The deal is yet to be finalized pending a physical next week. Nicasio pitched in 76 games and posted a 2.61 ERA.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Middle relievers are the cool kids on baseball’s free agent market this year, being coveted by all teams, and the Mariners on Wednesday joined in that wave of popularity by reaching an agreement to add a power arm to the back of their bullpen.
Multiple sources have confirmed that the Mariners have reached an agreement with right-handed reliever Juan Nicasio on a 2-year contract pending a physical. Nicasio, who resides in the Dominican Republic, will fly take the physical in Seattle early next week. The deal will then be finalized and announced.
Multiple reports said that he’ll make $17 million over the two seasons. The average annual value of $8.5 million per season puts Nicasio in the same range as other free agent middle relievers that have agreed to contracts in the last seven days.
- Pat Neshek — 2 years, $16.25 million with the Phillies.
- Tommy Hunter — 2 years, $18 million with the Phillies.
- Anthony Swarzak — 2 years, $14 million with the Mets.
- Jake McGee — 3 years, $27 million with the Rockies.
- Bryan Shaw — 3 years, $27 million with the Rockies.
- Luke Gregerson — 2 years, $11 million with the Cardinals.
Nicasio, 31, was a starting pitcher with the Rockies for much of his career, but was converted to a reliever by the Dodgers in 2015 and found success in Pittsburgh with a breakout season in 2017. He led the league in appearances, pitching in 76 combined games between the Pirates, Phillies and Cardinals and posting a 2.61 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings pitched and six saves. Nicasio was so effective that he took over as the Cardinals’ closer at the end of the season as the team fought for a postseason berth.
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The Mariners are expected to carry eight relievers again this season. Here’s a potential look at how it could set up:
- Right-handers: Edwin Diaz, Juan Nicasio, David Phelps, Nick Vincent, Tony Zych, Shawn Armstrong.
- Left-handers: Marc Rzepczynski, James Pazos
Nicasio has a fastball that sits from 94-98 mph with a nasty slider that he throws around 88-90 mph. Because of his past life as a starter and later spot starter and swing reliever, he’s capable of pitching multiple innings and carry the velocity. But with his recent experience in high leverage situations, he can also fill in at closer on days when Edwin Diaz needs a day off.
How did Nicasio come to pitch for three teams in one season despite being so effective?
Like teams do with many veterans, the Pirates placed Nicasio on revocable trade waivers after the July 31 trade deadline. At the time, Nicasio had a 2.85 ERA in 65 appearances. According to what Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a playoff caliber team claimed Nicasio with the purpose of acquiring him or blocking him from being claimed by another team. Most people baseball believe that team was the Cardinals.
Not wanting to help a division rival, Huntington pulled Nicasio back off waivers and then later placed him on outright waivers, which are irrevocable. Unlike trade waiver claims where the order is prioritized by worst winning percentage of the players’ league (NL( and then followed by a similar order of the opposing league (AL), outright waivers don’t prioritize one league over the other.
“We chose to take the chance to see if by placing Juan on outright waivers he would end up with a different playoff contender, preferably one in the American League,” Huntington told the Gazette.
Instead, the Phillies claimed him off waivers, pitched him in two games and then traded him to the Cardinals for a minor league outfielder. St. Louis tried to sign Nicasio to a new deal while he was still with the team. It never came to fruition, but they were competing with the Mariners on the free agent market to sign Nicasio.