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Drayer: Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto discusses trade deadline, Kyle Seager, Daniel Vogelbach and more

Mariners veteran Kyle Seager is enjoying one of his best seasons as a pro. (Getty)

Like everything else for the Mariners and the rest of the MLB in the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, the upcoming Aug. 31 trade deadline will look different than any that has come before.

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Fewer players will be available to move as only those on teams’ 60-man rosters are eligible to be traded. With just 11 days before the deadline, nearly every team could be considered a contender with 16 playoff berths to be filled for the first time in the game’s history. What this means in actual player movement remains to be seen as it is not clear how individual organizations will weigh postseason wins in a 60-game season against future development or how the murky financial future will impact decisions.

For Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, it has been tough to forecast the level of activity the trade deadline will bring.

“I really don’t know,” he said Thursday to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show, while noting that the typical “traffic jam” of phone calls and inquiries 11 days out have been largely absent. “I’ve spoken on us, my expectation for us. We are always open to listening, but generally the pending free agents or perhaps the idea of a young player for young player challenge trade with something that might be an area of depth for us and the effort to improve elsewhere, those are the most likely possibilities for us.”

Coming off of a quiet offseason where he made exactly one trade that involved a player leaving the Mariners organization, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise. The bulk of the trading that earned Dipoto the “Trader Jerry” nickname was in an effort to get somewhere, be it adding to an aging roster in his first three years with the team in hopes of grabbing a wild card spot or completely remaking the organization over the last two seasons. For the large part he has reached that destination, although there are pending free agents that we could see moved.

One of the bigger questions for the Mariners surrounds a veteran player not at the end of his contract: Kyle Seager. Assuming a full schedule is played next year, the Mariners’ highest-paid player is due to be paid $18.5 million in 2021 with the club holding an option for 2022 at $15 million. That option becomes a player option if Seager is traded, however, something that combined with inconsistent performance over the past few years has no doubt made Seager less attractive to other teams. The story could be different this season, though – with just two years remaining on the contract, an acquiring team could take Seager onto its roster looking closer to the player that earned him the deal in the first place. Should there be interest, could Seager be moved or is he at this point more valuable to the Mariners as a player rather than as a means for salary relief and the return of a younger addition?

“We’ve never really wavered on Kyle Seager, he’s here for a reason,” said Dipoto. “Right now he’s playing extraordinarily well, probably as well as he’s played at any point since 2016, and in some ways, especially the way how he’s controlling the zone, the best he’s ever been in his career.”

Sounds good for the Mariners, right? Well it no doubt sounds good for other teams as well, although in this day and age with everything that is available to teams to measure and forecast talent, sales pitches are not necessary. The league knows what Kyle Seager is and so does Dipoto.

“We are not just encouraged by what Kyle is doing, we appreciate the contribution,” Dipoto said. “He’s been a good example of how you go about your business. There was really never an alternative for us. We don’t really have a great deal of depth at third base. We see Kyle Seager as the best third baseman in the history of the organization. We are going to hold onto him and see where it takes us from here.”

“Holding onto” Seager comes with an asterisk, though. Dipoto will never not listen on an offer for a player but he clarified later in the interview that Seager falls into the category of players he is less inclined to move.

“I would say the core guys we have committed to or have stabilized as major league players, guys like Kyle Seager, Marco Gonzales, they’re part of what we are doing and we’d have to be really pushed to feel like moving them was a good idea for us,” he said. “So I think you will see a more stable time for us. There’s not going to be a ton of activity.”

In addition to the trade talk, Dipoto hit on a number of other topics.

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“Everybody does love Vogey. The first half of last year was magical to watch but the reality is that since the All-Star break last year he has struggled mightily. We thought at this time it made more sense for us to give some of the opportunities to players we would like to find a little about as we move forward. Ultimately we had to make a tough call with a guy we all like quite a bit.”

The Mariners’ starting rotation

Dipoto highlighted the recent performances of Taijuan Walker, Justus Sheffield, Nick Margevicius and Marco Gonzales.

“It’s been a good two-week-ish stretch for our starting pitching in general. These guys are hammering the strike zone and getting ahead of hitters. Going in we thought we had a sneaky good rotation and I think that has been a quiet strength of the team.”

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Dipoto said that last week’s intrasquad play at Cheney Stadium was more about the offensive prospects.

“The guy who has been smoking hot right now has been (catcher) Cal Raleigh. It seems like everything he hits he hits hard. (Third baseman) Austin Shenton continues to swing a really good bat as does (outfielder) Zach DeLoach, our second round pick from this year. (Shortstop) Noelvi Marte does something every day that makes you say wow.”

Dipoto also reported that outfielder Julio Rodríguez, the team’s No. 2 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline who suffered a broken bone in his wrist during Summer Camp, is now participating in baseball activity. The hope is he can return to intrasquad games in the next week to 10 days.

You can hear the full Jerry Dipoto Show beginning at about the 24-minute mark in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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Danny and Gallant Show