SEATTLE -- The Mariners added rotation depth on Tuesday, as the club announced a Minor League deal and an invitation to big league camp for veteran left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. A source first told MLB.com about an agreement on Jan. 30.
Chen, 34, was released by the Marlins in November with one year and $22 million still remaining on his original five-year, $80 million pact, so Miami will be on the hook for all of that, minus what he makes on his Minor League deal with Seattle.
The Mariners are believed to still be interested in free agent Taijuan Walker, but other options are limited and time is dwindling with pitchers and catchers due to report on Feb. 12 in Peoria, Ariz.
Chen brings plenty of experience as an eight-year MLB veteran, though he pitched strictly out of the bullpen last year for Miami while trying to rebound from a difficult 2018. The 6-foot, 200-pounder will need to show he’s healthy and ready for a rebound season to compete with rookie Justin Dunn or recent additions Nick Margevicius, Nestor Cortes and Phillips Valdez for the fifth spot.
Dunn, the club’s fifth-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline, has the inside track on that final rotation berth, but Dipoto won’t push him onto the Opening Day roster if he’s not ready. The club also needs rotation depth to deal with the inevitable health and performance issues that arise in a season.
Chen performed very well as a starter for the Orioles from 2012-15, going 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA in 117 starts. But the Taiwan native struggled in his four years in Miami, where he posted a 13-19 record and 5.10 ERA in 102 outings, including 53 starts before being released to open a roster spot to allow protection of the Marlins' pitching prospects.
Elbow issues limited Chen to nine appearances and five starts in 2017. He went 6-12 with a 4.79 ERA in 26 starts in ’18 before moving to the bullpen last season and posting a 6.59 ERA in 45 games.
As an extreme fly ball pitcher, Chen gave up a career-high 2.0 long balls per nine innings (15 in 68 1/3 innings) last year and also had a career-high WHIP of 1.537, though his strikeout rate was the best of his career (8.3 per nine innings) and his fastball velocity ticked up slightly to an average of 91.4 mph in his long-relief role, per Statcast.