Some security for Muñoz, a possibly immense bargain for Seattle.
Amidst the introductory press conference late last night for reigning AL Cy Young winner and new Seattle Mariners ace Robbie Ray, another move was made public, locking up a young reliever who might help lock down plenty of wins for Ray and the rest of the rotation for many years to come. Seattle agreed to terms with 22 year old RHP Andrés Muñoz on a four-year, $7.5 million deal (thru 2025) that includes team options for 2026, 2027, and 2028. The exact compensation for the team option years has not yet been made public, but Muñoz’s first four years will pay him and average annual value (AAV) of $1.875 million. The deal is an impressive one given Muñoz has just 23.2 MLB innings to his name and appeared in just one game for Seattle in 2021 due to recovery from Tommy John surgery. The context of Muñoz’s talent and service time, however, make it quite possible that Muñoz far outproduces his compensation when all is said and done.
Muñoz turns 23 in January and should come into camp competing for high-leverage work in Seattle’s bullpen alongside Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider, Diego Castillo, Casey Sadler, and Ken Giles. The book on Muñoz, at least as far as we’ve seen, hasn’t changed much since I wrote him up this spring: he’s a well-built career reliever who throws 100 mph on average with an above-average sweeping slider and a general sense of control that could stand to improve.
Seattle acquired the Venezuelan fireballer from the San Diego Padres back in 2020 alongside INF Ty France, OF Taylor Trammell, and C/1B Luis Torrens in return for C/UTIL Austin Nola, RHP Austin Adams, and RHP Dan Altavilla. It’s the trade that keeps on giving for Seattle, as Muñoz has long been viewed as a potential high-leverage/closer type reliever. We got to see a teaser of the fastball in the final game of 2021, which has been up to 103 mph.
The slider unsurprisingly plays well off the heater, though Muñoz typically has located it at least generally in the lower half of the zone to ensure its effectiveness.
So Seattle locked up a rookie-eligible player recovering from injury and looking for some security for up to seven years, he’s talented, not super expensive but gets a near 4x raise over the pre-arbitration rate, end of story? No not quite.
Because Muñoz debuted in 2019 with the Padres and remained on a 40-man roster through all of 2020 and 2021 while on the 60-day IL rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, Muñoz has already accrued over two full years of service time. If he breaks camp with the M’s as his talent and dominant bat-missing results would indicate is merited, he’d be arbitration eligible as soon as 2023. This deal, then, is a pre-arbitration raise for Muñoz in 2022 and probably a moderate raise over his first arbitration salary, assuming health and reasonable production. After 2023, however, the deal begins to tilt heavily towards the Mariners organization in all-likelihood.
If Muñoz reaches his potential as a high-leverage arm, Seattle will not only compensate him at below-market rates for his final two years of theoretical arbitration (assuming the system remains similar in the new CBA) but they will have the ability to enact team options over his first three free agent-eligible seasons. Muñoz will be just 30 when he enters the 2028-29 free agent market, and if (if, if, if, if you’re sensing a theme) he performs to relative potential he could easily get a sizable payday. Moreover, it’s likely we’ll learn the details of the team options, which should have some increased pay, but it’s a solid bet that Seattle is extremely pleased with the results of this deal. The risk is Muñoz faces additional struggles with health and ultimately is unable to reach his consistent high-leverage potential, but the cost is incredibly low even in that worst-case scenario. Seattle has one of their young bullpen arms locked up for the long-term, now they need to fill in the innings in front of him.