On Tuesday afternoon, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto estimated that he was “between first and third base” on a deal for a pitcher that he had mentioned on Day 1 of the MLB Winter Meetings. On Wednesday it appears someone hit a double.
The deal has yet to be announced as a physical must be passed before it becomes official, but once it does Dipoto will have added an impact arm to the bullpen with the signing of right-handed reliever Juan Nicasio. The deal is reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale to be for two years and $17 million.
News broke early Wednesday that the Mariners were in competition for Nicasio with the Cardinals, who hoped to bring him back to compete for the closer role in St. Louis. Dipoto had indicated in recent interviews that with the additions made to the rotation late last season – primarily those of Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales and Erasmo Ramirez – and what was available in the market for starting pitching, adding an impact arm in the bullpen was the preferred way to improve the pitching staff.
Nicasio should slide into a setup role alongside David Phelps and Nick Vincent. With Edwin Diaz closing and Mark Rzepczynski and James Pazos filling the lefty roles, that should leave some competition for the final two spots. Minor league options could come into play with Marco Gonzales and Shawn Armstrong, who was acquired earlier Wednesday, needing to pass through waivers in order to be removed from the 25-man roster. Tony Zych, Dan Altavilla, Nick Rumbelow, Mike Morin and Art Warren could all be in that competition.
So Dipoto will leave the Winter Meetings with at least one arm that will be added to the 25-man roster. He could add another as he intends to take a player in the Rule 5 Draft early Thursday morning.
• The Mariners have just over $2 million of international bonus pool money remaining after Wednesday trades for Armstrong and Anthony Misiewicz. For those of you keeping track at home, the Mariners exchanged Thyago Vieira and David Banuelos in recent weeks for $1.5 million worth of slot money to help in their chase for Shohei Ohtani. “The way we were looking at it, we acquired $1.5 million in slot money by trading away a power right-handed reliever and what we thought of as a potential down-the-road catcher,” Dipoto said. “And we just replaced it with Misiewicz, who will go out and start for us in Double-A and we feel has the ability to make it to the big leagues. And we acquired Shawn Armstrong, who gives us that same level of protection as – if not a bit more polish than – Thyago Vieira. You’re not going to strike out many more guys than Shawn Armstrong strikes out at the high levels in the minor leagues.”
• Episode 5 of Dipoto’s “The Wheelhouse” podcast is now up and can be found on Mariners.com and iTunes. He addresses the process of pursuing Shohei Ohtani, the scene at the Winter Meetings, gives a glimpse at what defensive metrics the Mariners pay most attention to and much more.
• Dipoto will be a guest on our first Hot Stove League Show of the offseason, which will come your way from the Mariners Team Store at Bellevue Square Friday evening from 7 to 9 p.m.