SEATTLE -- The Mariners signed reliever Andrés Muñoz to a four-year deal worth at least $7.5 million, the club announced on Wednesday, confirming a report that MLB.com published the night prior.
The deal will buy out all of Muñoz’s arbitration-eligible years, which run through 2025, and there are three years of club options that the Mariners can exercise after. Essentially, it gives the 22-year-old reliever financial security coming off Tommy John surgery but also gives the Mariners flexibility to retain him if he blossoms like they expect him to.
“We're excited to see what he does,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said Wednesday. “It seemed like a very reasonable risk for the potential reward on his upside, and I think it was the right thing to do for Andrés at this stage in his career, where he's been, it was a good move for him to secure that kind of payday for he and his family.”
"First, I would like to thank God and my family for always being there for me," Muñoz said. "To my agents, Hector Gomez and Oscar Suarez, for their constant support. I'm thrilled to be a Mariner. Thankful to Jerry and the front office for giving me the opportunity to be part of this team that has great teammates and coaches. God willing, I will give my all to get the best results for our team."
Muñoz was acquired from the Padres ahead of the 2020 Trade Deadline as one of the key returns in the seven-player deal that also netted Ty France, Taylor Trammell and Luis Torrens. He had undergone surgery that March, which basically indicated that the Mariners were banking on him making a full recovery and returning to the elite form he’d shown before the injury. Muñoz was hitting as high as 104 mph.
“Getting hurt and missing, roughly, the first two years of his Major League career was unfortunate,” Dipoto said. “We're confident in his present health, we love his physical stuff and we've gotten to know Andrés -- and he's a wonderful young guy … a terrific young guy who's very sharp. He has it. He was awesome [recovering] with our people in Peoria, [Ariz.], and we felt confident that he was going to take that next step in achieving his potential.”
The Mexico native worked all the way back to a full recovery last season and made his Mariners debut in the final game of the regular season, throwing a forgettable two outs of a sixth inning in a 7-3 loss to the Angels. But by the point that the right-hander entered the game, it was mostly out of reach.
The Mariners view Muñoz as one of the key cogs to a bullpen that last year was one of the best in the American League, ranking fourth in the Majors with 7.0 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs. And he’s not the only reliever that they are banking on coming back from Tommy John; All-Star Ken Giles, who in February signed a two-year deal with a club option for 2023, is fully healthy and will be a big part of a relief corps that already includes Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider and more.
Muñoz got his first taste of big league action in 2019 with the Padres, compiling a 3.91 ERA over 23 innings with 30 strikeouts, 11 walks and two homers allowed.
“For us, with the deal itself, we bought out the years that would otherwise have been arbitration [years] and we got club options that allowed us to, I guess, go back and grab those two years that were missed [due to injury] and keep Andrés here in Seattle for the foreseeable future, and tap into what we think is extreme upside," Dipoto said. "I mean, there's really no ceiling to what Andrés can be.”