Mariners boost 'pen, deal for Rangers' closer

December 15th, 2020

SEATTLE -- Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto pulled off his first trade of the winter on Tuesday, acquiring Rangers right-hander as a late-inning relief option for Seattle’s bullpen in exchange for promising 17-year-old prospect José Corniell and a player to be named later.

The 30-year-old Montero served as the Rangers’ closer last season, going 8-for-8 in save opportunities with a 4.08 ERA in 17 2/3 innings over 17 appearances in the pandemic-shortened campaign.

Mariners get: RHP Rafael Montero
Rangers get: RHP José Corniell, player to be named

Regarded as a Top 100 prospect in 2014 after signing as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Montero pitched parts of four seasons with the Mets from 2014-17 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in ’18. He signed as a free agent with Texas in ’19 and had a 2.48 ERA in 29 innings over 22 appearances after being promoted to the Rangers in July that season.

In 97 career outings, including 30 starts with the Mets, Montero owns a 4.93 ERA with 242 strikeouts and 122 walks in 239 innings. He features a fastball that averaged 95.8 mph last year, per Statcast, as well as a hard sinker, changeup and occasional slider.

“Rafael is a solid addition to our ongoing efforts to fortify the bullpen,” Dipoto said in a statement. “We see his outstanding stuff and quality performance since converting to a full-time reliever as impactful in our bullpen.”

In his two seasons since recovering from elbow surgery, Montero is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and 53 strikeouts with 11 walks in 46 2/3 innings.

Montero earned a prorated portion of his $785,000 salary last season with Texas and is entering his second season of arbitration eligibility, meaning he’s under team control for two more seasons before free agency.

Dipoto’s primary goal this offseason is to add experienced late-inning options to his bullpen, and Montero figures to be an immediate help there.

To add Montero, the Mariners are giving up one of their youngest pitching prospects in Corniell, who was ranked as Seattle’s No. 24 prospect by MLB Pipeline and had yet to pitch professionally after signing for a $630,000 bonus as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2019.

With last year’s Minor League seasons canceled due to the pandemic, Corniell’s only experience in the U.S. has been the six-week instructional league in Arizona this fall.