In an offseason that will be filled with rumors about the Mariners acquiring a bat, there is an underrated need for a legit high-leverage reliever. In a move that was highly debatable among Mariners fans, the Mariners traded Paul Sewald at the deadline. The bullpen was possibly gassed down the stretch and there was a need for another high-leverage arm to join Matt Brash and Andres Munoz.
While the bats on the free agent market are pretty thin, the arms, mainly bullpen arms, are pretty solid. There are some big names like Josh Hader, Craig Kimbrel, and Aroldis Chapman, but I have no expectation that the Mariners will be in on any of these guys. Hopefully they target some more underrated bullpen arms that could give them some real value at a way better price tag.
The Mariners will no doubt sign, trade, or claim a few guys who could be serious contributors as they always do. Guys that are often overlooked or forgotten. But adding some certainty in a high-leverage arm should be a serious priority after losing Sewald and not adding anyone. Right now your high-leverage arms are Munoz and Brash and to a lesser extent Justin Topa.
The other pieces of your bullpen in no particular order include Gabe Speier, Trent Thornton, Isaiah Campbell, and Taylor Saucedo. Penn Murfee was big in 2022 but has dealt with injuries all year and is a serious DFA candidate. Then there are the uncertainties surrounding Prelander Berroa, Ty Adcock, Riley O'Brien, etc. Do you get my point? There is some uncertainty at the back end, so why not add another strong piece to the team?
That high-leverage arm that Seattle should look at is Reynaldo Lopez. Lopez had a pretty interesting 2023. After being a part of a very dysfunctional White Sox franchise, he went to a pretty close equal in the dysfunction department, the Angels, at the trade deadline. After the Angels played absolutely terribly, he was part of a group of guys the Angels waived to try and save some money, and then he spent the last few weeks with the Guardians after they claimed a couple of those players.
In 2023, Reynaldo Lopez was actually a very good reliever. Across 68 appearances, he threw 66 innings, with a 3.27 ERA, running some very impressive strikeout (11.3 K/9) and walk (4.6 BB/9) numbers. He was worth .7 wins according to fWAR. If you look at his baseball savant page, it's pretty interesting as well. He possesses 96th percentile velocity, 90% percentile K% while relying on a very good fastball that he throws 64% of the time and a slider that he throws 29% of the time.
Adding Lopez to an already solid bullpen really gives it some certainty. Lopez would give you 3 high-leverage arms with serious strikeout ability, while Topa and Speier get pushed down the rung 1 spot to put them in the mid-leverage spots, where they should probably be. You can never have too much pitching and bullpens become seriously valuable down the stretch. Plus, he trained at Driveline in Seattle, WA before his impressive 2023 season, which is neat to see him in the area.
What would it take to sign Lopez? Well, Spotrac has his estimated market value at $6.2 million per year. With him being 30 when the year starts, he will probably get a 2-3 year deal. They estimate a 3-year deal for just under $19 million. I could see this being pretty accurate. Jose Alvarado got 3 years and $22 million as a 27-year-old and Carlos Estevez got 2 years and $13.5 million as a 30-year-old. Somewhere in this range is what I expect, and I think that is totally fair. I would love a 2-year deal for $12-$14 million and wouldn't be afraid of a 3rd year for $15-$20 million.