The State of the Mariners Bullpen Heading Into 2020
The Seattle Mariners had a record of 68-94 in 2019 this included getting off to a record of 13-2 record at the beginning of the season. The Mariners bullpen was a major player in their demise.
The Mariners used 34 pitchers out of the bullpen over the season. That tells you just how bad their 2019 bullpen must have been.
Brandon Brennan, a rule 5 draft pick the Mariners picked up last year, was the only arm that began the season in the Mariners bullpen and ended the season as well. As a rookie, he had a more solid season than his ERA of 4.56 shows. The ERA is misleading as most of his runs given up were just before he went on the injured list on June 14. He only returned briefly in August than was activated again on September 1.
Brennan began the season as the first guy coming out of the bullpen usually in the sixth inning. In May, he began to pitch in the seventh and eighth inning. The Mariners are hoping for a healthy season out of Brennan. If so, he will be an important part of the Mariners bullpen.
Last year the Mariners didn’t really need a closer and I am sure it won’t be much different in 2020. When a closer is needed, Matt Magill may be the guy since he ended the season as the closer. The Mariners acquired Magill from the Minnesota Twins on July 21, 2019, for cash.
He pitched in 22 games for the Mariners with a decent 3.63 ERA, almost a full run less than he had in Minnesota. He had five saves after becoming the Mariners primary closer in mid-August.
Yoshihisa Hirano, who the Mariners signed as a free agent recently, will have the opportunity to become the Mariners closer. His two years with the Arizona Diamondbacks he has been used as a setup man though he did have four saves. Depending on how often a closer is needed the Mariners could use both Magill and Hirano.
The Mariners signed Carl Edwards Jr. as a free agent during the off-season. He had three solid seasons in the Chicago Cubs bullpen before 2019. He didn’t have a good year in 2019. But the Mariners are hoping to see the guy who pitched the previous three years. He will most likely be among the relievers to be used in the setup role either seventh or eighth inning but could be used as the closer if the Mariner needs him too.
Erik Swanson, who began his career as a starter was moved to the bullpen in the middle of last season. The Marines are expected to use him coming out of the bullpen in 2020. Swanson could pitch one or two innings a game depending on when they needed him to enter the game. If the Mariners end up using an opener, he could fit in that role as well.
Sam Tuivailala came back to pitch for the Mariners right after the all-star break. Tuivailala had a tough start, but he didn’t give up a run in 10 appearances during August. The Mariners are expecting him to be one of the primary setup pitchers going in the seventh or eighth inning.
The Mariners are expected to carry eight relievers. If Brennan, Magill, Hirano, Edwards Jr., Swanson, and Tuivailala are all on the team, it only leaves two remaining spots to be filled. It will be quite the competition as the Mariners will have at least 15 other relievers in camp competing to begin the season in Seattle.
The Mariners have invited 11 non-roster pitchers to the major league camp. A few of them might be in the Mariner bullpen before 2020 is over or in 2021. Logan Gilbert 2018 first-round pick will be one of them; however, he will be a starter soon.
Sam Delaplane, who pitched at double-A, could be the guy that makes it. Aaron Fletcher who the Mariners acquired at the trading deadline from the Washington Nationals last season is a lefty so he may be here as well. Joey Gerber and Wyatt Mills are in the Mariners top 30 prospects so we may see them as well.
The Mariners bullpen has success than we could see a few traded at the trading deadline or during spring training. Other teams are always looking for bullpen help so the Mariners may be able to add a few more prospects with a trade.
The Mariners add ten or more victories to the 68 wins of last season to this year’s total the bullpen will be a major contributor. This will depend on how well the starting rotation goes and the bullpen isn’t overworked. We hope for the best. Go M’s.