Salk: Mariners’ trades were no betrayal — they’ve clearly improved with moves

Aug 5, 2021, 12:30 AM | Updated: Sep 14, 2021, 10:52 am
Mariners Abraham Toro...
Abraham Toro hit his third homer since joining the Mariners on Tuesday. (Getty)

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I can be emotional. I can overreact when I’m upset. I can say things I regret. You may be like that, too. Or you likely know someone who suffers this (self-inflicted) affliction.

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But with age comes maturity. And with maturity comes the ability to cool down, open my ears and apologize when it’s warranted. Heck, it sometimes even leads to remembering my dad’s advice: “Patience is a virtue.”

And because I am emotional, I understand the Mariners players who reacted to the Kendall Graveman trade with such anger.

They felt betrayed. They felt like their hard work was being undercut by a guy in a suit who didn’t care. They were having fun and were being separated from their buddy. And they decided to make their feelings public (mostly via an excellent piece of reporting by Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times).

I admit, the Mariners’ July 27 trade with Houston – Graveman and fellow reliever Rafael Montero to the Astros for young infielder Abraham Toro and veteran reliever Joe Smith – was confounding at first. I didn’t know squat about Toro except for his lousy slash line. I saw that Smith was having a down year. I was riding the same high from the incredible comeback victory over those same Astros the night before. But before I lambasted anyone, I did some digging, and that led me to a few key pieces of information that got me to like what the team accomplished.

1. They LOVE Toro. Like, a lot. They have wanted him for ages, enough that other teams tried to acquire him to get the Mariners to give up other players for him. One team hoped to get Toro so that they could pry one of the Mariners’ best hitters away from them. So the M’s saw him as much better than his numbers. And through his first week, they have been 100% correct about that.

2. Matchups matter. Toro is a switch-hitter, which means a lot less Dylan Moore vs. right-handed pitchers and Shed Long/Jake Bauers vs. lefties. That is huge. Fans don’t think about matchups the way managers do, but managers think about them a lot, and I’m sure it was killing everyone in baseball ops when they had to roll out a string of young lefties against left-handed pitchers that were likely to chew them up.

3. Matchups matter, Pt. 2. That focus on matchups applies to Kendall Graveman, as well. The Mariners consistently put him in positions to succeed. He has been used as often as possible against right-handed hitters and not on consecutive days. He was protected. And while he thrived in that role, it is reasonable to believe that Graveman wasn’t quite as good as he’s been and that Joe Smith is actually better than he’s been thus far in 2021.

4. Chemistry wasn’t ignored. Speaking of Smith, he is known as one of the best clubhouse guys in the league. Period. So while there might be some adjustment from Graveman to Smith, it’s not like they acquired Milton Bradley. They added a clubhouse leader.

5. The Mariners weren’t done trading! By the time the deadline passed last Friday, they had acquired a closer (Diego Castillo for JT Chargois and prospect Austin Shenton) and a starting pitcher (Tyler Anderson for prospects Carter Bins and Joaquin Tejada). They dealt from a position of strength to shore up two positions of weakness and they barely eroded the strength of the bullpen. Castillo is at worst a slight downgrade from Graveman, and they also added Toro and Anderson. They got better this year, and that is before you start even thinking about the additional years they will control Toro and Castillo. Their goal was to get better this year and into the future and they accomplished that goal.

6. “Patience is the shortcut.” That is the sign that sits in the Mariners’ office. It’s a reminder that the best way to get great is to be patient and trust your process. Did you really think this was the year to deal top prospects for rentals? The prices were insane. Would you have given up Julio Rodríguez or Jarred Kelenic for Whit Merrifield? I can tell you that the asking price for the Royals All-Star was a “top-of-the-system prospect,” which means one of those two. The cold, hard truth is that the Mariners aren’t quite as good as Houston, New York or Boston. Not quite yet. They are close and they may very well leapfrog them next year, but not quite yet. It’s easy to get jealous of other teams that are farther along, just like people were when the Mariners didn’t deal for Blake Snell (who has been awful for San Diego). But patience is the shortcut, and they are getting really close and will have the resources/assets to get even better.

7. Chemistry evolves and changes. The timing of the Graveman trade was awful. I know that. But those angry voices in the clubhouse that Divish reported have been angry before. They were mad about the Austin Nola trade last year. They don’t like losing their buddies. I understand that. But then the new guys come in and they grow to like them, too. So will they admit that they were wrong? Will they recognize that the team is better now then before the deadline? That while they may not be happy about the deals, there was zero indication that the team wasn’t trying to make them more competitive? In fact, the opposite was true. I doubt it. Maybe if they reach the playoffs, someone will point to the deadline as part of the reason. But again, I doubt it. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto is a big boy and I’m sure he can take the heat from a select group of emotional players. I just hope they can be big boys too and admit they might have been wrong.

Follow Mike Salk on Twitter.

More on the Mariners from

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Salk: Mariners’ trades were no betrayal — they’ve clearly improved with moves