Juan Ramon Nicasio
Height: 6'4" Weight: 255
Bats/Throws: Right / Right
Born: 08/31/1986 in San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic
Family: Daughters Nicoles and Shane, son Juan
Acquired: Signed as a free agent (12/19/2017)
MLB Debut: 05/28/2011
Free Agent after: 2019 season
Signed to bolster a bullpen that was just average in 2017 and that had lost some oomph with the departure of Emilio Pagan, Nicasio brings a nice skillset and an eventful history to the Seattle relief corps. A converted starter, the Dominican righty showed real promise when he debuted with the Rockies in 2011. Later that year, though, he was hit in the temple by a line drive off the bat of Ian Desmond (poetically, now a Rockie) and fell to the ground, breaking his C-1 vertebrae. Emergency surgery repaired his neck with pins and a permanent metal plate, and the following spring he returned to action. It was a remarkable recovery, and though he wasn't anything close to dominant he was holding his own in an extreme hitters' home park until a more conventional leg injury shut him down again. He ended up with the Dodgers after that, who moved him to relief and encouraged him to bulk up a bit and lean on his hard fastball. It was a successful strategy that probably saved his career and generated a nice free-agent contract with Pittsburgh that offseason.
He did well as a Pirate, which made the circumstances of his departure from the steel city that much weirder. Well out of contention and wanting to play their young prospects, Pittsburgh put Nicasio on trade waivers late in the season. He was claimed by a fellow NL Central team and for whatever reason, Pirate GM Neal Huntington didn't want that team to get him, so he refused the deal and instead outrighted Nicasio for any team to claim for nothing. The Phillies grabbed him, and as they weren't contending either, immediately traded him to what may have been that same NL Central club, the Cardinals, for a halfway-decent prospect. Good thinking there, Mr. Huntington. In the words of Gene Wilder, you get nothing.
The M's have him on a two-year deal and expect him to be the primary setup man for Edwin Díaz. Nicasio likes to pitch in "high-leverage" circumstances, and has the hard stuff to succeed in them. Moreover, he provides a solid fallback plan should Díaz experience more growing pains in the closer's role, as he did at times last year.