Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mariners bolster bullpen with Rzepczynski, Fien

Jerry Dipoto dipped into the free-agent ranks for the first time this offseason on Saturday, as the Mariners finalized contracts with two veteran relievers -- lefty Marc Rzepczynski and right-hander Casey Fien.
Rzepczynski signed a two-year deal, with ESPN reporting the value at $5.5 million per year. Fien agreed to a one-year contract that will pay him $1.1 million if he makes the Major League roster, according to The News Tribune. To make room on the 40-man roster, left-hander Dean Kiekhefer and right-hander Zach Lee were designated for assignment.
Rzepczynski (pronounced "zep-CHIN-ski") fills the Mariners' need for a lefty specialist, one of Dipoto's primary remaining goals in an offseason in which he's already engineered six trades and now added the two free agents.
Fien adds further options to the right side of the bullpen, where the club returns closer Edwin Diaz along with Steve CishekNick VincentDan AltavillaEvan Scribner and Arquimedes Caminero, though Cishek is recovering from surgery to repair a torn hip labrum and might be slowed for the start of Spring Training.
Rzepczynski went 1-0 with a 2.64 ERA in 47 2/3 innings split between Oakland and Washington in 2016, and he solves the biggest issue for a bullpen that lost southpaws Mike Montgomery and Vidal Nuno in trades over the past four months, while Charlie Furbushdeclined a Minor League outright as he recovers from shoulder surgery that will sideline him for the upcoming season.
That leaves an experienced starter as Seattle's primary remaining goal as it prepares for next week's Winter Meetings. The Mariners' contingent will depart Sunday for the four-day gathering from Monday through Thursday in National Harbor, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 6 a.m. PT.
The Mariners already acquired two young left-handed relievers in recent trades, with James Pazos coming from the Yankees and Zac Curtis from the D-backs, but Rzepczynski adds a much-needed experienced arm to that mix.
The eight-year veteran owns a career 3.80 ERA over 419 appearances, including 23 starts in his first two seasons with Toronto. He converted to a relief role in his third year and has since pitched for the Cardinals, Indians, Padres, A's and Nationals.
Rzepczynski opened last season with Oakland and had a 3.00 ERA in 56 games before being traded to the Nats for Minor League infielder Max Shrock. The southpaw posted a 1.54 ERA in 14 regular-season games for the Nationals and a 4.50 ERA in three postseason games.
Rzepczynski has held left-handed hitters to a .222/.291/.298 slash line in 738 plate appearances in his career, compared to .277/.377/.431 against righties. His 394 relief appearances since 2011 are fourth most in the Majors among lefty relievers, and he joins Joe Smith and Mark Melancon as the only pitchers to appear in 70-plus games in five of the past six years.
Fien, who has spent five of his seven Major League seasons with the Twins, carries a career 4.06 ERA and a 1.148 WHIP in 277 innings over 293 appearances. He pitched in 208 games in a three-year span in Minnesota from 2013-15, with a 3.82 ERA and 165 strikeouts against 30 walks, but he struggled last year with a 7.90 ERA in 14 appearances before being claimed off waivers by the Dodgers in May.
Fien, who earned $2.275 million in 2016, posted a 4.21 ERA in 25 outings for the Dodgers, but he gave up eight home runs over 25 2/3 innings, and he was outrighted to Triple-A in early September. At Oklahoma City, he put up a 4.35 ERA in eight outings.
Kiekhefer, 27, was claimed off waivers from St. Louis last month. He pitched in 26 games last year as a rookie, with a 5.32 ERA in 22 innings. Lee, 24, was acquired from the Dodgers last June in a trade for shortstop Chris Taylor, and he went 7-14 with a 6.14 ERA in 27 starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City and Tacoma. He is the 27th-ranked prospect in the Mariners' organization, according to MLBPipeline.com.

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