Mariners Report Cards: Bullpen
Another year, another good bullpen built by Jerry Dipoto and the Seattle front office. How does the bullpen grade out and who should we expect to step up next season?
The 2023 Mariners didn’t quite have “Los Bomberos” at the back end of games, but Seattle built another strong bullpen unit. While reaching the heights of the 2022 bullpen would have been nearly impossible, the Mariners yet again found improvement internally and from the outside.
Scrap heap additions and high-level talent filled out one of the best units in baseball once again. Let’s take a look at the 2023 Mariners bullpen.
The first and most obvious positive for the Mariners bullpen was Matt Brash. The flamethrowing righthander routinely participated in witchcraft on the mound, which was apparent from the year's opening series when he folded Jose Ramirez like a lawn chair.
He had a rough start to the season mostly caused by bad luck, but ended the season as a true relief ace. I believe Seattle has one of the very best relievers in all of major league baseball in Brash.
Andrés Muñoz was a true relief ace in 2022 but took a tiny step back in 2023. Overall he was a massive positive still, as he was a very good high-leverage reliever. Muñoz seemed to find some solutions to the struggles that plagued him as the season went along, most notably a wicked sinker.
He spent most of the season searching for command of his slider, something he will need to find next season to get back to his 2022 form. Offseason surgery before 2023 definitely hampered his return, and I expect a nice comeback in 2024.
Justin Topa, Gabe Speier, and Tayler Saucedo all turned out to be excellent finds by Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners’ pro scouting department. It is a huge boost to find these players that cost essentially nothing to acquire and turn into legit mid to high-leverage options.
Isaiah Cambell seems like a really nice development story for Seattle moving forward and should see an elevated role in 2024.
I have talked/written about my frustrations with Seattle’s bullpen usage many times already, but I will reiterate once again. I believe the Mariners settled for mediocrity after trading Paul Sewald.
While many people will point to the act of trading Sewald as a mistake, I would argue it is the lack of action following the Sewald deal that was their undoing. Seattle didn’t add any sort of replacement at all via trade unless you count Eduard Bazardo.
They then acquired Dominic Leone and kept him on the roster for the stretch run, even in the midst of complete ineffectiveness. They had options at the minor league level that had much higher ceilings and completely ignored them to stick with veterans like Leone and Thornton (who was mostly good).
I would have liked to see Prelander Berroa or Riley O’Brien late in the season because I simply don’t see how it could have been worse or less exciting than what they ran out there for the last few bullpen spots.
You can check out my video analysis/grade for the bullpen below.
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