Mariners reportedly sign Fernando Rodney

Division Series - Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays - Game FourWhile much of the recent speculation has centered around the Mariners pursuing outfielder Nelson Cruz, word broke today that the club has agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal with free-agent closer Fernando Rodney.

While that report — originally from Grantland’s Jonah Kehri — has been repeated by multiple outlets, the Mariners hadn’t confirmed the news as of Thursday afternoon. But Rodney presumably needs only to pass a physical exam now, which likely would come next week as the team’s pitchers and catchers report to Peoria on Tuesday.

Rodney’s addition would significantly bolster the back end of the Mariners’ bullpen. Rodney, 36, saved 85 games with a 1.91 ERA over the past two seasons with the Rays.

Seattle has two returning relievers – right-handers Danny Farquhar and Tom Wilhelmsen – who combined to save 40 games last season, though both had ERAs over 4.00 for the season. I think both those relievers could still hold significant roles, but Rodney’s arrival adds depth and an experienced closer to a young bullpen.

Wilhelmsen, 30, began last year as the Mariners’ closer after saving 29 games with a 2.50 ERA in 73 appearances in 2012 after taking over from Brandon League in midseason. He got off to an outstanding start again last year, racking up 12 saves and a 0.75 ERA in the first two months before running into control issues and eventually being sent to Triple-A Tacoma. Wilhelmsen finished last year with a 4.12 ERA and 45 strikeouts with 33 walks in 59 innings, after posting 87 strikeouts and 29 walks in 79 1/3 frames in 2012.

Farquhar, 26, replaced Wilhelmsen in the closing role for the final two months and finished with 16 saves, tied for the third most in the Majors behind only Greg Holland of the Royals (19) and Craig Kimbrel of the Braves (18) while in that role from Aug. 3 to the end of the season. While Farquhar’s overall numbers were 0-3 with a 4.20 ERA in 46 appearances, his ERA was 1.69 over his final 29 outings and for the season, his 12.77 strikeouts per nine innings ranked fourth among all AL relievers.

Rodney’s addition would seemingly allow Wilhelmsen and Farquhar to compete for right-handed setup roles along with returnee Yoervis Medina, which would solidify that situation after the trade of Carter Capps to the Marlins for Logan Morrison. Stephen Pryor, another hard-throwing right-hander, isn’t expected back until midseason as he comes off shoulder surgery.

The Mariners have Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge returning as left-handed relievers.

After nine years with the Tigers and Angels, Rodney had a huge breakout year in 2012 with the Rays when he racked up 48 saves with a 0.60 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 74 2/3 innings while earning his first American League All-Star berth, was named the AL Comeback Player of the Year and finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting.

He was less overpowering last year, but still put up 37 saves and a 3.38 ERA with 82 strikeouts in 66 2/3 frames. <p> For his career, the Dominican native has a 3.70 ERA and 172 saves with 551 strikeouts in 571 1/3 innings.  Rodney earned $2.5 million last year with the Rays and was regarded as one of the premier relievers on this year’s free-agent market.

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