Mariners Insider Blog

Mariners still looking for lefty relievers but see potential in Pazos and Fry

The Mariners plan to give just-acquired James Pazos an opportunity to fill their need for a late-inning power lefty reliever.
The Mariners plan to give just-acquired James Pazos an opportunity to fill their need for a late-inning power lefty reliever. AP

While the Mariners intend to keep looking at other possibilities, they believe just-acquired James Pazos and just-promoted Paul Fry each possess the tools to fill their need for a late-inning power lefty reliever.

Both joined the 40-man roster last Friday in a flurry of personnel moves involving 13 players. The Mariners obtained Pazos, 25, in a trade with the New York Yankees and chose to protect Fry, 24, from exposure to the Rule 5 Draft.

Those moves followed a Nov. 4 waiver claim that netted lefty reliever Dean Kiekhefer from St. Louis. But while Kiekhefer, 27, has solid minor-league numbers, he lacks the punchout potential that Pazos and Fry possess.

The Mariners want to break camp next spring with two lefties in a seven-man bullpen, which currently positions the three newcomers in competition with lefty swingman Ariel Miranda and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte.

There are likely to be other candidates before the Mariners open spring camp for pitchers and catchers on Feb. 14 at their year-round complex in Peoria, Ariz.

"We’re always looking," general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "particularly in this case."

All five current candidates offer the flexibility that Dipoto cherishes.

Pazos, Miranda, Kiekhefer and Venditte each have two option years remaining, which means they can be sent to the minors as often as desired in that span without clearing waivers. Fry has three option years.

The Mariners obtained Pazos in a trade for right-hander Zack Littell, an 11th-round pick in 2013 who was 13-6 with a 2.66 ERA as a starting pitcher last season at Lo-A Clinton and Hi-A Bakersfield.

Pazos struggled in a September call-up to the big leagues after compiling a 2.63 ERA in 23 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

What attracted the Mariners is he registered 41 strikeouts in just 27 1/3 minor-league innings and has averaged 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings over his five minor-league seasons.

"He matches up against lefties," Dipoto said. "He has the ability to overpower both sides. We feel like he’s on the doorstep of cutting his teeth at the major-league level."

Fry had 65 strikeouts last season in 55 innings with a 2.78 ERA in 48 games at Triple-A Tacoma. A 17th-round pick in 2013, he has 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings in his four pro seasons.

"He made progress," Dipoto said. "The longer the season went, the better Paul seemed to pitch, and he seemed to acclimate himself to a tough league to pitch in."

Fry posted a 1.08 ERA for the Rainiers in 21 games after July 4.

The numbers suggest Pazos is the better left-on-left candidate — a weapon the Mariners haven’t really possessed since Charlie Furbush’s shoulder miseries surfaced in July 2015.

Pazos limited lefties to a .152/.250./.217 slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Left-handed hitters have never batted higher than .206 against him.

Fry’s slash numbers are more statistically neutral: .242/.340/.297 against lefties and .234/.351/.279 against right-handed hitters.

Those are the positives.

The flip side is Pazos and Fry each struggle on occasion with command.

Pazos had 19 walks last season in his 27 1/3 innings and averaged 4.3 per nine innings in his five pro seasons. Fry was even worse last season: 31 walks in 55 innings, which boosted his career total to 3.7 per nine innings.

Dipoto said the Mariners’ evaluation on Pazos’ strike-throwing skills "suggests that’s not going to be a huge hurdle." Dipoto also cited Fry’s potential and makeup in predicting that "Paul is going to pitch for a long time."

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners