Building the Bullpen: A Chore Mariners GM Dipoto is Doing Right Now

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 11: Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto watches batting practice before a game between the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 11, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Rangers won the game 2-1 in eleven innings. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 11: Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto watches batting practice before a game between the Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on June 11, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Rangers won the game 2-1 in eleven innings. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /

The trades the Seattle Mariners made right after the 2018 season ended included unloading closer Edwin Diaz, Alex Colome, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos. So made the Mariners bullpen much thinner going into the 2019 season.

The Mariners also released reliever Nick Vincent along with Zach Duke and Adam Warren who they picked up just before the trading deadline are both free agents. Neither Duke nor Warren was successful with the Mariners. Duke was brought in as the left-handed specialist however in 27 appearances he an era of 5.52. Warren pitched OK at times for the Mariners making 23 appearances with an era of 3.74. Both pitchers are free agents and neither one has signed with another team.

The Mariners have replaced Duke’s role in the bullpen picking up lefty specialist Zac Rosscup. The lefty is a question mark spending most of 2017 and 2018 on the disabled list. In 2017 he pitched in only 10 games primarily with the Colorado Rockies and 2018 with the Los Angeles Dodgers he appeared in 17 games with an era of 4.76. He could be fine if he stays healthy however I wouldn’t be surprised if Jerry Dipoto is searching around for another lefty specialist. Also, he might have to wait through spring training as well.

The Mariners could look at bringing back Adam Warren if he isn’t signed by another team. Likely a long shot but the closer to spring training less expensive is a pitcher.

On Thursday, January 10 the Mariners signed free agent right-handed pitcher Cory Gearrin to a one-year contract. He has pitched in the major leagues for seven years all in relief. His best season was 2017 when he appeared in 68 games with an era of 1.99.

Cory Gearrin spent the first half of 2018 with the San Francisco Giants then was traded to the Texas Rangers on July 8.  The Rangers traded him to the Oakland A’s on Aug 31. He became a free agent on November 31, 2018.

The Mariners with seven relief pitchers no longer on the roster means they have to replace them. Juan Nicasio was the only one on the disabled list when the season ended. The Mariners likely will be going with eight pitchers in the bullpen when the 2019 season begins; besides newly acquired Cory Gearrin and lefty specialist Zach Rosscup, the Mariners will need to have six other relievers to start the season.

Among the candidates with major league experience are Dan Altavilla, Shawn Armstrong, Chasen Bradford, Roenis Elias, Matt Festa, Nick Rumbelow, Anthony Swarzak, and Sam Tuivailala. As you can see most of them don’t have household names.

Roenis Elias is a lefty the Mariners reacquired last year in May from the Boston Red Sox. He spent most of the time in the bullpen as a long reliever a role he may have again this coming season unless he is the Mariners fifth starter.

Anthony Swarzak is a veteran reliever the Mariners picked up from the New York Mets in the trade for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. With his experience, he could be the Mariners main setup man or the closer. If he has success in 2019 for the Mariners he could be dealt by the trading deadline for prospects.

Sam Tuivailala the Mariners picked up before the trading deadline last year. He is still under club control however he was hurt last August with a strained right Achilles. He had to go through surgery. Depending on rehab he probably won’t be available until at least May. When he is able to pitch likely he will take a rehab assignment right off the bat. Depending on how the bullpen is going at the time of his activation to the roster he could be one of the team’s top relievers.

Dan Altavilla has had a lot of promise for the Mariners over the last three years however spent most of 2018 on the disabled list. If he can stay healthy he could be a candidate for the closing role unless the Mariners acquire a closer. He has the makeup and can throw the fastball up into the high 90s. Altavilla can throw a couple innings as well so he could be in the role Juan Nicasio and Alex Colome was in last year pitching primarily the 8th inning.

Matt Festa another hard-throwing right-hander spent most of last year in Double-A and was named Mariners minor league reliever of the year. He could be in a few different roles if he is able to make the team. I am sure he is groomed to be the Mariners closer of the future but could be a valuable setup man starting 2019.

The Mariners could feel he needs another year in the minor leagues as well and start at Triple A. Even if he does start the season in Tacoma he will make his way into the Mariners’ bullpen at some point.

Shawn Armstrong, Chasen Bradford and Nick Rumbelow each have a chance to make the Mariners team as well. I don’t expect all three making the team out of spring training since they will probably be competing for the same role depending on who else Jerry Dipoto acquires. Armstrong and Bradford each spent time as the first pitcher coming out of the bullpen or when the Mariners needed someone to pitch in extra innings. Nick Rumbelow may be able to do the same though he has the lowest chance to make the roster.

Signing Cory Gearrin to a one-year contract, the Mariners had to designate for assignment of outfielder John Andreoli. He could come back to Seattle on a minor league contract and compete for a spot on the major league roster during spring training.

The Mariners now have a full 40-man roster so signing any free agents or acquiring someone from another team they will have to make additional roster changes. This means guys like Shawn Armstrong, Chasen Bradford, and Nick Rumbelow could be designated for assignment as well.

Next. A Young Starter to Help Jumpstart the Rebuild. dark

One thing we do know Jerry Dipoto will continue to be busy over the next month or longer to acquire more pitching help especially in the bullpen. They could pick up another possible starter as well but less likely.