Drayer: Mariners’ trade deadline plan becomes clear with Diego Castillo

Jul 29, 2021, 8:28 PM | Updated: 8:52 pm

Mariners Diego Castillo...

Diego Castillo brings postseason experience to the Mariners' bullpen. (Getty)


The picture of what was to come that Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto spoke of following Seattle’s trade of Kendall Graveman to the Astros became more clear Thursday afternoon, as the Mariners acquired Rays closer Diego Castillo in exchange for reliever JT Chargois and prospect Austin Shenton.

O’Neil: Graveman trade the kind of move Mariners should be making

“We loved Gravy, he did a great job while he was here,” said Dipoto on a Zoom call with the media after the trade for Castillo on Thursday. “The fact is he was due to hit free agency at year’s end and Diego Castillo is due to hit arbitration and remains under club control for another three years. That’s a big part of this. We are a young team, we are growing. Additions like Diego Castillo and Abraham Toro really help us (moving forward).”

According to Dipoto, the Mariners were down the road in trading for Castillo when the Graveman deal, which included fellow reliever Rafael Montero going to Houston and brought Toro and reliever Joe Smith to Seattle, had to be made. The timing of the trade has been a hot topic, and the deal was clearly unpopular in the Mariners’ clubhouse and with a large portion of the fan base. Tampa had yet to agree to a second player from the Mariners in the deal for Castillo on Monday while the clock ticked down on Montero, who had been designated for assignment last week and was a player the Astros wanted.

“Monday’s deal had to be made on Monday because Rafael Montero needed to be placed on waivers by Tuesday,” said Dipoto. “There was no way to execute that deal on any day other day than Monday.”

If Montero had been placed on waivers before the deal with Houston was finalized, the Mariners then would have had to cease the trade talks with Houston and would only have been able to negotiate a Montero deal with the first team to put a claim on him.

“It felt wonky, I feel badly for that, but it had to be done that day if we were going to do it and this was the next part of it,” Dipoto continued. “Today it really picked up (with the Rays) and we were able to get to the right marriage on a second player and ultimately we arrived at Austin Shenton, which was painful for us. We really like Austin, he can really hit and he’s a great kid, but you have to give to get.”

Jerry Dipoto Show: Why the Graveman trade had to happen when it did

Dipoto has been clear in his intention to attempt to augment the current club as it pushes for the postseason while continuing to add players that will help in the future. Some of the moves were right out of the Dipoto playbook. Trade for upside, club control and in some cases – as he pointed out on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jerry Dipoto Show with Danny and Gallant on Thursday morning – good players who are blocked in their organizations.

He did give up a big league player with four years of club control remaining in Chargois and a promising prospect and organizational favorite in Shenton, an infielder from Bellingham. The returns, however, arguably make the current club better on paper while providing players with more club control.

The Mariners’ first three trades this week before Friday’s 1 p.m. trade deadline hit all three position groups, with the rotation now having a fifth starter in Tyler Anderson, the position group gaining a young infielder in Toro, and the latest addition, Castillo, being a proven arm that will be seen at the end of games.

“Our intent is he is the primary closer in much the way we viewed Kendall Graveman for most of this year,” said Dipoto. “My guess is that most ninth inning leverage or save situations will be Diego Castillo. then in the seventh and eighth innings we will see some combination of Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider and Anthony Misiewicz, who have done a terrific job for us.”

Aside from experience – Castillo, a converted starter, has made 150 appearances in relief, while fellow converted starter Graveman has come out of the bullpen just 17 times – the numbers this year are similar with both players posting a 0.8 fWAR in similar innings. Worth noting, Sewald has posted a 1.2 fWAR.

Graveman has run an American League-low .176 opponents batting average on balls in play, while Castillo has posted a more reasonable .263. Castillo’s 12.14 strikeouts per nine innings ranks 17th in the AL while Graveman’s 9.27 puts him at No. 52. Once again worth noting, Sewald is second at 15.51. Graveman has the edge in home runs per nine innings (0.55 vs. 1.24) and ERA (0.82 vs 2.72), but Castillo comes out on top in xFIP (2.84 vs 3.12).

Castillo comes out on top in another area that Dipoto valued: postseason appearances. With the Rays, Castillo has appeared in 14 postseason games, owning a 1.08 ERA in 16.1 innings pitched.

“It’s a big deal,” said Dipoto. “He’s been in really the hottest fire there is in leverage innings against real lineups and I guess lived to tell the tale. He’s just 27, he throws strikes, he strikes them out. He’s surprisingly athletic for a big guy – I think he’s actually played the outfield, which is something that seems very Tampa Rays. He seems to be a wonderful guy in my first interaction, so he will fit in very well in what I think is a super clubhouse here.”

It would appear former teammate Ryan Thompson would agree.

At this point it seems the bullpen reconstruction is complete for 2021, with 2022 looking even more formidable with experienced closer Ken Giles and promising right-hander Andrés Muñoz expected to be added. Both are coming off Tommy John surgery and working out in Arizona, with Giles working toward getting on a mound shortly and Muñoz actually pitching off the mound. Neither will make an appearance with the big league team this year but both appear to be moving in the right direction.

As for the rest of the club, Dipoto said that he is open to adding another starter before the deadline Friday afternoon but that it would need to be a pitcher with years of club control remaining and at the right price in terms of return. He also would like to add another bat and noted that he would be open to more of a rental-type deal in this situation.

“The one area where we are less focused on the control is with the position player,” he said. “If we can add another bat to help this club, we are going to be pretty active in the hours ahead to see if we can do that. Again, we are doing what we can do to make sure we are as good as we can be in ’21 while as best we can not taking away a meaningful part of what we are building.”


• The Mariners activated Anderson on Thursday and expect to start him sometime in their series in Texas that begins Friday. They cleared room for the veteran left-hander by optioning reliever Ryan Weber to Triple-A Tacoma. They will also need to add Castillo to the 26- and 40-man rosters, but a spot has been opened as MLB announced that Héctor Santiago has been suspended 80 days for PED use. Santiago announced via a statement he will not appeal the decision.

• Dipoto gave some injury updates, saying that Jake Fraley is expected to return to the big league club Monday, Justus Sheffield is about two weeks from his return and Justin Dunn is not far behind. He expects Kyle Lewis to return in late August.

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