Former Philadelphia Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus has signed as a free agent with the Seattle Mariners.
De Fratus, who was removed from the Phils’ 40-man roster back in October, elected to become a free agent at that time. He has reportedly signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Mariners, which would be a quarter-million dollar raise from the $528,000 which he earned in 2015 with the Phillies.
The righthander who turned 28 years of age just last month was originally an 11th round selection of the Phillies in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft out of Ventura College in his native California.
At first a starter, De Fratus was converted to the bullpen during the 2009 season while with the A-level Lakewood BlueClaws, and has been used almost exclusively in that role ever since.
He rose slowly and incrementally through the farm system, finally making his Major League debut at the tail end of the Phillies’ record-breaking 2011 season. De Fratus made a good impression, allowing just one earned run over four innings across five late-September appearances, including picking up his first win as a big leaguer in the 4-3, 12-inning victory that provided the franchise-record 102nd win of the season for the team.
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He would not return, however, until September of 2012, when he finally became a regular member of the Phillies’ bullpen. He appeared in 13 games down the stretch for that disappointing squad that finished with a .500 record.
In 2013, De Fratus got the call to the big leagues in May, and would remain there for most of the next three seasons. He had a solid first full MLB season with the Phillies in 2013, and an outstanding 2014. Over the two seasons combined, he allowed just 90 hits in 99.1 innings, with a 91/37 K:BB ratio, an ERA of 3.08, and a 1.279 WHIP over 112 appearances.
However, it was this past 2015 season that caused De Fratus to be left unprotected by the club’s new management team. His ERA ballooned to an unacceptable 5.51 mark as he allowed 92 hits across 80 innings. He also allowed nine home runs, more than double any previous season.
With a number of similar options at their disposal, and with De Fratus eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, the Phillies brass decided that he simply was not worth protecting, at least not at his likely contract price.
The Mariners, of course, are hoping that he can rebound to a performance that is closer to those 2013-14 numbers. If he can, then their expenditure of under a million dollars will be inexpensive, and might even win De Fratus a multi-year contract. He will not become a free agent until following the 2018 season.
As for those similar Phillies bullpen options, the club is now protecting more than a dozen potential relief pitchers on the current 40-man roster. Our David Mosemann is examining those options this off-season in a regular series, having already covered two of those in Dalier Hinojosa and Elvis Araujo.