After a day or two of
intense waiting, the Seattle Mariners and left-handed reliever Marc Rzepcznyski have finalized a 2-year, $11 milion deal:
Marc Rzepczynski's deal with #Mariners is for 2 years and $11M. He gets $5.5M each year.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 3, 2016
The Mariners will be the seventh team in Rzepcznyski’s major league career, with his longest stops coming in Toronto (‘10-’11), St. Louis (‘11-’13), and Cleveland (‘13-’15). He’s spent the last two years playing the role of the pinball in MLB’s machine, tossing 82.2 combined innings for four different teams.
At first glance, the move is a bit perplexing. Rzepcznyski should be a reliable piece in the bullpen against left-handed hitters; his changeup was as good as ever and Pitchf/x had his fastball up a couple ticks last year. His value, however, is severely limited by his total inability to get righties out. How bad is it? Here are his numbers from last year:
The 22.6% walk-rate against righties, thankfully, isn’t a trend. His career average sits at 12.8%, so there is hope that he’ll regress to the mean next year, but it’s still a bit discouraging to see.
There’s also the argument that the Mariners could mirror Rzepcznyski’s value– or at least make up a tolerable amount of it–with one or two of the LOOGYs already on the 40-man roster, all of whom are set to make league minimum in 2017. For comparison’s sake, here’s a look at Rzepcznyski and Dean Kiekhefer’s 2016 numbers:
In a vacuum, you probably take Rzepczynski. He’s a pinch better against lefties and his ability to generate swings and misses against righties far exceeds that of Kiekhefer. With context, however, the decision becomes a little less clear. Is the $5.5 million you’re paying Rzepczynski each of the next two years worth whatever slight bump in value he gives you over Kiekhefer/Curtis/Fry/Pazos?
Spending money on the bullpen is fine. Signing a piece that allows for plenty of depth is fine. Spending $11 million of your budget on a piece you don’t necessarily need when your rotation is being held together by Dollar Store-brand scotch tape and silly putty is a little odd.
Perhaps there is still plenty of room in the budget for a starter who hasn’t set up shop at the bottom of the barrel. Perhaps they’ll make a big splash tomorrow. There’s still a lot of offseason ahead of us, but for now, the move is a peculiar one.