The Miami Marlins have added more arms to their pitching staff on Wednesday. MLB.com is reporting left-hander Jeff Locke has reached an agreement on a one-year contract, pending completion of his physical. Locke, who had been with the Pirates since 2011, would become one of three left-handers in Miami's projected rotation.
The Marlins also are finalizing a contract with right-handed reliever Dustin McGowan, who will be returning to Miami.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was the first to break the news of the deal with Locke. After officially introducing Edinson Volquez as the team’s first free agent signing of the 2017 season, the Marlins are making moves to improve both the front of the staff and the back end with the hope of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Miami has not had a winning record since 2009.
Team president of baseball operations Michael Hill has been very open about the fact this team needs pitching help if it is going to contend for a playoff spot. The Marlins were wild card contenders until the final 10 days of the season before faded. A solid and healthy rotation and a deeper bullpen could go a long way toward making 2017 a year this team can overachieve instead of underperforming.
According to MLB.com, Locke was 9-8 with a 5.44 ERA in 30 appearances (19 starts) in 2016. The 29-year-old struck out 73 in 127 1/3 innings.
In Miami, Locke will be reuniting with Jim Benedict, the Marlins' vice president of pitching development. The two previously worked together in Pittsburgh.
An All-Star in 2013, Locke was 10-7 with a 3.52 ERA that year. He has a 50.6 percent ground-ball rate over the past four seasons.
Now the rotation looks a bit deeper with Wei-Yin Chen, Adam Conley, Tom Koehler and perhaps David Phelps to go along with both Volquez and Locke. This also means the potential for Phelps to move back to the bullpen is great. There has also been talk of Phelps moving into a closing role – the same slot AJ Ramos held last season despite injuries that affected him during the year.
McGowan, 34, is the kind of pitcher who ca eat up innings from the bullpen. The Marlins are looking to find relievers who can replace starters, much like the Cleveland Indians did last season.
McGowan posted a 2.82 ERA in 55 games with the Marlins over 67 innings in 2016. He was a non-roster invitee last year. The right-hander is finalizing a guaranteed big league deal, which means he is expected to make the Opening Day roster.
He also has experience as a starter and could be used in that capacity should he be called upon to replace injured hurlers.