The Mariners are on the verge of adding another piece to their puzzle of a bullpen.
On the Seattle Times’ Extra Innings Podcast with Ryan Divish and Larry Stone, the former said he expects the Mariners to finalize a deal with right-handed relief pitcher Yoshihisa Hirano. The 35-year-old Hirano has only pitched two seasons in the United States and Major League Baseball, both with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In that time, Hirano has logged 119.1 innings with a 3.85 FIP, averaging a little over a strikeout per inning and 3.39 BB/9. He mainly relies on two pitches, a splitter and four-seam fastball, and rarely ever utilizes his slider. The splitter was by far his best offering last year, limiting opposing hitters to a .239 wOBA and 39.6 whiff percentage.
The Mariners currently have 14 pitchers vying for roughly eight spots, though one could get the axe to make room for Hirano. Austin Adams will likely start the season on the injured list, which opens the door for more opportunity to those on the bubble. Hirano seems to be a safe bet to make it, joining Carl Edwards Jr. and Sam Tuivailala, which leaves five-ish spots left for the likes of Taylor Guilbeau, Matt Magill, Art Warren, and others to fight for in Spring Training.
If Hirano performs to the standard of his previous two seasons, there should be some interest in him on the trade market come this July. Given his age and the likelihood of his impending contract with the Mariners being of the one-year variety, there probably isn’t a question of whether or not he’ll stick.
Plus, at some point, the Mariners are likely to clean out a few spots in their bullpen for the expected arrivals of several of their top relief prospects, such as Sam Delaplane, Joey Gerber, Wyatt Mills, and Aaron Fletcher. Hirano is almost certainly a fill-in for the time being, but should provide value to Seattle over the course of the summer.