SEATTLE — If you’ve been waiting, like me, for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto to pull off some sort of deal to replace recently released Marc Rzepczynski as the bullpen’s lefty specialist, then, like me, you probably missed it.
The first part of the deal actually went down in April but wasn’t completed until earlier this week, which proves that our man Jerry, if nothing else, is certainly proactive.
The Mariners reacquired lefty Roenis Elias on April 23 from Boston for a player to be named later — and that player, minor-league outfielder Eric Filia, was named Tuesday as the return piece in the deal.
Elias isn’t the replacement for Rzepczynski. Not directly, anyway. Stay with me a moment.
Bringing back Elias — recall that he was dealt away Dec. 7, 2015 along with reliever Carson Smith in a shuffle that returned pitchers Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro — was viewed in April as the Mariners merely adding inventory.
That’s still not incorrect.
Elias, 29, remains a viable swingman capable of interspersing an occasional spot start with multiple-inning relief outings. He is, at the moment, what amounts to the proverbial replacement-level player.
That’s not a slur. Those players provide glue to a roster over a six-month season. The Mariners’ bullpen is loaded with such players, which is allowing them, so far, to weather injuries to David Phelps, Juan Nicasio, Nick Vincent and Dan Altavilla.
And also weather an ineffective Rzepczynski, who was designated June 1 for assignment after compiling a 9.39 ERA in 18 games.
What now seems clear is the Mariners, from the beginning, hedged their bets on Rzepczynski because they believed James Pazos could do more than simply function as his wingman in lower-leverage situations.
Club officials confirmed earlier this week that, because of Pazos, they see no need to shop for a new loogy (a lefty one-out guy) after jettisoning Rzepczynski. So, no, Zach Britton (or some other marquee lefty) probably isn’t coming here.
Even an effective Pazos doesn’t mean an ever-active Dipoto won’t still acquire a lefty reliever if the market presents an opportunity. But, again for now, the Mariners appear content in handing greater responsibilities to Pazos.
This also means Elias is more than a mop-up guy. He now inherits those lower-leverage roles where, say, the Mariners need a reliever to work multiple innings or counter a lefty-heavy lineup in the middle innings of close games.
As for Pazos, recall that he was another of Dipoto’s under-the-radar acquisitions, arriving in a Nov. 18, 2016 trade from the New York Yankees for minor-league pitcher Zack Littell, who has since moved on to Minnesota.
Pazos, 27, displayed a power arm in rising through the Yankees’ system after his selection in the 13th round of the 2012 MLB Draft but struggled during brief big-league promotions in 2015 and 2016.
The Yankees needed space in overhauling their roster and, much as they did a few months earlier in 2016 with outfielder Ben Gamel, viewed Pazos as a surplus commodity.
Looking at the Yankees’ deep, young roster, it’s hard to argue against their decision, but the Mariners saw ready-now talent in Gamel and Pazos and willingly dealt away low-level prospects who didn’t then require space on the 40-man roster.
Such deals, by the way, work against the Mariners in snap-shot views of their farm system. One reason (not the only one, certainly) they grade out poorly is those assessments seldom reflect any return that benefits the big-league club.
Pazos had a bumpy ride at times last year as a rookie, when he compiled a 3.86 ERA in 59 outings but, tellingly, he also stuck out 65 in 53 2/3 innings. This year, there have been almost no hiccups in registering a 1.54 ERA.
Now, the Mariners are betting he can be their late-inning loogy. Actually, they made that bet a few months ago.