The Cincinnati Reds looked like they had swung a steal of a deal when they acquired Sean Marshall in 2012 and signed him to a three-year, $16.5 million extension through 2015. Marshall delivered the goods in 2012 by posting a 2.51 ERA and striking out 71 in 73 appearances.
Then the bottom fell out for Marshall — or rather his shoulder went bum.
The Reds have paid $10 million to Marshall over the past two seasons, and all the Reds have to show for that money is just over 24 innings with an ERA over 5.00. The sweeping curveball that was the lefty’s staple is now a distant memory in Reds Country, and the return of Marshall at all for the final year of his contract in 2015 remains problematic after mid-season shoulder surgery.
Marshall will make $6.5 million next year. It’s an amount the Reds will be forced to pay if he recovers well enough to pitch at all next year. Slotting that kind of money for Marshall will significantly limit the Reds’ offseason ability to add more payroll via trade. The likelihood that the Reds could even trade Marshall for a bucket of balls at this point is virtually nil, but if Marshall does recover well enough into the 2015 season, the Reds may have a chip then, albeit more likely than not a minor one.
Marshall’s bust is emblematic of the Reds’ blown bullpen strategy. Signing a chronically injured Marshall, paying an eighth-inning reliever closer money in Jonathan Broxton and overpaying for mediocrity in Sam LeCure, Manny Parra and Logan Ondrusek has restricted the Reds from making in-season moves that could’ve bolstered the offense.
Until the Reds fix their bullpen and lower the payroll, they will continue to suffer the consequences.