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Mariners sign Edwards Jr. as bullpen piece

High-velocity righty is looking to bounce back from tough 2019
December 4, 2019

SEATTLE -- Carl Edwards Jr. has experienced the pinnacle in baseball, helping the Cubs win the World Series in dramatic fashion in 2016. And he has been through the struggles, fighting through a down season in 2019 and getting traded to the Padres before closing out the year on the

SEATTLE -- Carl Edwards Jr. has experienced the pinnacle in baseball, helping the Cubs win the World Series in dramatic fashion in 2016. And he has been through the struggles, fighting through a down season in 2019 and getting traded to the Padres before closing out the year on the injured list and being released earlier this month.

But the slender right-handed reliever with the electric fastball is ready to put all that behind him and get a fresh start with the Mariners next spring after agreeing to a one-year free-agent deal that offers the chance for revival with a rebuilding club that needs bullpen help.

An agreement has been in place since last week, but the contract wasn’t finalized until Wednesday. The deal is for a guaranteed $950,000, according to a source, plus a potential $500,000 in incentives, with $250,000 in performance bonuses for games pitched and another $250,000 for games finished.

Edwards has two more years of arbitration eligibility after next season, so he will be under the Mariners’ team control through 2022.

“Carl has a great arm,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “Big velocity and big spin on his breaking ball in 2017-18. He did a really great job in a leverage position for a playoff team. Obviously, 2019 was not a good season, but he’ll be 28 and still has a lot of those same ingredients that led him to what he did those two seasons.

“Since his MLB debut, he’s among the top 12 pitchers in baseball in strikeout percentages. He’s a pretty interesting bounceback candidate for us. We think he has a lot of good things to offer us.”

Among those things is the chance to be a leader on a young group of relievers the Mariners are accumulating.

“I’m excited,” Edwards said last week after flying home to Columbia, S.C. “It’s a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to being around those young guys and teaching them the ropes. I feel like Seattle will be a great spot for me, just because it is a bunch of young guys.”

“It’s funny,” Edwards continued with a laugh. “They told me yesterday that I’d be a veteran. I just turned 28 and now I’m old."

Dipoto doesn’t expect to make too many more roster moves this winter, but he did plan to beef up the pitching where possible. The club jumped quickly at the opportunity to add interesting bounce-back candidates in Edwards and former A’s starter Kendall Graveman, who signed a similar one-year deal on Nov. 26, as he returns from Tommy John surgery.

Edwards posted a 2.81 ERA with 161 strikeouts in 118 1/3 innings over 131 appearances in 2017 and '18 with the Cubs, but he struggled last year and was swapped to the Padres for lefty Brad Wieck at the July 31 Trade Deadline.

He finished 2019 with an ERA of 8.47 in 17 innings over 22 games, including just two with the Padres before being placed on the injured list with a strained right shoulder in mid-August. He was outrighted to Triple-A and opted for free agency when the Padres moved him off their 40-man roster on Nov. 4.

With the Mariners, Edwards will get a chance to re-establish himself and help a bullpen that has a lot of candidates, but not many established veterans after a near-complete makeover in 2019.

The 6-foot-3, 170-pounder said he tried to refine his delivery last year and got out of sync, but he is eager to reestablish himself as a quality Major League reliever.

“I think it was just one of those years, just a tough year for me,” he said. “I just struggled a good bit. I just couldn’t find it. That happens in this game. The best thing for me now is to just bounce back to where I was.”

Edwards said he had some shoulder fatigue at the end of last season that he attributes to having pitched so many games with the Cubs in 2016-18 and going deep into the postseason several years, but he feels his issues weren’t injury related.

“It was more mechanical,” Edwards said. “I started out the season doing something, then tried to go back and never got comfortable. I always tell people, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ Then I tried to do it to myself. But I learned my lesson. The next objective is to get back right.”

Dipoto also acquired lefty swingman Nestor Cortes Jr. from the Yankees on Nov. 25 in exchange for international slot bonus money, and the Mariners have a number of young relievers returning. But if he does bounce back, Edwards could be a potential closer for Seattle.

That would be an interesting new chapter indeed, should it play out. As Edwards prepared for Thanksgiving with his 4-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son, he acknowledged that the first two outs in the decisive 10th inning of Game 7 of the Cubs' World Series victory over the Indians was a memory to last a lifetime.

“Of course it is,” he said. “But baseball is a funny sport. You never know what’s going to happen. It can happen here in Seattle, and that would be a whole new story.”