SEATTLE -- With pitchers and catchers just one week away from reporting to Spring Training, the Mariners added two more arms to compete for spots in a bullpen that the club has made no secret in hoping to improve. Right-handers Taylor Guerrieri and JT Chargois agreed to Minor League contracts with a big league invite this week, bringing Seattle’s Spring Training roster to 68, which leaves the club two spots left for other possible additions.
If those sound like names featured in prospect handbooks of yesteryear, your memory is not deceiving. Guerrieri, 28, was a first-round Draft pick in 2011 and a highly touted prospect in the Rays’ organization earlier this decade, and Chargois, 30, was a second-rounder selected by the Twins in ’12. Neither quite lived up to their lofty hype, but both have big league experience as recently as 2019 and come in on low-stakes deals.
It’s not the free-agent splash that fans are clamoring for, but these types of additions are precisely in line with what Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has been hinting at for weeks: low-cost, potentially high-ceiling depth additions that can piece together a bullpen that posted an American League-worst 5.92 ERA last season.
“Both guys that have always been intriguing on some level,” Dipoto said. “We just keep on adding as much depth as we can, with the idea that, as in any year, depth is important. But this year, we know it's going to be even more critical.”
Guerrieri finally broke into the Majors in 2018 with the Blue Jays, then played ’19 with the Rangers, compiling a 5.50 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 35 strikeouts, 26 walks and a 91 ERA+ in 36 innings across 29 games between both. He was also with Texas in Summer Camp last year, but he didn’t pitch during the regular season.
The Mariners like his stuff. Guerrieri throws a curveball that opposing hitters batted just .167 and slugged .310 against in 2019. It spins at an average of 2,998 RPM, which ranked in the 97th percentile, and he complements it with a sinker, which wasn’t quite as effective (93.8 mph average, .367 average against) and occasional changeup.
“It's roughly seeing how he does with a second opportunity, should it come to pass,” Dipoto said. “He's always had really good stuff and, you know, that dates back to high school, [which was the] first time I can remember seeing him. He can spin a ball on both a rising fastball and a breaking ball.”
Chargois is looking for a permanent home States-side after pitching in the Japanese Eastern League last season, where he went 0-3 with a 5.81 ERA, a 1.41 WHIP, 19 strikeouts and 14 walks in 26 1/3 innings. He last pitched in the Majors with the Dodgers in 2019, making 21 appearances and posting a 6.33 ERA. He was an effective piece for Los Angeles in ’18. For his entire Minor League career, Chargois has a 2.07 ERA over 161 innings.
“He's always been a strikeout pitcher,” Dipoto said. “He has a really good breaking ball, and I guess the blessing is that that's often led him to missing a lot of bats. And the curse has been that oftentimes, in his younger days, he threw it so often that it probably resulted in less sustainable help.”
The Mariners have seen some success with reclamation projects such as these -- most notably with Austin Adams, who they flipped to the Padres at the Trade Deadline in a deal that brought back 104 mph flamethrower Andres Muñoz and No. 5 prospect Taylor Trammell.
“This is an area with, like JT or Taylor Guerrieri or Drew Steckenrider ... some of the guys that we've added through the course of this offseason who could have real physical stuff and have been good performers and just need an opportunity,” Dipoto said. “That's an area where we've actually done reasonably well over the last handful of years.”