Mariners Takeaways: Trade addition Abraham Toro’s strong 1st impression
In what was billed as a key homestand for the Mariners in their quest to end a 19-year playoff drought, Seattle underwent a roller coaster week at T-Mobile Park as they went 4-3 against a pair of division rivals.
After dropping the first game of the homestand to the Oakland Athletics, the Mariners went on to win the next three games to take the series.
Then the Houston Astros came to town on Monday, and Seattle had arguably its biggest win of the year in a remarkable comeback. But after a big trade Tuesday afternoon where players walked across the field to opposite clubhouses, things didn’t go the Mariners’ way as they lost the next two games to drop the series.
With the homestand in the books, let’s look back at what happened to the Mariners both on the field and in the trade market.
Astros trade fallout – good first impression from Toro
The big news from this homestand is that that the Mariners were very active in the trade market.
In the first of two deals on Tuesday by general manager Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners made a four-player swap with the Astros less than 24 hours after the two teams played a very emotional game.
In that deal, Seattle acquired 14-year veteran Joe Smith and 24-year-old infielder Abraham Toro, who is under contract through 2025. In exchange, the Astros got Rafael Montero, who the Mariners had recently designated for assignment, and star reliever Kendall Graveman, who’s been one of the best bullpen arms in baseball this year and earned the win for Seattle in the first game of the series.
The Astros have a loaded lineup but needed pitching help, especially in the bullpen. They certainly accomplished that in this deal.
The Mariners, meanwhile, added an experienced reliever in Smith and a young infielder who is controllable with some nice upside and can play multiple spots defensively.
Toro is a third baseman by trade, but in his first start for the Mariners on Wednesday played second base for just the second time in his MLB career. He’s also seen time at first base.
Graveman and Montero didn’t pitch in the final two games of the series against the Mariners, but both Toro and Smith got to play right away against their old club. So far so good for those two in their Mariners careers.
Smith, who has struggled this year and has an ERA over 7, recorded a 1-2-3 seventh inning in the second game of the series and needed just nine pitches to do so.
Toro, meanwhile, started his Mariners career off with a bang, hitting a pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning of the series’ second game to get Seattle within two runs. At the time it was his second blast of the series, as he hit a solo shot while with the Astros in the series opener on Monday.
First AB as a Mariner ✅
First HR as a Mariner ✅ pic.twitter.com/6e29x3gBOF
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 28, 2021
The switch-hitting Toro then got the start at second in the series finale while hitting fifth in the order, and all he did was blast his second home run as a Mariner. Toro, who now has home runs in each of his last four games, went 1 for 4 with a walk, stole his fourth base of the season, and made a stellar defensive play.
Two dingers in two days in Mariners threads. pic.twitter.com/6eDxyfURgy
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 28, 2021
With Kyle Seager the Mariners’ everyday third baseman and the team having multiple options at first in Ty France, Jake Bauers and Luis Torrens, the bulk of Toro’s innings are likely to come at second base the rest of the way.
While there may be some sting at the loss of Graveman for Mariners fans, the young Toro is certainly making a good first impression.
Starting pitching struggles, but help is on the way
In the Mariners’ series win over the A’s to start the homestand, the starting pitching wasn’t great but did just enough to allow them to stay in games. That wasn’t the case at all in the series loss to the Astros.
In those four games against Oakland, Mariners starters allowed 10 earned runs in 19 2/3 innings (4.58 ERA). In three games against Houston, Seattle starters allowed 17 earned runs in 13 innings (10.20 ERA), with only Yusei Kikuchi making it past the fourth inning. For the homestand, Mariners starters posted a 7.44 ERA in 32 2/3 innings in seven starts.
The Mariners have long needed help in the lineup as they have ranked near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories all year. But while the team actually started the year with good depth in the rotation, injuries have decimated that depth. Entering the homestand, the Mariners had only four healthy starting pitchers in Kikuchi, Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and rookie Logan Gilbert.
In just his second MLB appearance, Darren McCaughan got the start Monday against the Astros and didn’t fare too well, allowing seven runs in four innings. Six of those runs came in the first.
In the second game of the series, Flexen also went just four innings while allowing seven runs.
And we brought up Kikuchi before, who lasted five innings in the series finale and gave up four runs, with three being earned.
The good news for the Mariners is that help is on the way in the form of a new face.
Trading Graveman and Montero for Toro and Smith wasn’t the only deal that general manager Jerry Dipoto made on Tuesday, as he also acquired veteran starting pitcher Tyler Anderson from the Pittsburgh Pirates for two prospects.
Anderson, 31, is 5-8 with a 4.35 ERA in 18 starts (103 1/3 innings). He has struck out 86 while walking 25 in 18 starts. And something of note with Anderson this year is that he’s gone at least five innings in all 18 of his starts and has allowed more than three runs just three times this season. He last pitched on July 20.
Anderson now slides into the five-man rotation along with Kikuchi, Flexen, Gonzales and Gilbert, and while it hasn’t been determined when exactly he’ll make his Mariners debut, manager Scott Servais said the southpaw will start one of Seattle’s games in Texas against the Rangers this weekend. That series begins on Friday after an off day on Thursday.