The Marlins have acquired left-hander Tanner Scott and right-hander Cole Sulser from the Orioles. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported (Twitter links) Scott’s inclusion in the deal, while The Miami Herald’s Craig Mish reported that Sulser had also been dealt with. Feinsand reports that the Orioles will receive prospects Antonio Velez and Kevin Guerreroa player to be named later, and the Marlins’ pick in Competitive Balance Round B of this summer’s amateur draft.
The bullpen was known to be a target area for Miami, and the Fish have now bolstered their relief core with a pair of experienced arms. In Sulser, the Marlins have also found a new closer candidate, as Sulser saved eight games with Baltimore last season. While the Marlins aren’t expected to have a full-time closer, there is a vacancy for the ninth inning, as Dylan Floro is expected to start the season on the injured list.
Sulser is a late bloomer who didn’t make his MLB debut until he was 29, so he is still controlled through the 2025 season even though he only recently celebrated his 32nd birthday. Injuries played a factor in Sulser’s late start, as he underwent two Tommy John surgeries (one in college, and the other in 2015 when he was pitching in Cleveland’s farm system). He finally surfaced in the majors with the Rays in 2019, and then came to Baltimore on a waiver claim at the end of the 2019 season.
After posting a 5.56 ERA over 22 2/3 innings in 2020, Sulser broke out with a 2.70 ERA over 63 1/3 relief innings for Baltimore last season. Though his 8.9% walk rate ranked only in the 40th percentile of all pitchers (as per Statcast), Sulser’s 28.4% strikeout rate was well above average, and fit in the high strikeout totals he has posted during his minor league career.
Scott also hasn’t had much trouble missing bats, but the southpaw’s control issues have resulted in some inconsistent numbers over 156 Major League innings. Scott has an ungainly 13.6% walk rate during his MLB career, which is a big reason why he has posted only a 4.73 ERA with the Orioles despite a 50.1% grounder rate and a 29.4% strikeout rate.
Between those numbers, Scott’s mid-90s fastball, and his three remaining years of arbitration control (Scott is set to earn $1.05MM this season after avoiding arbitration with the O’s), it is easy to see why Scott has drawn his share of trade buzz over the years. As well, Sulser’s name also surfaced in trade rumors earlier this year, as the rebuilding Orioles continue to be open for business on pretty much everyone on the roster.
In fact, the Marlins themselves swung another notable bullpen trade with the O’s back in August 2020, picking up Richard Bléier. Sulser and Bleier will now join Anthony Bass and Anthony Bender as Miami’s top save candidates, with Floro joining the mix when he returns to action. It is quite possible more names might end up emerging as closer possibilities for manager Don Mattingly, or one of those relievers might pitch well enough to firmly establish themselves as the top choice for the ninth inning.
From Baltimore’s perspective, the CBR-B draft pick may be the biggest score of the trade return. The Competitive Balance Rounds are two separate draft rounds that respectively take place after the first round and second round of the draft, with 15 teams (all falling within the bottom 10 of market or revenue size) getting a bonus pick in one of the two rounds . For the 2022 draft, the Marlins were selected into CBR-B and had the first pick of that round. As it so happens, Baltimore will now be picking first in both Competitive Balance Rounds, as the O’s also have the first selection of CBR-A. The Competitive Balance picks are the only draft selections that are allowed to be traded.
Baseball America ranked Guerrero 29th and Velez 34th on their most recent list of the Marlins’ top 40 prospects. Guerrero is a 17-year-old outfielder who was part of the 2020-21 international signing class, and he hit .260/.373/.298 in 159 PA this past summer with the Marlins’ Dominican Summer League squad. BA’s scouting report describes him as something of a work in progress, as his “future will be based around the way his body develops,” given that Guerrero is already 6’3″ but only 165 pounds.
Velez is a Miami native who wasn’t drafted coming out of Florida State, owing to the shortened nature of the 2020 draft. Baseball America credited Velez as having the best changeup and best control of any pitcher in the Marlins’ farm system, which is no small achievement given all of the high-profile young arms in Miami’s minor league ranks. In addition to that quality changeup, Velez’s “low-90s fastball is amplified by vertical break that borders on double-plus.”
While the Orioles continue to bolster their minor league ranks, today’s trade marks yet another move that depletes the MLB roster. Sulser was tentatively set to act as Baltimore’s closer, and since Scott was also in the mix for save chances, it is now an open question as to who will end up getting ninth-inning duties. Paul Fry, jorge lopezand Dillon Tate look like the next men up on the depth chart, though any number of pitchers could be cycled through depending on performance, shifting roles, injuries, and perhaps more trades.