If the Mariners didn’t have a closer already in Joaquin Benoit, acquired Nov. 12, they have one as of Saturday morning, when they signed free agent reliever Steve Cishek to a two-year deal worth a base salary of $10 million, plus incentives. The agreement was first reported by ESPN.com and not yet announced by the club.
Cishek, 29, was non-tendered by the St. Louis Cardinals, for whom he pitched 23 innings after a July 24 trade from the Miami Marlins, who drafted him in 2007 from Carson-Newman College in Tennessee. He was considered one of the best closers in the National League in 2013-14.
Over parts of six seasons with the Marlins, mostly as a closer when he had 95 saves, Cishek had 2.82 ERA, 9.55 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.42 BB/9.
A bad start in 2015 caused him to lose the closer’s job — 32 IP, 4.50 ERA, 7.88 K/9, 3.94 BB/9 — to A.J. Ramos. In 32 innings, Cishek struggled with his fastball, at a career-low 90.6 mph.
He improved during his time in St. Louis as he finished a deal at $6.6 million. If he regains his earlier form, as general manager Jerry Dipoto must be presuming, he’ll likely close after Benoit pitches the eighth.
Dipoto has completed nine trades, eight signings, and five waiver claims, including two deals that sent away players just acquired, since taking over for the fired Jack Zduriencik.