The Marlins now have seven days to trade or release Chen, who is still owed $22 million in 2020.
"This decision was not about money," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said, according to Wells Dusenbury of the Sun-Sentinel. "It was about building our best 40-man roster."
Chen was signed to a five-year, $80-million deal by then-owner Jeffrey Loria in 2016, shortly after he finished a career-best season with the Baltimore Orioles. The contract quickly proved disastrous as the Taiwanese southpaw failed to live up to expectations.
In four seasons with the Marlins, Chen pitched in just 102 games (53 starts) while posting a 5.10 ERA, 4.54 FIP, and 1.33 WHIP with 299 strikeouts and 2.2 WAR. Chen missed most of 2017 with what the team called left arm fatigue, and spent time on the injured list with elbow or arm injuries in each of his first three seasons with Miami.
The 34-year-old pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the Marlins in 2019, where he posted a 6.59 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings.
Miami's financial obligations to Chen will continue after 2020. His contract contained $64.5 million of deferred money without interest, according to Cot's Contracts, with the last payment of $15 million owed to him on June 30, 2022.
Chen's removal provided additional room for the rebuilding Marlins to add several youngsters to their 40-man roster ahead of Wednesday's Rule 5 Draft protection deadline.
Right-hander Sixto Sanchez, the Marlins' top prospect and No. 22 in all of baseball as ranked by MLB Pipeline, was one of four pitchers selected to the 40-man roster. Sanchez, who was part of last winter's return for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, posted a 2.53 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 18 starts for Double-A Jacksonville last season.
Pitchers Edward Cabrera, Humberto Mejia, and Nick Neidert, as well as infielders Jazz Chisholm and Lewin Diaz, were also added to the 40-man roster on Wednesday. The Marlins now have five of their top 12 prospects on their active MLB roster, and all 40 spots are filled.