It’s not a done deal yet, but Sean Marshall and the Cincinnati Reds are close to signing a long term extension according to John Fay. Marshall was acquired by the Reds in a trade with the Chicago Cubs for starting pitcher Travis Wood. Marshall is a pending free agent, and I wrote that it was important to keep an eye on Marshall as he was one of the top relievers heading into free agency..
While the exact figures of a deal are unknown, Marshall is likely to be a bargain regardless of what the terms are. As a reliever without “closing experience”, Marshall will not receive the salary of a Jonathan Papelbon despite being one of the best relievers in the game. Dan Mennella suggested that Marshall could be in line for a 15/3 deal, using Scott Downs contract with the Angels as a comparison. However Marshall has been even more effective than Downs, so Marshall could likely ask for an 18/3 deal.
In 2011 Marshall went 6-6 with 5 saves, striking out over a batter an inning while posting an incredibly high 57.5% ground ball rate. This was no fluke, as Marshall’s 1.86 FIP indicated that he might have even been a little unlucky. Armed with a 91 MPH fastball, a slider, cutter, and a curveball, Marshall has taken his game too a whole new level now that he is no longer in the rotation. Unlike most lefties, Marshall has the ability to get hitters out from both sides of the plate. This makes him a devastating weapon late in the game, as the Reds won’t have to pull him simply because a right handed hitter is at the plate.
How good has Marshall been over the past two years? Among relievers with a minimum of 110 innings, Marshall ranks 1st in fWAR among relievers (5 with the next closest being Jonathan Papelbon at 4.2), 16th in strikeouts per 9 innings (10.12) 17th in ERA (tied with Ryan Madson of all people) and first in FIP at 2.07. Those are all fantastic numbers, and it should give the Reds one of the best set up and closing duos in the majors. With Madson and Marshall at the back end of the bullpen, it looks like games in Cincinnati might be over after the 7th inning stretch.
Cincinnati made a fantastic acquisition in Marshall by trading some of the their rotation depth in order to improve their bullpen. While he’s not that well known to the casual fan, Sean Marshall is simply one of the best relievers in the game. Keeping him in Cincinnati for the next few years would be a coup for the Reds, and puts them in a position where they don’t need to extend Madson past 2012. The Reds have made some outstanding moves this offseason, giving them an opportunity to compete with the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals. Extending Marshall would be the icing on the cake.