The Seattle Mariners’ offseason plan to add bullpen depth has yet to completely vest itself in a slow-developing free-agent market.
But general manager Jerry Dipoto has found other avenues to find relief help. On Tuesday, Dipoto picked up right-handed reliever Rafael Montero — the former closer of the division-rival Texas Rangers, who are relegated into a rebuilding and cost-cutting mode.
In exchange for the hard-throwing righty, the Mariners sent Texas 17-year-old pitching prospect Jose Corniell and a player to be named.
“Rafael is a solid addition to our ongoing efforts to fortify the bullpen,” Dipoto said in a statement. “We see his outstanding stuff and quality performance since converting to a full-time reliever as impactful in our bullpen.”
Montero, 30, made 17 appearances for Texas in the shortened 2020 season, saving eight game while posting an 0-1 record with a 4.08 ERA. In 17.2 innings, he struck out 19 batters and walked six with two homers allowed. His Fielding Independent Pitching — a measure similar to earned-run average without the defensive variables — was 3.70.
After undergoing surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament and missing all of the 2018 season, Montero signed with the Rangers as a free agent in 2019. He made 22 appearances, posting a 2-0 record with a 2.48 ERA. In 29 innings, he struck out 34 batters and walked just five.
Over the past two seasons, his four-seam fastball has averaged 96 mph while his sinker has sat around 94 mph. He also throws a changeup and a slider. His changeup generated swings and misses 29% of the time in 2020 and 39.4% in 2019.
Montero is in his third year of arbitration eligibility and should make around $2 million this season. But unlike many players, Montero has a fourth year of salary arbitration, meaning the Mariners have an additional year of club control for 2022.
Corniell is rated as the No. 22 prospect in the Mariners organization by Baseball America and the No. 24 prospect by MLB Pipeline. Rated as the No. 100 prospect of his international free-agent class, he signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic a year ago for a $630,000 signing bonus. With no minor-league season in 2020, he was invited to participate in the Arizona Instructional League. Per scouting reports, he has a fastball that can touch mid-90s, but sits in the low 90s with a breaking ball and a changeup.