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Mariners Austin Nola
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Mariners reportedly in trade talks with Padres about Austin Nola

Mariners starting catcher Austin Nola can also be used as a utility player. (AP)

Update 8:19 p.m.: The Mariners have completed a seven-player trade sending Austin Nola to the Padres. You can read the full story on the trade at this link. Original story is below.

Just prior to the Mariners’ Sunday afternoon game with the Los Angeles Angels, they made a bit of a surprising move, calling up Joe Hudson to give them three catchers on the active roster. That immediately stirred up interest about the status of starting catcher Austin Nola as a potential trade target.

Just after Seattle wrapped up a 2-1 win, it was all but confirmed.

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ESPN MLB reporter Jeff Passan tweeted Sunday evening that the Mariners are nearing a deal to trade Nola to the Padres for a highly-regarded prospect.

Passan went on to note that Nola has been “coveted by analytically inclined teams,” and there’s a few reasons why he could be in high demand. First, the market at catcher isn’t particularly deep ahead of Monday’s 1 p.m. MLB trade deadline, especially after the Padres picked up Jason Castro from the Angels earlier Sunday. Second, Nola has played every position in the big leagues except shortstop, center field and pitcher since making his MLB debut in 2019. And though he’s already 30 years old, he’s performed well in his 108 games since the Mariners called him up from Triple-A in 2019, is exceedingly cheap ($570,800 base salary) and is under team control for another five years.

Nola, who sat out Sunday’s game as is customary for the starting catcher in a day game following a night game, has a slash line of .306/.373/.531 with five home runs, 19 RBIs, five doubles and a triple in 29 games this season. Combined with his 2019 stats, for his career he has a .280/.342/.454 slash line with 15 homers, 50 RBIs, 17 doubles and two triples in 108 games.

The older brother of Phillies ace Aaron Nola has quite the interesting story as a shortstop out of LSU who was a fifth-round pick of the Miami Marlins in the 2012 MLB Draft but stalled out in the minors. He then learned how to catch and signed with the Mariners ahead of the 2019 season, finding his way to the majors after tearing up Triple-A pitching at the plate and an opening came up at first base for Seattle.

Though Nola started just four games at catcher for the Mariners in 2019, Seattle came into 2020 with the expectation that Nola and Tom Murphy would platoon behind the plate. Murphy suffered a foot injury just before the season began, however, and Nola has ran as Seattle’s No. 1 catcher since.

The Padres are an intriguing trade partner as they not only are in the playoff hunt in the National League, but they are one of the few teams to boast a farm system ranked higher than Seattle’s (San Diego was ranked second by MLB Pipeline in March while Seattle was ninth).

Though a trade may be announced, there’s no guarantee the Mariners’ return will be revealed right away as this season teams are not allowed to trade players who are not in the 60-man player pool (between the active roster and alternate training site). The Mariners already made a trade this week sending pitcher Taijuan Walker to Toronto for a player to be named later or cash considerations, with reports that the return will come in the offseason in the form of a prospect not in the Blue Jays’ player pool.

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