BROCK AND SALK

Where does Mariners’ pitching depth stand now? What Dipoto said

Jan 30, 2024, 12:39 PM | Updated: 12:40 pm

Seattle Mariners pitching...

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais makes a pitching change on Sept. 12, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

There’s been a ton of focus on what the Seattle Mariners have done this offseason when it comes to the lineup, but what about where things stand with the team’s pitching, which was their strength in 2023?

Seattle Mariners’ Dipoto: Why longtime trade target Jorge Polanco ‘fits perfectly’

That was a key topic during M’s president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto’s visit with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday.

The Mariners’ big deal this week landed them an everyday player at a position of need in second baseman Jorge Polanco. To do that, the Mariners traded four players, including reliever Justin Topa and swing man Anthony DeSclafani, to Minnesota.

“While we did open up a hole in our bullpen with this last trade, by and large from the starting five to the back-end of our bullpen with (Matt) Brash and ‘Muni’ (Andrés Muñoz) and (Gabe) Speier, I feel like we’re in really good shape across our 13-man pitching staff,” Dipoto said.

State of the bullpen

Topa is the latest example of the Mariners turning a lesser-known pitcher into a leverage reliever.

He had pitched just 18 1/3 MLB innings before joining Seattle ahead of the 2023 season, but he quickly emerged as a key arm for the M’s, pitching 69 innings with a 3.15 ERA and 1.145 WHIP.

Moving Topa to Minnesota comes a few months after the Mariners sent star reliever Paul Sewald to Arizona.

So how is Seattle’s bullpen looking now?

“We’re very confident, like I said, in those three guys that man the back-end,” Dipoto said. “Muni and Brash and Gabe Speier, who very quietly had an awesome year for us last year, we’ve got our pivot man in (Tayler Saucedo). That group, they are both experienced in the back end and they are coming off good years, all four of them. The challenge now exists to find a way of taking that group and matching it up with the guys that give us a little more length.”

Additionally, the Mariners have acquired multiple “big power arms” this offseason, Dipoto said, and have a promising reliever prospect who debuted last season.

“Guys like Carlos Vargas, we have Prelander Berroa in-house, Jackson Kowar. We’ve picked up a couple of guys on small deals through the course of the winter that we’re excited about, and we’ve generally done very well in this area,” Dipoto said. “And somewhere among Vargas and Kowar and Berroa and (Ty) Buttrey and (Joey) Krehbiel, we are going to turn up something of a gem. We’ve always been able to do that, and I’m very confident in our pitching people and in the arm talent that each of those guys brings to the table.”

Starting rotation depth

The Mariners have held onto their top five starting pitchers this offseason, but they have lost depth in the rotation by trading Robbie Ray, Marco Gonzales and now DeSclafani, who was acquired earlier this month from the San Francisco Giants.

“I think while it takes a ding moving (DeSclafani) out the door – he was by far the most experienced of the next group of starters we had after our front five – we still have Austin Voth, who has done a really nice job of bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen, and when given an opportunity to start, he’s actually been quite effective as a major league pitcher. He’s in that mix, probably going to line up as our swing man to start the season as if everybody’s healthy,” Dipoto said. “Similarly, we stretched out Trent Thornton, who has a history as a starter. We’re gonna give him the opportunity to to come in and showcase his ability to provide length.”

Dipoto called it “a real positive” that former first-round pick Emerson Hancock, who made his MLB debut last season but soon after was lost for the season due to injury, is now healthy, and Seattle has other arms who could come up and start if needed.

“We’ve got the reliable strike throwers like a Tyson Miller and a Darren McCaughan, who are lined up to start in Triple-A, and I feel like we’re in pretty good shape there to start the season feeling like your depth chart and the starting rotation is at least 10 deep,” Dipoto said. “You’re going to use nine to 12 guys in a blink … and I feel like there’s a next wave. There’s a couple of younger pitchers who are going to start the season in Double-A who we’re very high on, guys like Reid VanScoter and Jimmy Joyce who we feel like can really help out.”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with Seattle Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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