One of the main storylines of the first half of the Cactus League season has been the attrition rate of the Mariners bullpen. I won't recap it all here because we've already ground well into the rind of this particular fruit. However, recently things have started to improve. Yesterday and today have brought reports that Charlie Furbush's setback may not be as serious as once speculated, and now recently released Justin De Fratus has cleared waivers and been retained on a minor league deal:
De Fratus’ deal includes invite to big-league camp. Not changing uniform numbers.— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) March 18, 2016
Now of course Justin De Fratus was DFA'd for a reason. His velocity was down and he was getting hammered all spring. But this is about depth, and the team has now successfully managed to retain a player while simultaneously opening a spot on the 40-man roster. That's some neat roster maneuvering that allows the team the flexability to bring in players from outside the organization to fill in any gaps that start to form.
As for De Fratus, the team clearly has not given up on the idea that he can be a contributor at some point this season:
M's believe De Fratus' velocity will come back. He just needed more time. But they needed his roster spot to add relief help.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) March 18, 2016
Kate did an excellent job on Monday looking into the variety of ways the Phillies tormented De Fratus last year. Whether his reduced velocity this spring is a byproduct of that or not this is still a player that was a quality reliever as recently as 2014. Still only 28, there is plenty of reason to think De Fratus has more career left in him.
I wouldn't say I think it's likely that De Fratus gets back 3-4 MPH on his fastball, and makes a 2nd half appearance in Seattle as an effective part of the bullpen, but the cost to find out is now next to zero. This is the way to massage and reshape what was seemingly a collapsing pile back into its proper pile-y shape.
Good job, Jerry and company.