The Seattle Mariners are unlikely to make any major moves this winter, but they still have some work to do for their 2020 roster. And if reports from Japan are accurate, they are about to check a need off their list.
In the Japanese publication, Sponichi Annex, a report came out indicating the Mariners were pursuing 35-year-old relief pitcher Yoshihisa Hirano. The article, which you can see by clicking here, doesn’t translate easily but does seem to indicate the Mariners are leaders for the services of Mr. Hirano.
Hirano, who spent 11 seasons pitching for the Orix Buffaloes of the NPL, spent his first 2 seasons stateside with the Arizona Diamondbacks and produced respectable numbers in his first go around. As a “rookie” in 2018, Hirano posted a 2.44 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, and 59 strikeouts in 66.1 innings.
Last year wasn’t as kind as Hirano posted a 4.75 ERA, though his 4.04 FIP and 10.36 K/9 suggest he was better than the raw numbers suggest. Hirano doesn’t have pinpoint control, but profiles as a solid 7th inning or later option.
He features a fastball that sits in the low 90’s and touches 94 with a wicked split-fingered fastball that falls off a table at 84 MPH. Hirano throws so few sliders that it barely registers on as an option.
If Hirano is signed, he will likely slot into a setup man role, though he could be given an opportunity to close. If there was an open competition, he would likely compete with Carl Edwards Jr. for the job.
Hirano could be a classic mid-season flip option, similar to what the Mariners did with Hunter Strickland in 2019. If the Mariners can help Hirano get back to his 2018 level of run prevention while maintaining his strikeout spike of 2019, they should receive a useful asset in July.
But if he were to sign, he would provide some veteran presence and experience to the backend of the Mariners bullpen, which can be valuable with a bullpen that could be amongst the most inexperienced in the game.
Nothing is official yet, but Hirano is a nice target for Jerry Dipoto. He is exactly what the type of arm Seattle should be targeting right now and could be a nice fit with Seattle, at least for the first half of 2020.