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Mariners reach a new (contract with reliever Mark) Lowe

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An old friend returns to try and rekindle the magic (again).

Seattle Mariners Photo Day
Yes, the third time is the charm.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Mariners pitching staff has been under a bit of duress lately. Damp-armed Drew Smyly and a slow-healing strain for Shae Simmons have added to the absence of Steve Cishek and Tony Zych. While Zych has looked close to ready in minor league rehab work, the M’s understandably reached out to nab a familiar face today to boost the bullpen.

Mark Lowe has had ups and downs, to say the least. By fWAR, he’s been worth 1.9 WAR as a Mariner, over five separate seasons. He’s been worth -0.7 in four and a half seasons anywhere else. Lowe was most recently a Mariner in 2015, as one of the lone bright spots in that disastrous season. His 1.00 ERA and 1.88 FIP as a Mariner in 36 innings, alongside a shiny 11.75 K/9, made him a trade deadline sale piece. The M’s were able to net a couple pitching prospects then, but Lowe’s fortune has faded. With the Tigers last year he was ineffective, to say the least, with a 5.66 FIP (and 4.76 xFIP) that only looks good when set next to his 7.11 ERA. His K/9 dropped to 8.94 and his BB/9 dropped from 1.96 in 2015 to 3.83. At the center of all of that, his velocity fell off significantly.

Brooks Baseball

You want the black line to be high, and the blue line to low if it’s going to exist. Lowe is 33 years old, which is less of an issue for a reliever, but still older for a player to regain velocity. Lowe had a similar drop from 2012-2014, and only regained the high 90s dominance he had with Seattle two years ago, and perhaps his third time home will be successful again. Fortunately for the M’s, it looks to be a low-risk acquisition.

Since Lowe was signed for a two year, $11 million deal last season, Detroit is on the hook for $5.5 million no matter what. Lowe will join Casey Fien, Jean Machi, and Nick Hagadone as veteran relievers looking to make the team this spring. If signed to a minor league deal, Lowe will be on the outside looking in, along with Machi and Hagadone, as Fien is the only one currently on the 40-man roster.