Mariners make 1-year deal with Strickland official
SEATTLE -- The Mariners don't expect to have a one-man replacement for Edwin Diaz, but their list of candidates to fill the closer role for 2019 got more interesting as right-handed free agent Hunter Strickland agreed to a one-year deal, the club officially announced on Sunday.
The 30-year-old right-hander will earn a salary of about $1.3 million, plus incentives that could nearly double that based on games pitched and games finished, according to sources.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the club designated right-handed pitcher Max Povse for assignment. When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.
Strickland earned $1.55 million last year and has two more years of team control as an arbitration-eligible player, should the Mariners choose to keep him beyond this season.
"Hunter Strickland has the ability and the track record to be an impact reliever in high-leverage situations for the Mariners in 2019," general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement announcing the signing.
Strickland pitched the last five seasons for the Giants, who non-tendered him in November after he posted a 3.97 ERA in 49 appearances, recording 14 saves in 18 opportunities with 37 strikeouts and 21 walks over 45 1/3 innings.
Strickland opened last season as the Giants' closer and owned a 2.01 ERA and 13 saves in 33 games through mid-June, but broke the pinkie finger on his right hand after punching a door following a blown save to the Marlins and spent two months on the disabled list.
After returning in mid-August, he allowed 13 runs (10 earned) over 13 2/3 innings.
Strickland features a four-seam fastball that averaged 95 mph in 2018 and owns a career 2.91 ERA in 253 relief appearances. But he went through some rocky times with the Giants, including a much-publicized incident in 2017 when he hit the Nationals' Bryce Harper in the hip with a fastball, setting off a brawl and six-game suspension.
The Georgia native will get a fresh start now with a Seattle club that traded away Diaz after his 57-save season, as well as setup man Alex Colome, James Pazos and Juan Nicasio, and released Nick Vincent and David Phelps.
The Mariners recently signed veteran Cory Gearrin to a similar one-year deal, and he joins right-hander Anthony Swarzak, who was acquired from the Mets, along with returner Shawn Armstrong as potential closing candidates.
Strickland has the most closing experience of that group, but manager Scott Servais said Thursday he could go with match-up situations and use different pitchers in that role, depending on how things play out.
"There may not be a set closer on a particular night," Servais said. "You look at the lineup and different pockets in the lineup. Our hottest reliever may come in the game in the eighth inning because we're playing the Astros and we're at the top of the lineup and that's the pocket where they can impact the game the most. You try to match up. It will frustrate some people, but there's a method to the madness."
Two relievers won't be ready for the start of camp, with Sam Tuivailala not expected back until sometime in June as he recovers from Achilles tendon surgery.
Swarzak, a 32-year-old acquired from the Mets as part of the Diaz/Robinson Cano deal, is still recovering from some tenderness in his right shoulder and isn't likely to be ready when pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 11.
"He has thrown this offseason and progressed to a mound," Dipoto said. "But we're slowing him down. The likelihood of him being ready to go first day of Spring Training is not great. We believe he'll be ready for Opening Day, but that remains to be seen."
Cowart claimed by Tigers
Utility infielder Kaleb Cowart, a versatile athlete the Mariners had hoped to give a shot as a right-handed reliever as well, was claimed off waivers on Thursday by the Tigers.
The 26-year-old was designated for assignment on Monday to clear a 40-man roster spot following the acquisition of second baseman Shed Long from the Yankees. Seattle had claimed Cowart off waivers from the Angels on Dec. 10. The 2010 first-round Draft pick hit .134 with one homer and 10 RBIs in 112 at-bats for the Angels last year, and .287 with six homers and 45 RBIs at Triple-A Salt Lake.
Edgar celebration weekend planned
Mariners fans will have a chance to celebrate Edgar Martinez's induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during the Aug. 9-11 weekend series against the Rays at T-Mobile Park.
Martinez will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 21, and that ceremony will be carried live on the big screen at T-Mobile starting at 10:30 a.m. PT, prior to that afternoon's 1:10 p.m. game against the Angels.
• Buy tickets to Edgar's HOF celebration
Martinez will then be honored at T-Mobile during the August series against Tampa Bay. The first 40,000 fans at the Aug. 9 series opener will receive a bobblehead featuring Martinez holding a replica of his Hall of Fame plaque.
The following night, Martinez will be feted in a pregame ceremony starting at 6:30 p.m. PT, with 40,000 fans receiving a replica of the Hall of Fame plaque. For the Aug. 11 series finale, the first 40,000 fans will receive an Edgar Martinez Drive South replica street sign like the ones on the street to the south of the ballpark that was named in his honor in 2005.