They weren’t the flashiest of moves. But, the Seattle Mariners improved their bullpen today.
Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reports the Mariners agreed to terms with free agent Juan Nicasio pending a physical. Early today, the club acquired right-hander Shawn Armstrong from the Cleveland Indian for international slot money.
After spending most of his career as a starter, Nicasio was a workhorse reliever this year appearing in 76 games — third most in the majors. The 6-foot-4 Dominican is adept at missing bats (9 K/9) and allowed just five home runs in 72.1 innings, while holding opponents to a .216/.277/.333 slash line.
Despite being highly productive for Pittsburgh, the Bucs inexplicably placed Nicasio on irrevocable waivers in August. The 31-year-old appeared in 11 games with the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals in September.
The 27-year-old Armstrong spent parts of the last three seasons with Cleveland and could provide value as a middle-relief arm next season. It’s worth noting he has no minor league options remaining. Therefore, the North Carolina native can’t go to the minor leagues without first clearing waivers.
How Seattle utilizes Nicasio and Armstrong depends on what the roster looks like in February. Before today, the most notable names in the bullpen included Edwin Diaz, David Phelps, Nick Vincent, Marc Rzepczynski, James Pazos, and Dan Altavilla.
Although unlikely, Nicasio’s presence could potentially lead to Phelps joining the starting staff. Both are hard-throwing, high-leverage arms, and capable of going multiple innings — there’s some redundancy there. Adding to the intrigue, general manager Jerry Dipoto has previously stated moving Phelps — who began his career as starter — into the rotation was possible.
Having said that, Phelps to the rotation would be a dubious move. Doing so wouldn’t appreciably bolster the starting staff. At the same time, the bullpen that’s already lost Emilio Pagan would be worse off.
Assuming Phelps remains a reliever, the Mariners’ bullpen is better than yesterday. Nicasio gives manager Scott Servais another versatile option, while Armstrong adds needed depth.
That said; these acquisitions aren’t season changing. In this era of powerhouse bullpens, Seattle’s current relief staff could be be a mid-pack group once again. A club with an enigmatic rotation and postseason aspirations needs more.
Still, it’s only December 13 and too early to fret about the 2018 roster. Today’s deals were merely part of an ongoing process to make the Mariners better. For that reason, it’d be wise to reserve judgment until Opening Day.