Free Agent Target: Mariners could add a high leverage bullpen arm in Matt Moore

With 2 of the biggest named relievers signing not named Josh Hader, the Mariners would be wise to jump in on the free agent market before they miss out.

Milwaukee Brewers v Miami Marlins
Milwaukee Brewers v Miami Marlins / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages
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Coming into this offseason, Josh Hader was far and away the biggest free agent reliever. The next wave of arms included guys like Joe Jimenez, Reynaldo Lopez, Robert Stephenson and Matt Moore. Joe Jimenez resigned with the Braves on a 3-year $26 million-dollar deal. The Braves followed that up with signing Lopez to a 3-year deal worth $26 million and a club option. With those 2 relievers off the board, the options in the free agency pool are dwindling.

With the trade of Sewald at the deadline, they bullpen was probably 1 high leverage arm short to begin with. Though Isaiah Campbell wasn't a high leverage option, he proved to be valuable and with him being traded to Boston for Luis Urias, the Mariners would be smart to jump in on this market before they miss the boat entirely.

How about the Mariners look to sign a veteran lefty in Matt Moore?

We looked at Andrew Chafin and Robert Stephenson already, and I have touched on Matt Moore previously as part of 3 bullpen arms the Mariners should target, but now time is of the essence, and I think the Mariners should get more aggressive in pursuing his services.

Matt Moore has become a really good reliever over the last few years. In 2022 he threw 74 innings out of the bullpen compiling a crazy 1.95 ERA while striking out 10.1 K/9 and a 4.6 BB/9. His ERA was slightly higher in 2023 at 2.56 ERA over 52 2/3 innings but I think he was actually better than his 2022 season. He cut his walk rate almost in half, getting down to 2.6 per 9.

A big reason for the improvement was due to a dramatic change in his curveball as well as increasing the usage in his changeup. His fastball has been hit hard, but his off-speed has been borderline elite. As you can see from above, the shape of the curveball has changed a lot. His whiff rate on that curveball went from 15.7% in 2021 to 32.4% in 2023. His changeup has had a whiff rate of at least 32% for the last 3 years and he only used it 19% of the time. That increased to 31.3% of the time in 2023.

As you can see, Moore is a proven, veteran arm that knows how to adapt to the game to improve. He has shown to be a valuable high-leverage reliever and one that could prove to be very valuable in a relatively young and inexperienced bullpen. He could sort of mentor Brash and Munoz, though he is behind them on the theoretical "depth chart". But could really take guys like Gabe Speier and Taylor Saucedo and Trent Thornton under his wing and sort of push them down a rung or 2 in the pen.

I only expected Moore to get a 1-year deal, being that he will be 35 in the middle of the 2024 season, but after Lopez got a 3-year deal with an option, I wouldn't be surprised if it took a 2-year deal to get Moore. Spotrac estimates a 2-year deal worth $6.8 million, giving him only $3.4 million a year. I think that is pretty light. I think to get Moore, you are going to have to give him a 2-year deal worth around $12 or $13 million. I am okay with this as a Mariners fan. They need a legit high leverage bullpen arm and Moore has proven the ability to get better with age.