Miami Marlins Add Another Fish to the Bullpen

Miami Marlins Bullpen

There’s officially more fish in the sea in South Florida as the Miami Marlins bullpen improved with the recent signing of free-agent hurler Anthony Bass.

First reported by Craig Mish on Twitter, the Marlins upgraded their bullpen by signing the 33-year old journeyman. The deal stretches for two years with a club option for 2023. It also comes with a $5 million price tag guarantee. It’s the longest contract of Bass’s career and only contract reaching beyond one year.

The Journeyman’s Destination

The stop in Miami will be the seventh different stop for Bass. His first taste of the big leagues came in 2008 as he was drafted by the San Diego Padres. After three consecutive one-year deals with the Friars, the Wayne State University product made his way to Houston in 2014. He then stayed in the Lone Star state as a member of the Texas Rangers.

After a two-year run in Japan, Bass returned state side in 2017 and the proceeded to jump from the Rangers to the Chicago Cubs, then the Seattle Mariners, and finally the Toronto Blue Jays where he spent the 2020 season.

The Right Fit 

It may not be the flashiest move, but adding Bass into the pond is a piece of the puzzle the Marlins were looking for. Despite playing on four teams in four years, Bass has positioned himself as a more than solid late inning arm. His first five years in the league didn’t stand out by any means but following his time in Japan, Bass came back a completely new pitcher. First, he dropped from a six-pitch arsenal to a four pitch repertoire that also included a split-finger pitch.

Bass looks to be the heir apparent to Brandon Kintzler who held down the closing duties last season. Although Bass hasn’t held down a definitive closer role so far, he does show similarities to Kintzler and his success. Bass has routinely rested above the league average in ground ball rate including a strong 2020 campaign where he produced a career-high 62.9 percent according to Baseball Savant. Among the over 300 pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched last season, that mark ranked Bass fourth-best. From that, Bass has become exactly what any team, let alone the Marlins, are searching for in a ground ball specialist.

The Secret Is in the Pitch

Kintzler has a well developed sinker which has topped out at 95 mph. Along with the speed that was the devastating movement of arguably his best pitch that produced a whiff rate in the 59th percentile of the league. That pitch really caught on in what was a breakout year in 2020 for Bass. Opposing bats managed just to hit .208 off of his sinker which he used a career-high 54 percent of the time. That’s without mentioning a dominating slider which could also be argued as his best pitch, in 2020 at least. The slider produced a career-best 38 percent strikeout rate and held opposing bats to a .188 batting average.

Overall, it’s his pitch usage as well as his pitch arsenal that has done the trick. He has produced an 11.5 percent swinging-strike rate primarily with breaking and offspeed pitches. In fact, Bass practically abandoned his fastball especially in recent seasons. That pitched dropped from a 36 percent usage in 2018 to just one solitary pitch in 2020. All that was for good reason too as opposing bats teed off against Bass’s fastball to the tune of no less than .322 since the 2013 season. The sinker produced the lowest whiff and chase rates out of any pitch in his arsenal. Expect just as heavy of a dose of breaking and offspeed pitches in the years to come, especially as his fastball velocity has started to decline amid the beating.

Experience Is in the Numbers

Among the many traits of a strong upside, Bass brings valuable experience desired even more in a rather youthful Marlins bullpen. Bass, along with fellow offseason signee Ross Detwiler and already established Miami arms in Yimi Garcia and Richard Bleier are the only relief pitchers with at least 150 MLB innings under their belts. Along with the ability to hold down offenses late in games, the experience factor brings a steady presence that helps to build an all-around bullpen.

Even with the addition of Bass, the table is not officially done for the Marlins. They still have a focus on potential impact arms in the bullpen. That is in addition to a strong outfield presence that has continually been linked to Boston Red Sox player Andrew Benintendi. The offseason may be winding down but there’s still more action to be had out of Miami.

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