Mariners Trade Deadline Breakdown: A look at each player Seattle added
The 2021 MLB trade deadline came and went Friday afternoon, with the Mariners having made three deals that added four players to their roster in the three days prior.
The Mariners now have new players in the bullpen, infield and starting rotation, and while the trades could help the team’s push for the playoffs in 2021, the two biggest additions will certainly have an impact past this season for Seattle.
Here’s a close look at all four players picked up by the M’s ahead of the final two months of the MLB season.
The impact arm: Diego Castillo
• Details: Righty reliever, 6-3/250 pounds, 27 years old, fourth MLB season
• Contract: $582,300 salary for 2021, begins arbitration this offseason, under team control through 2024
The headliner of the Mariners’ deadline-week additions is undoubtedly Castillo, who has been a standout in Tampa Bay’s strong bullpen for the past four years. He played a big role in the Rays’ 2020 World Series run and was particularly nasty during that regular season, posting a 1.66 ERA, 1.062 WHIP and 249 ERA+.
While Castillo is a hard-thrower who reaches triple digits regularly, he actually relies on his slider more, throwing it 70.4% of the time this season, according to BaseballSavant.com. He also uses a sinker (25.1%) more often than a typical four-seam fastball.
Castillo has 14 saves in 15 opportunities this year and will take over the closer role for Seattle that Kendall Graveman had assumed prior to his trade to Houston on Tuesday. Castillo made three saves in the 2020 playoffs – two in the American League Championship Series against Houston and one against the Dodgers in the World Series – and his postseason experience is something general manager Jerry Dipoto spoke about being valuable to the M’s.
The native of the Dominican Republic actually played a role in one of the more memorable moments this season for the Mariners, as he gave up a walk-off grand slam to Shed Long Jr. that clinched a huge four-game sweep for the Mariners over the Rays on June 20. Despite that, Castillo has pitched well in 2021, owning a 2.72 ERA, 0.991 WHIP and career-best 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings before he made his M’s debut in a non-save situation in Friday’s 9-5 win over Texas.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 31, 2021
The young bull: Abraham Toro
• Details: Switch-hitting infielder, 6-0/206, 24, third MLB season
• Contract: $570,500 salary for 2021, begins arbitration next offseason, under team control through 2025
The Mariners’ trade of Graveman to the Astros initially caused a lot of people to either scratch their heads or vociferously voice their displeasure, but Toro went right to work showing why the Mariners’ front office decided he was worth dealing a dominant reliever and clubhouse favorite for.
In Toro’s first plate appearance for Seattle, which came in pinch-hit duty Tuesday night, he just barely got the ball over T-Mobile Park’s short porch in right field (and off former teammate Kyle Tucker’s glove) for a two-run homer that cut the Mariners’ deficit to two runs in the ninth inning. And on Wednesday, he started at second base and homered again, this time in a much more definitive manner.
While Toro has yet to completely find his footing in the big leagues, the fact that he’s currently on a four-game home run streak seems promising. He’s also still just 24 years old and is actually younger than every player to appear in a game for the M’s this season except Jarred Kelenic and Taylor Trammell – yes, he’s even younger than rookies Cal Raleigh and Logan Gilbert.
In 314 career plate appearances since 2019, Toro has a .197/.280/.373 slash line with 13 home runs, six doubles, two triples and six stolen bases in nine attempts. Eight of his homers have come in 128 plate appearances this season, and he has a .219/.297/.439 slash line for a respectable .736 OPS this year.
Toro has mainly been a third baseman throughout his career, and that could figure in next season when Seattle is likely to move on from Kyle Seager (*ducks*). For now, the Mariners will see how he does at second base, where he had appeared just once in MLB play before the trade and only 19 times in the minors.
The Mariners are high on Toro’s ability and ceiling, and they’re apparently not alone. ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan tweeted after Tuesday’s trade that a “self-described front-office nerd” told him Toro “has been on every nerd team’s breakout list for the last three years.” That helps explain why the trade for him was “too good to pass up” for Dipoto.
A native of Longueuil, Quebec who speaks English, French and Spanish, Toro was a fifth-round pick by the Astros in 2015 out of Seminole State Junior College in Oklahoma. He was MLB.com’s fifth-ranked prospect in the Astros’ organization in 2019.
The much-needed starter: Tyler Anderson
• Details: Lefty starter, 6-2/220, 31, sixth MLB season
• Contract: $2.5 million salary for 2021 (remaining salary $900,547), free agent this offseason
The Mariners had several areas where they could use improvements coming into the MLB trade deadline week, but there was one very obvious need that had to be addressed: starting pitching. Despite starting the season with a six-man rotation, they were a full spot short to fill their current five-man rotation thanks to injuries to James Paxton, Nick Margevicius, Ljay Newsome, Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield. Go ahead and throw the now-twice suspended Héctor Santiago in there, too, who could have been used in desperation had he been available.
So, enter Tyler Anderson, who Seattle got from Pittsburgh on Tuesday night for a pair of prospects. The veteran left-hander is a rental that will plug the hole in the rotation, and he definitely has the ability to keep the Mariners in games every fifth day.
In 2021, he’s 5-8 with a 4.35 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a 3.44 strikeouts to walk ratio. That’s pretty much right in line with what Anderson has been throughout his career, as he has a 4.60 ERA, 1.314 WHIP, 7.9 K/9 and 2.84 K/BB over six seasons.
According to BaseballSavant.com, Anderson features five pitches – four-seam fastball, cutter, sinker, curveball and changeup. His fastball averages 90.2 mph but can reach up to 94.
Though it won’t do much good playing in the American League, Anderson can swing the bat a little and recently hit his second MLB home run.
Seattle is Anderson’s fourth team. He played his first four seasons with Colorado, spent 2020 with the Giants and signed with the Pirates on a one-year deal for this season. A native of Las Vegas, he starred in college at Oregon and was a first-round pick by the Rockies in 2011.
Experience for the bullpen: Joe Smith
• Details: Righty reliever, 6-2/211, 37, 14th MLB season
• Contract: $4 million salary for 2021 (remaining salary $1,462,340), free agent this offseason
If you’ve been watching the Mariners over the last seven years, Smith’s sidearm throwing motion should probably look familiar. He’s pitched a lot against Seattle, especially during a 2 1/2-year stint with the Angels from 2014-16 and another 2 1/2 seasons with fellow AL West rival Houston. In fact, his 55 appearances versus the Mariners is third-most in his career, trailing only Texas (58) and Oakland (60). He’s had a lot of success as a Mariners adversary, too, with a career 1.82 ERA, 0.953 WHIP and 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings when matched up against Seattle.
Smith immediately becomes the oldest player on the Mariners’ roster, and it’s not particularly close as he’s four years Kyle Seager’s senior. Seattle is his seventh team (making Texas and Oakland the only AL West squads he hasn’t played for), and with all that time in the majors comes plenty of experience in big games.
Like Castillo, Smith has shined in the bright lights of the postseason. He has a 2.57 ERA and 0.786 WHIP in 18 career playoff appearances, and he pitched in the postseason in three straight years starting in 2017 with Cleveland and continuing the next two years with Houston, including the 2019 World Series.
Smith, who signed a two-year deal after the 2019 season, opted out of 2020 due to health concerns during the pandemic but returned this year for Houston. It hasn’t been the best of returns, as he brought a 7.48 ERA and 1.8 WHIP with him to Seattle.
He at least had a successful series at T-Mobile Park this week. Without even throwing a pitch, he recorded the third out of the eighth inning for Houston in Monday’s 11-8 Mariners comeback win. He took over for Brooks Raley after the left-hander was ejected for repeating throwing inside and eventually hitting J.P. Crawford, then picked Crawford off of first base. Then after changing teams Tuesday, he appeared that night for the M’s, throwing a perfect inning in the 8-6 Seattle loss.
Whether or not you’re familiar with Smith, you may recognize his wife: Allie LaForce, a reporter for Turner Sports regularly seen on NBA on TNT broadcasts.