I was gonna write about how much I don’t give a shit about Ichiro returning to the Mariners to start out the 2019 season, but it turns out I don’t even give enough of a shit to finish the thought. So, let’s talk about the new reliever the Mariners signed.
This might be one of the better value signings of the entire Jerry Dipoto era, and that’s saying something, because he’s been dumpster diving more or less since day one! Hunter Strickland’s claim to fame is punching a wall and breaking his pitching hand, which incidentally is what makes this deal so intriguing.
He was having a pretty solid year leading up to the incident; a 2.84 ERA, 13 saves against 4 blown (while tacking on a couple more losses in tie games). That just happened to be his second blown save in his previous three appearances, which was too much for him to bear. After the broken hand, he wasn’t remotely the same, throwing some pretty mediocre numbers over the last month and a half of the season.
Strickland apparently has a bit of a temper on him, which I’m okay with. I generally like it when guys show emotion out on the field; it clearly shows they give a shit about what’s happening in the game (in that sense, drawing them closer to the fans who also live and die with every pitch). While I don’t think he’ll totally turn over a new leaf, you’d think after his 2018, he’d learn not to pick fights with buildings.
2018 was his first year as a closer for the Giants; from 2015-2017, he was just a quality set-up reliever. He doesn’t strike out the world, so don’t expect Edwin Diaz 2.0 or anything, but he’s got a track record of a lot of success in the Major Leagues, and a very small track record of ineptitude after a hand injury. I’m inclined to believe Strickland is closer to what he was from 2015 through the first half of 2018 than he is those final 15 games.
For all that, the Mariners get him on a deal that’s costing them $1.3 million plus incentives. On top of that, he’s under team control for two more arbitration years! So, if everything pans out ahead of schedule, he could still be here when the Mariners are relevant again. Or, if things don’t quite pan out – but he’s still successful – then you figure we can flip him at the deadline for a pretty decent haul. OR, if he stinks, then at least he didn’t cost much and we can go our separate ways after this season.
If only ALL sports deals were so friendly!
I won’t pretend like I have even the foggiest idea of how the Mariners’ bullpen is going to shake out this year, but it stands to reason that Strickland will be a pretty big part of it. Most likely even this team’s closer, if he proves he’s fully recovered, but at the very least somewhere in that 8th inning range.