In addition to confirming the signing of left-hander Marc Rzepczynski, the Mariners have inked right-hander Casey Fien to a major league contract, per a team announcement. To make room for those bullpen additions, Seattle has designated southpaw Dean Kiekhefer and righty Zach Lee for assignment.
Fien became eligible for free agency shortly after the Dodgers outrighted him off their 40-man roster in mid-September. In a combined 39 1/3 innings with them and the Twins last season, Fien recorded a 5.49 ERA, 8.01 K/9, 2.29 BB/9 and 33.9 percent ground-ball rate. Fien was much more successful at preventing runs over the previous four years, as he logged a 3.54 ERA, 7.93 K/9, 1.57 BB/9 and 33.6 grounder rate in 223 2/3 frames with the Twins from 2012-15. Home runs weren’t a serious problem then for Fien, but the 33-year-old allowed 13 this past season en route to a bloated ERA.
Fien has a minor league option remaining, but if he earns a place on the Mariners’ roster, he’ll make $1.1MM, according to Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune (Twitter link). He’ll vie to join a relief group that, at least for now, also includes righty setup men in the injured Steve Cishek, Nick Vincent, Evan Scribner, Dan Altavilla and Arquimedes Caminero.
Kiekhefer originally joined the Mariners less than a month ago as a waiver claim from the Cardinals. A 38th-round pick in the 2010 draft, Kiekhefer cracked the major leagues for the first time in 2016 and registered a 5.32 ERA, 5.73 K/9, 2.86 BB/9 and 47.3 percent ground-ball mark in 22 innings with St. Louis.
Lee, a former high-end prospect with the Dodgers, became a Mariner when they acquired him for infielder Chris Taylor last June. The 25-year-old Lee, who went in the first round of the 2010 draft, debuted in the big leagues with 4 2/3 frames as a member of the Dodgers in 2015. He spent last season at the Triple-A level and combined for 148 innings – 74 1/3 of which came with the Mariners’ affiliate in Tacoma. Lee struggled to a 7.39 ERA with the Rainiers, though his strikeout and walk rates per nine (6.05 and 2.91) weren’t nearly as ugly.