Should the Seattle Mariners replicate the Tampa Bay Rays bullpen?

HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 27: Kendall Graveman of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Astros. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - JULY 27: Kendall Graveman of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Astros. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Austin Barnes scores on a wild pitch thrown by Nick Anderson of the Rays.
ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 27: Austin Barnes of the Dodgers slides in safely past Nick Anderson of the Rays on a wild pitch. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Downsides of operating a closer by committee like the Rays

One of the most evident issues of using a Tampa Bay Rays bullpen system for the Seattle Mariners is the need for a lot of quality relievers. The Mariners can operate a closer by committee at any time, but it will not be nearly as effective without the right pieces. The Rays have done a great job finding affordable bullpen pitchers who all provide a different look. Aaron Loup a left-handed three-quarter release pitcher, Pete Fairbanks touched triple digits over the top, Oliver Drake has a funky over the top motion, and Ryan Thompson throws sidearm.

The Seattle Mariners have a few pieces in the pen right now that offer different looks, but they need to add onto it heavily this offseason. At the moment, the Mariners have a hard-throwing Ramirez, a funky motion pitcher in Joey Gerber, a veteran Kendall Graveman, a curveball specialist Anthony Misiewicz, lefty specialist Aaron Fletcher, and a few others. This already looks a little like the array of Rays bullpen pitchers. The Mariners also have some relief pitchers in the farm system that are almost MLB ready like Wyatt Mills who throws from a low 3/4 delivery from the right side.

The team does need to be careful though because adding the top free-agent relievers cost money, and the Mariners should not sign five of the top free-agent pitchers to create a successful bullpen. Rather the team should look into the analytics and find affordable pitchers that allow us to sign more than five relievers for example. To sum it up, creating a closer by committee is difficult, or just creating a good bullpen as well.

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Another downside of a Rays bullpen system is the blame goes towards the manager, and the manager has a lot more work to do. Because the coaches make the decisions on who pitches when and the blame for failure goes to the coaches. Kevin Cash took the blame for game six of the World Series, bringing in Nick Anderson which was a move based on analytics. Traditionally, the closer always came in the ninth inning and that was it, clean and simple. And if the closer fails, the blame goes towards them. Operating a closer by committee becomes a whole new can of worms and becomes the manager job much more difficult in terms of strategy.

Having a great staff of bullpen pitchers can also lead to the elimination of routine. When the game is tight, closers sometimes have a routine and schedule of when to warm up. Same with setup pitchers, and middle relievers. But when a bullpen operates like the Rays, that all goes away because anyone could come in at any time. This can be difficult for some pitchers who are so routine based.

Another consequence is if the manager is wrong in choosing the highest leverage situation in a game, the best bullpen option will not be available later. This is a little hard to put together, but if Scott Servais decides to bring in Ramirez during the sixth inning in a bases-loaded situation, he will not be available in the ninth inning where it could be a one-run save situation for example. Again there is the hypothetical that if Ramirez did not come in a finish the bases-loaded mess, the ninth inning one-run lead might not have existed, so the argument could go on and on.

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Lastly, closers by committees are a mess for fantasy baseball owners to navigate. We have already seen several teams go to a closer by committee, which reduces the supply of viable closer candidates for fantasy baseball teams. I would not be surprised if more teams operate like the Rays did, because the Seattle Mariners should. That would make official closers for teams a lot more valuable earlier in fantasy drafts if the supply continues to reduce. Another smaller consequence is the closer walk-up introduction would be gone. Safeco Field used to have a special introduction for J.J Putz, Fernando Rodney, and Edwin Diaz. A closer by committee would eliminate the chilling introduction for the closer.

Even with the negative internal and external consequences, the Seattle Mariners should replicate the Rays bullpen because it has proven effective. Again, the Mariners might be competitors in 2021, but the focus is on 2022 and beyond. Closers by committee take time to develop as shown by the Rays, but the Mariners have time to learn and try different things. It already seems like Dipoto is attempting to copy the Rays system so it could look more like it in 2021. The team just needs to add a few free-agent relievers and the Mariners are well on their way.