History provides a blueprint to the Mariners' deadline strategy
A look in the rearview mirror reveals hints of how the Mariners could tackle the upcoming MLB trade deadline.
It’s impossible to know for certain how the Mariners will approach this year’s MLB trade deadline. But what the team has done in the past under the leadership of President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto and GM Justin Hollander does provide clues on how the next week or so may unfold for Seattle.
To see what I mean, let’s consider how the Mariners’ record and position in the AL West and Wild Card races at the deadline may have shaped the club’s acquisition philosophy in each year of the Dipoto era. In some cases, we’ll also discuss trades occurring in the months leading up to deadline day.
Note: Although such deals are no longer permitted, August transactions made following the MLB trade deadline have been included in the following discussion.
Deadline day record: 52-52
AL West race: 9 GBo
Wild Card race: 6 GB
Management’s strategy was to add around the edges of the team’s talented, but aging core of Robinson Canó, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, and Félix Hernández. Seattle’s deal-making also addressed the future.
In the week leading up to the deadline, the Mariners traded minor-leaguer Jordan Pries and Mike Montgomery off the big-league roster to the Cubs for two promising minor-leaguers: pitcher Paul Blackburn and first baseman Daniel Vogelbach.
In what might be best described as a “change of scenery” swap of veteran relievers, the Mariners sent Joaquín Benoit to Toronto for Drew Storen. Seattle also dealt starter Wade Miley to the Orioles for another southpaw starter - rookie Aríel Miranda.
Deadline day record: 54-53
AL West race: 16 GB
Wild Card race: 2.5 GB
The front office made moves to help the current roster. However, the biggest trades were designed to help in 2018 and beyond.
Top prospect Tyler O'Neill was sent to St. Louis for starter Marco Gonzales. The 25-year-old rookie was the 19th overall pick of the 2013 draft and had recently returned to action after recovering from Tommy John surgery.
In August, rental first baseman Yonder Alonso was obtained from the A’s for youngster Boog Powell. Other newcomers included reliever Ryan Garton and catcher Mike Marjama from Tampa Bay in exchange for Anthony Misiewicz, Luis Rengifo, and minor-leaguer Osmy Gregorio.
On the final day of August, veteran starter Mike Leake was acquired from the Cardinals for minor-league infielder Rayder Ascanio. Leake, the eighth overall pick in 2009, was under contract through the 2020 season with a club option for 2021.
Deadline day record: 63-44
AL West race: 4 GB
AL Wild Card race: Second of two WC spots
The Mariners were dealt a significant blow when Canó was lost to the IL on May 14 and subsequently hit with an 80-game PED suspension. Perhaps losing the eight-time All-Star played a role in an early dive into the market with a familiar partner - the Rays.
On May 25, reliever Alex Colomé and veteran outfielder Denard Span were acquired from Tampa Bay for pitchers Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero. Colomé had two years of club control remaining, Span was a pending free agent.
In late July, the Mariners made more moves to shore up the bullpen and the outfield.
Seattle also added a pair of rental relievers. Minor-league infielder Ryan Costello and pitcher Chase De Jong were sent to the Twins in exchange for Zach Duke. Adam Warren arrived via a deal with the Yankees.
Deadline day record: 47-64
AL West race: 23 GB
AL Wild Card race: 15.5 GB
The organization was in year-one of a rebuild. Therefore, transactions took on a different look compared to previous years. Once the season was underway, the Mariners began dealing veterans acquired over the previous winter.
Anthony Swarzak went to Atlanta for relievers Jesse Biddle and Arodys Vizcaíno. It’s worth noting Seattle took on pending free agent Vizcaíno, who was out for the season. I suspect he was included to help balance the deal from a payroll perspective.
There were no groundbreaking deals in July. But the front office did make a few noteworthy transactions. For example, Leake was dealt to the Diamondbacks for current second baseman José Caballero.
Deadline day record: 15-22
AL West race: 8.5 GB
AL Wild Card race: 5 GB
The still-rebuilding Mariners had a losing record. However, the team managed to make a big splash in the marketplace.
On the final day of August, the biggest deals occurred. Austin Adams, Dan Altavilla and Austin Nola were traded to San Diego for Ty France, Andrés Muñoz, Luis Torrens and Taylor Trammell. In a second deal with the Padres, Seattle swapped reliever Taylor Williams for pitcher Matt Brash.
Deadline day record: 56-48
AL West race: 8 GB
AL Wild Card race: 2.5 GB
The Mariners were unexpectedly positioned to contend. As a result, the club took an approach similar to the one used during the pre-rebuild years.
In one of the most popular transactions made during the Dipoto era, the Mariners traded relievers Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero to Houston for reliever Joe Smith and infielder Abraham Toro. At the time, the 24-year-old Toro had five years of club control remaining. Smith was a rental.
Okay, the trade wasn’t a fan- or clubhouse-favorite whatsoever. But it’s an example of Dipoto’s front office acting as both buyer and seller within the same deal.
Deadline day record: 56-49
AL West race: 11 GB
AL Wild Card race: Second of three WC spots
As in 2018, the club acted quickly following an injury to a key player. This time, veteran Carlos Santana was acquired from the Royals in late June for minor-league starting pitcher William Fleming and reliever Wyatt Mills. Santana, a pending free agent, helped fill the void created by France’s IL stint.
Seattle also made the biggest summer acquisition of the Dipoto era: top-of-the-rotation arm Luis Castillo from the Reds. The price was steep though. Top prospects Edwin Arroyo and Noelvi Marte, plus fellow minor-leaguers Andrew Moore and Levi Stoudt.
In competitive seasons, the Mariners have approached the trade deadline as an opportunity to simultaneously upgrade the current big-league roster and future clubs. I suspect we see more of the same this year.
Having said that, it’s clear to me the strength of Seattle’s position in the AL West and wild card races affects management’s marketplace strategy. Therefore, the Mariners’ performance over the next week likely influences whether the balance of emphasis is tilted towards the 2023 campaign or upcoming seasons.
Makes sense to me.
My Oh My…
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