Salk: Mariners face ‘quandary’ as they need pitching, but lineup is bigger weakness
The 2022 MLB Trade deadline is just a few days away and all eyes here in Seattle are on what the Mariners do or don’t do in terms of adding to a team that currently holds a playoff spot.
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Entering Friday, the Mariners are 54-46 and in the second American League Wild Card spot.
Mike Salk of Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Mike Salk Show thinks the Mariners and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto are in a pretty difficult spot ahead of next Tuesday’s deadline. He explained why on Friday.
“Jerry’s got a really tough choice to make. He knows – and we’ve heard him tell us – that he needs to get pitching. He knows that, right? They need pitching. As I’ve said before, it is a moral imperative that Jerry added pitching to this team. If he doesn’t, the trade deadline is a failure,” Salk said.
But there’s just one problem with that, Salk said.
“If all you do is add pitching, you still have not corrected your biggest weakness … Hitting. They don’t hit enough,” Salk said.
Seattle, despite holding one of the American League’s best records, is 23rd in baseball and 12th in the AL in runs scored compared to fifth in MLB and fourth in the AL in ERA on the pitching side of things.
But as Salk mentioned, the Mariners are apparently focused on adding to the rotation, being tied to names such as Cincinnati All-Star hurler Luis Castillo.
Why does Seattle need rotation help? Rookie George Kirby is just that, a rookie, and the organization is watching his innings and workload very closely. Additionally, second-year starting pitcher Logan Gilbert just surpassed his career-high in innings at the MLB level on Thursday. The Mariners have also been extremely healthy as far as injuries go, with no starting pitcher landing on the injured list or missing any scheduled starts.
“The point I’m trying to make is you need to go get a Luis Castillo because you’re eventually probably going to lose the effectiveness of George Kirby, either because he runs up against an innings limit and he can’t pitch anymore, or because he hits a rookie wall or whatever, or just because of the fear of losing any pitcher on this staff due to injury,” Salk said. “You need to add a pitcher or else you’re not going to be able to make it to the finish line. So it becomes a mandatory thing you’ve got to do. But it doesn’t make your team that much better. It allows you to maintain what you’re already doing in case somebody gets hurt.”
Adding another top-end starter like Castillo sets Seattle up better for a postseason run, Salk said, “But it doesn’t solve your biggest problem.”
“The problem you have is that you don’t hit enough. And you saw it again (Thursday) … That’s your problem, and it’s been your problem all year long,” he said. “This is not groundbreaking material that I’m covering here. But it speaks to the interesting quandary that Jerry is in because he has to acquire pitching. He has to, or else he can’t make it to the finish line in all likelihood. But if you only acquire pitching, great, you’ve made it to the finish line pitching-wise, but your bats continue to not be up to snuff every time you face any sort of pitching that is good.”
One potential lineup boost the Mariners could have that doesn’t involve a trade is the return of outfielder Mitch Haniger who, after slugging 39 homers in 2021, has played just nine games this year because of a long bout with COVID-19 before suffering a high-ankle sprain. Haniger is in the midst of a rehab assignment and may return to the team next week.
But would a Haniger return be enough of a boost for the Mariners to spurn adding an impact bat at the deadline?
“I don’t know whether it is and that’s obviously the question that Jerry’s got to try to figure out. Is Mitch Haniger enough? I don’t know,” Salk said. “… If you were getting the full boat on Mitch Haniger, I’d say of course. It’s too much to expect right off the bat … I don’t know whether I can put that on Mitch Haniger any more than I’m putting it on Kyle Lewis. Yeah, I can tell you that the lineup with both of those guys in it looks a whole lot better – it looks and reads the way a lineup is supposed to – but can I tell you that that lineup is instantly going to have that level of success? No. And you only get two months at that point to make it work. Tough spot Jerry’s in, man.”
Listen to the full second hour of Friday’s Mike Salk Show at this link or in the player below.