I am sure we all have changed our minds several times over who should be in the Mariners bullpen for 2020.
I am sure some of you have thought the Mariners should have a whole new crew of relievers. Last Wednesday, general manager Jerry Dipoto said on Roots Sports, a scout told him every reliever on Arkansas (Mariner farm team) should be in the major leagues at some point.
The Mariners have eleven relievers on their roster and all might compete for a spot next year. This doesn’t include Wade LeBlanc, who was a starter or came in after the opener most of the year. There is a possibility he may return but the Mariners could also release him.
Now, a look at the remaining 11 bullpen relievers.
Austin Adams recently returned from the injured list. He was out almost two months with a right shoulder strain. He has looked good most of the time in the Mariner bullpen, with an ERA of 3.24 and the opposition hitting .170. I like his demeanor and he could compete for the closer role or at least the setup man in the seventh and eighth innings.
Dan Altavilla had another injury-plagued season. If he could stay healthy, he would be a lot of help at the end of the game. Like Adams, he has the stuff to pitch in the seventh and eighth innings along with competing for the closer spot. He throws almost a 100 MPH on his fastball and he has a wicked slider.
Anthony Bass is yet another one who could compete for a high-leverage spot, but will he get the chance? Jerry Dipoto could decide to trade him for a prospect.
Brandon Brennan; Mariners fans didn’t expect much out of him as a rule 5 addition to the team. He did a good job for most of the first half of the season before going on the injured list on June 14. He just returned on September 1 after a rehab assignment with the Tacoma Rainiers. He could be a versatile reliever.
Zac Grotz was signed as a minor league free agent during the off-season. He spent most of the season at AA Arkansas before being recalled on July 31. He made his major league debut on August 2.
He made five appearances for the Mariners before being sent down to the Tacoma Rainiers on August 24. He was recalled on September 1. He has made two appearances so far in September. The Mariners will give him a shot to make the roster next season; however, he could start the season in Tacoma.
Taylor Guilbeau is the Mariner’s left-handed specialist coming out of the bullpen. The Mariners acquired him at the trading deadline from the Washington Nationals. They initially sent him to Tacoma then promoted him on August 15. He will probably be the left-handed specialist unless the Mariners decided to go out and acquire another.
Matt Magill was acquired on July 21 from the Minnesota Twins. He has appeared in 16 games for the Mariners. Recently, the Mariners have tried him as the closer where he has four saves but has blown two as well. The chances are the Mariners will keep either Magill or Austin Adams and not both.
Reggie McClain was promoted from Tacoma on August 2. Before arriving in Seattle he had pitched at Modesto single-A, Arkansas double-A and Tacoma. The Mariners had him as a starter in his previous years in their system.
McClain’s best spot in the bullpen is where he can go at least two innings if not three innings in a game. He does throw the ball hard but I am not sure he is ready for prime time on a regular basis. I could see him starting next season in Tacoma.
Erik Swanson was acquired along with Justus Sheffield for James Paxton the last off-season. The Mariners brought up Swanson initially on April 14. He made several starts for the Mariners with mix reviews.
They sent him back down to Tacoma on May 17 where he stayed until July 16. This time, Swanson has spent most of his time in the bullpen, though he did start as an opener a couple of times. Being a former starter, Swanson could pitch in long relief as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes the Mariners out of spring training.
Sam Tuivailala was acquired last July 27, 2018, from the St. Louis Cardinals. He was hurt in a rundown between third base and home on August 8, tearing his Achilles tendon, landing him on the injured list the rest of last season. Sam didn’t return to active duty for the Mariners until July 15, 2018.
The Mariners are taking it easy with him, so he won’t be overused. He has pitched in 17 games with an ERA of 1.59. Sam Tuivialala is probably the only reliever to be guaranteed a spot in the Mariners’ bullpen next season.
Last but not least is Matt Wisler. The Mariners have used him as the opener eight times in his 20 appearances since acquiring him from the San Diego Padres. He has looked good at times as the opener; however, he hasn’t done well recently.
He has an ERA for the Mariners of 5.03 which isn’t good over the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners do give him a shot next spring training unless Dipoto decides to trade him too.
Jerry Dipoto may go after some free-agent relievers; however, they probably won’t be any at a high price testing the free-agent market. Most likely these relievers will be similar to the ones already on the roster with a possible upside who had a poor season this year or were hurt. Someone they feel can be turned around with some assistance. Probably won’t go after many high priced free agents until they feel can compete for a playoff spot.
The bullpen is always hard to estimate how they will do during the season. Every team has question marks going into spring training about their bullpens. The Mariners have no relievers right now who started the season with them. So you may have to flip a coin to know the eight relievers coming out of spring training. Go M’s.