Obviously, this isn’t the only move the Mariners are going to make this offseason, in general or specifically for a reliever, but as an opening salvo it’s still pretty underwhelming.
Rafael Montero just turned 30 years old. He has two years remaining of club control, earning $2 million in 2021 and whatever he gets in his final Arbitration year in 2022 (inevitably, some figure higher than $2 million). He has 8 career saves at the Major League level, all with the Texas Rangers in 2020 (who we acquired him from, in exchange for a low-level minor leaguer, and a player to be named later (likely a second low-level minor leaguer)). That would make him the Rangers’ closer last year, but of course those Rangers were notoriously terrible, so how good of a closer could he possibly be? He had an ERA just over 4 and a FIP just under 4, so he is what he is.
Montero used to be a starter, then had tons of arm injuries that cost him most of the early part of his prime. The Rangers converted him to a reliever after the Mets gave up on him, and that’s worked about as well as it works for most starters-turned-relievers. Suddenly, a fastball in the low 90’s sits in the mid 90’s and everyone forgets how to hit him for a while.
You know what I see from this guy? Probably the same mediocre stuff with continued arm injury issues (he had tendonitis as recently as July/August of 2020 for Christ’s sake!). If he survives the entirety of the 2021 season without a stint on the IL, I’ll eat my hat. If he sticks around with the Mariners for his final Arbitration year, I’ll eat YOUR hat!
The only good aspect about this trade is that the Mariners probably didn’t give up a whole lot to get him. The odds seem long that whoever we traded to the Rangers ends up biting us in the ass. That guy is a lotto ticket for the Rangers just as Montero is one for the Mariners. The upside being: he settles into a nice 7th or 8th inning set-up role for the eventual closer we end up signing in free agency. I can’t imagine we’re bringing him in to be our immediate closer, as I’m sure even though 2021 isn’t a Playoffs Or Bust type of year, we’ll still want to give this club every opportunity to prove itself and come from out of nowhere to shock the world.
But, as I said up top, there will be more moves to come. This Mariners bullpen will look VASTLY different than it did in 2019 and 2020. It should look, you know, semi-competent.