Reds Lock Up Marshall

Sean Marshall is not going to be a rental for the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds, who own Marshall’s last arbitration year at $3.1 million for 2012, pulled the trigger on a three-year extension that will pay the 29-year-old left-hander $16.5 million over the next three seasons.

As unpredictable as relievers can be, Sean Marshall has been one of baseball’s best bets over the last two seasons. Over the past two seasons with the Cubs, Marshall has thrown 150.2 innings with a 60 ERA- and 169 strikeouts to just 42 walks. He might be under the radar because he isn’t racking up the saves, but make no mistakes: Marshall has been in the elite as the Cubs setup man. Check out his ranks over the past two seasons among relievers with at least 100 IP:

2.45 ERA: 20th
60 ERA-: 15th
2.07 FIP: 1st
51 FIP-: 1st
4.02 K/BB: 15th
0.24 HR/9: 3rd
5.0 WAR: 1st

Marshall had success keeping runners off the bases and runs off the board despite the poor defenses routinely set behind him in Chicago. His fielding independent numbers speak for themselves, but the question remains, particularly with a move to Cincinnati: can he continue to keep the ball in the yard? Prior to 2010, Marshall had never posted a HR/9 below 1.0; since, he has allowed all of four home runs in 150 innings.

Not every pitcher is equally affected by the transition from starter to reliever (or vice-versa). In the case of Marshall, it may have saved his career. Marshall allowed 45 home runs in 311 innings as the Cubs first tried him as a starter. Even as Chicago continued to experiment with him in both roles, Marshall emerged as a far superior relief pitcher. Although he struggled in 2008, allowing four home runs in 26.2 innings, he would calm down in 2009, allowing just three in 39 frames (0.69 HR/9) before bursting onto the scene as a full-time reliever in 2010 and posting the 0.24 HR/9 over two seasons as noted above.

Particularly as a left-handed pitcher in front of Great American Ballpark’s incredibly short porch (having sat in the front row in left field, it’s even shorter than it appears on TV), it is likely too much to expect that he allows just one or two home runs per season as a Red. As such, he won’t be the single best relief pitcher in the league with Cincinnati, but that’s not what the Reds are paying for. He has the ability to be a very effective setup man who can move into the closing role should Ryan Madson depart after the season, and at a cost of just $5 million per season, the Reds are getting a fine deal on that skill set.




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25 Responses to “Reds Lock Up Marshall”

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  1. Nik says:

    Its interesting how some mediocre starters turn into dominant relievers. Marshall and Madson have a lot in common.

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  2. sprot says:

    Strong agree.

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  3. Blue says:

    This makes no sense. Regardless of how good of a reliever he has been, there are tons of relievers out there that will provide more surplus value for the Reds, which is what they need. Drop 1 million on a guy like Lidge and allocate an extra $4 million to whatever you were going to offer Votto. In 2 years time, the Reds won’t have the money for Votto and contracts like this will be the reason. Votto might not accept, and a team with no Votto and no Marshall isn’t great, but a team with no Votto and having Marshall still isn’t a great setup. Jocketty is lost.

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    • Josh says:

      What makes no sense is you believing that the $5 million they are paying to Marshall in the first year of Votto’s future contract is going to hamstring their ability to sign him

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      • Blue says:

        It’s not just $5 million, it’s 16 million. You don’t need to sign Marshall for 3 years to be competitive, without Votto, they aren’t competitive.

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    • Colin P says:

      The money point is a fair one, but you have to balance that with the fact that they have a two year window to win now with Votto. Being in serious contention over the next two years is important not only to maximize what they can get out of the team while he’s there, but also to convince him to stay. Dollars spent on Marshall isn’t a zero-sum for dollars not spent on Votto, and pushing the team deeper into the playoffs might generate more revenue that could be put into a Votto extension.

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      • Blue says:

        It’s not as if replacing Marshall is difficult.

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      • greenfrog says:

        If I’m Jocketty, I set my sights on the WS for the next two years and then retool at 1B. Votto is a great player, but with an extension priced at $180M+, he probably no longer makes sense for the Reds beyond 2013 (unless payroll goes up dramatically in the coming seasons).

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  4. Jim Lahey says:

    Or he is signing the Reds closer for the next 3 years at 5.5 per… 2.5m less than they’re paying madson

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  5. Antonio Bananas says:

    Are there any studies that look at reliever effectiveness as a function of the manager’s ability? My hypothesis is that they are so specialized that when used correctly, they will put up extraordinary numbers. I think of the bullpen as a tool belt. If you need to measure something, get out your tape measure, need to hit a nail, get out your hammer, need to draw a straight line, get out the square, etc. You wouldn’t measure with the hammer. The bullpen is no different. Let’s say in the 7th inning, the first three batters are all right handed and none of them hit righties but they kill lefties. If you bring in a lefty, he looks worse than maybe a smarter manager would make him look. You could even go into more detail like say you have a flame thrower and a junkerballer warming up. The guy on deck is known to hammer high heat, if you are a bad manager and bring in the flame thrower, he gets hit hard.

    Not saying that Marshall is necessarily a guy who has benefited from being used in a way that maximizes his value, just saying that I believe a large reason there is such variance among relievers is how they are used. Plus the relatively small sample size, plus how that small sample size changes the manager’s perception. Like if a guy gets hammered his first few outings, doesn’t having overwhelming stuff, he might get demoted to mop up work for a while even if maybe he’s better than that.

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  6. Shane says:

    We have many examples of reliever multi-year deals that don’t work out. This will likely be another. 2 years does not a career make. He’ll be a loogy before the contract is up.

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    • Schu says:

      Yet another dumb comment. $5M is the price of a single win and he’s been worth 5 wins over the past two seasons. He’s not going to go from most dominant reliever in baseball to LOOGY just because you feel that relievers in the past have been overpaid. What are you basing your opinion on? Surely not his splits, or anything remotely intelligent.

      Fangraphs, love ya, but associating yourselves with ESPN completely destroyed the level of discourse here. There’s more mongos than anything else now.

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      • Josh says:

        $5 million is the price of a win for the entire free agent pool. The price of a win for a reliever is lower

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      • Jonathan says:

        The Reds aren’t a team that should be paying market value for a reliever. As a small market team, they need to get surplus value from numerous positions and it’s relatively easy to find surplus value in relievers.

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    • Shane says:

      I’m not basing his decline on anythin in particular excspt the fact that relievers succes varies from year to year often despite what trends their fangraphs player pages point out. I’m not arguing against his HR/9 or K/BB ratios of the past. I just don’t like 3 year deals for most relievers especially when they are in the thirty year old range. And I don’t need a study to back that up. That study has been done over and over again. so Trollin, NO. By the way 5 million is not the value of a single win, its the price of a win above replacement on the open market. If you had any clue you would figure out how very different the two are as replacement level teams win around 43-47 games a year. I also think that if you look at this deal in a vaccum you are doing it no service. If Sappelt, Wood or Torreyes produce any significant WAR for the Cubs at a discounted price (which Wood may be quite capable of) you have to take that into account, no?

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  7. glenstein says:

    somewhat of a digression, but I get an “ewww” feeling whenever I hear “lock up” in reference to a player getting a contract extension.

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  8. PE says:

    Where is the $/WAR chart? Lazy analysis, you guys.

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