? -- @cFishMiami

I don’t put too much weight on Spring Training statistics, especially the first few weeks of camp, when players are getting into playing shape. But, I do like the quality of the arms, and some starting pitching candidates may find their way to the bullpen. There should be good competition for spots, with right-handers Austin Brice, Riley Ferrell, Tyler Kinley, Nick Anderson, Jeff Brigham and Tommy Eveld all showing promise. Left-handers Jose Quijada and Jarlin Garcia are in a good competition. Drew Steckenrider, projected to close, actually has struggled, but the general feeling is that he will be ready when the season starts. Bottom line is there are some talented options and depth.

How will the organization measure success this season? Being competitive in games, or will they be looking at individual performances in those games? -- @welch-04

Obviously, the organization is building, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to win as many games as possible. When you ask about measuring success, my answer is: showing improvement across the board. Yes, individual players can have great seasons, but is that any different than, say, in 2017, when Giancarlo Stanton belted 59 home runs and was the National League MVP Award winner? That team finished 20 games out of first place. That wasn’t a “team success,” but there was individual successes.

The Marlins are focused on development, and pitching is the organization's strength. If they perform as expected and show growth, this season could be very successful in terms of moving the franchise closer to contending.

Updates on Victor Victor Mesa? -- @dee_marlins

I saw Victor Victor Mesa on Sunday, and he has been doing some functional activities as he recovers from a right hamstring strain. Mesa is on Minor League rehab protocol, and he isn’t expected to be with the Marlins at any point this season. There’s no reason to rush anything. First and foremost, he needs to get healthy and play on a regular basis. That could mean he starts off in extended spring training and goes from there.