Seattle Mariners

Mariners reach agreement on two-year deal with veteran reliever Steve Cishek

After going to St. Louis in a July trade, Steve Cishek had a 2.31 ERA in 27 appearances as a set-up reliever. Sources say the Mariners have reached a two-year deal with Cishek.
After going to St. Louis in a July trade, Steve Cishek had a 2.31 ERA in 27 appearances as a set-up reliever. Sources say the Mariners have reached a two-year deal with Cishek. The Associated Press

The final major piece in the Mariners’ off-season roster overhaul appears ready to drop into place.

Sources say the club reached a two-year agreement with veteran reliever Steve Cishek for $10 million, pending completion of a physical examination. An official announcement could come as early as Monday.

Cishek will get $4 million in 2016 and $6 million in 2017. The deal also includes $3.5 million in performance bonuses each year based on games finished.

General manager Jerry Dipoto previously indicated that the club was close to signing a free agent who would be a candidate to serve as the bullpen’s closer.

“There’s a very good likelihood,” he said, “that we will add at least one major-league free agent and address that sooner rather than later.”

Cishek, 29, fits that description. He was a lockdown closer at Miami for two-plus years from 2012-14, registering 88 saves in 95 chances (a 92.6 percent success rate) while compiling a 2.72 ERA in 204 games.

Signing Cishek will require a corresponding space-clearing move on the Mariners’ 40-man roster and, as Dipoto previously indicated, complete a huge roster shake-up.

The Mariners, with this move, will have added or deleted 43 players — some involved in multiple transactions — from their 40-man roster in Dipoto’s 11 weeks since becoming general manager.

“We knew what we wanted to accomplish,” he said. “We laid a plan in place, and then we got after it.”

For the final piece, Dipoto sought a short reliever with previous success as a closer to compete with another incoming veteran, Joaquin Benoit, for duty at the back of the bullpen.

“We know Benoit can handle the ninth inning,” Dipoto said. “He’s also dynamic in the eighth inning. To have that flexibility is a good thing. If it happens that we find a ninth-inning option that suits us, we’ll go that route.

“It’s valuable (to have a closer with experience). Having been at this long enough, and having been asked to do it (be a closer) on a part-time basis in my long-ago past, the experience of doing it matters.”

Cishek, a 6-foot-6 right-hander, is 17-20 with a 2.82 ERA in 311 games over six big-league seasons. He has 95 saves in 110 opportunities, an 86.4 percent success rate.

Traded last July from Miami to St. Louis, Cishek became a free agent when the Cardinals chose not to tender him a contract prior to the Dec. 2 deadline.

He would have been eligible for arbitration after making $6.65 million.

As a nontendered free agent, Cishek fit the Mariners’ new buy-low philosophy of acquiring players who are coming off a disappointing season in hopes of catching them on the rebound.

A year ago, Cishek blew four of his first seven save opportunities at Miami. He not only lost his job as closer but, with a 6.98 ERA in 19 games, he was demoted on June 1 to the minors to work on his mechanics.

The Marlins recalled Cishek on June 12, and he returned to form — allowing one earned run in 12 2/3 innings over 13 games before a July 24 trade sent him to St. Louis for pitcher Kyle Barraclough.

Cishek had a 2.31 ERA in 27 appearances for the Cardinals as a set-up reliever. In all, he had a 1.75 ERA over his last 40 games, which lowered his season mark to 3.58.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

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