The Mariners added three relief pitchers during the MLB winter meetings on Wednesday.
The headliner would be right-handed free agent Juan Nicasio. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that Nicasio signed to a two-year contract, pending a physical. Multiple reports have the deal being worth $17 million.
The Mariners haven’t confirmed the deal.
It came just hours after they completed a trade with the Cleveland Indians for right-hander Shawn Armstrong, and they also acquired minor-league left-hander Anthony Misiewicz from the Tampa Bay Rays, with the Mariners dumping international slot money in both deals.
This international slot money became more expendable when the Mariners lost on the sweepstakes for Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani to their division rival, the Los Angeles Angels, last week.
But Nicaisio checks off what Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto had signaled as the club’s greatest remaining need — an “impact” pitcher out of the bullpen. And he said chasing another starting pitcher was contingent on that.
“If we can’t find impact in our bullpen, we will refocus on the starting rotation,” Dipoto said earlier this week. “We want to find the most impactful way to make our 12- or 13-man staff better.”
Nicasio, 31, was tied for most appearances by a reliever in the National League this past season (76 games). And he was tied with the Brewers’ Corey Knebel for fifth-most appearances in the major leagues.
Nicaisio spent last season with the Pirates, Phillies and Cardinals, putting up an aggregate 2.61 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings.
In 269 career games, Nicasio is 37-37 with a 4.55 ERA and seven saves. He has made 82 starts and 187 relief appearances.
Armstrong, 27, split this past season between the Indians and Triple-A Columbus.
In 21 big-league relief appearances (21 2/3 innings), he had a 4.38 ERA with 20 strikeouts and in 28 Triple-A appearances (29 1/3 innings) Armstrong had 19 saves, a 3.07 ERA and 36 strikeouts. He bounced between Cleveland and Columbus nine times last season.
The problem with Armstrong is he’s out of options.
“With the international signing slots, it’s kind of no-risk trades,” Dipoto said. “Shawn will get the opportunity to make our club coming out of spring training, or we’ll see where the chips fall at the end.
“It gives us an asset we didn’t have before. With Shawn Armstrong, Dan Altavilla, Tony Zych, Nick Rumbelow, James Pazos — we got a collection of five or six arms that either have dymanic stuff or dynamic performance. If we get enough of them in the right position, one of them is going to collect.”
Armstrong was Cleveland’s 18th-round selection in 2011 out of East Carolina University and made his big-league debut in 2015.
Dipoto was enticed by Armstrong’s Triple-A success. He has 192 strikeouts in 133 Triple-A innings.
“You aren’t going to strike out a lot more than Shawn Armstrong strikes out,” Dipoto said.
And this came after the Mariners picked up Misiewicz, who made 28 starts between High-A Modesto, Double-A Arkansas and Double-A Montgomery in 2017. He rejoins the Mariners after they sent him and infielder Luis Rengifo to Tampa Bay for right-hander Ryan Garton and catcher Mike Marjama.
It’s been a busy winter meetings for the Mariners. On Monday, they claimed outfielder Cameron Perkins off waivers from the Phillies.
With Nicasio, the major league roster would be at at 39 players heading into Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.
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