Seattle Mariners Trade Breakdown: GM Justin Hollander on deal with D-backs

Aug 1, 2023, 6:49 PM | Updated: 6:56 pm

When the dust settled Tuesday afternoon, it was clear one Seattle Mariners deal before the MLB trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. was more important that any other.

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That would be the move that sent valuable closer Paul Sewald to the Arizona Diamondbacks for three players: rookie outfielder Dominic Canzone, 29-year-old infielder Josh Rojas, and infield prospect Ryan Bliss.

Seattle Mariners general manager Justin Hollander hopped on the Seattle Sports airwaves an hour after the deadline to discuss his moves and the state of the team with Wyman and Bob.

Let’s take a look at a few of the things he said in particular about the trade with the Diamondbacks.

Did the Seattle Mariners get better?

That was the first question that co-host Bob Stelton had for Hollander, who hopes the decision to trade from one of the Mariners’ biggest strengths, the bullpen, will boost their key weakness, which is offense.

“We do,” Hollander replied. “We need to make the team better offensively. As, I guess, frustrating as the first 100 games or so was for us, we felt like we had to make some changes to the roster construction to put more pressure on other teams night to night, to do something to help our pitching staff, which has just been phenomenal for that stretch of time, to give our give ourselves the best chance we could every night to just put more runs on the board. And we needed guys that had really long-term fits with the Mariners, and we do feel like we did that with Dominic and Josh.”

What the M’s expect from D-backs acquisitions

Neither Canzone nor Rojas have strong numbers in the big leagues this season, so Hollander shared what the Mariners see that gives them the idea both can be solid contributors for Seattle – Canzone especially, who had a 1.065 OPS in 71 games for Triple-A Reno this year and was stuck in an Arizona outfield crowded with left-handed hitters like himself.

“So, Dominic Canzone is one of the best minor league performers in professional baseball this year, doing it at Triple-A,” Hollander said. “It’s impossible to look at his stat line in Triple-A and not see that, before he came to the big leagues, he was one of the best hitters in minor league baseball. Since he has come to the big leagues, his underlying information says he’s already a good major league hitter. Obviously, we’re talking about a small sample of at-bats, but I would encourage people not to look at the surface stats of batting average or home runs and RBIs in an incredibly small sample, and instead look at the kind of the quality of contact that he’s making, the level of contact he’s making.

“He’s an above-average corner outfield defender. He’s a major league regular, we feel like, today. For whatever it’s worth, when we were playing the Diamondbacks last weekend, he was hitting in the middle of their lineup as a rookie. I understand that you can look at the ‘back of the baseball card’ stats for a small sample of games since his call-up and not think this guy’s a superstar or an average regular or whatever term you want to put on it, but he’s a very good player and we think he’s going to be a very good player in our lineup for a long time.”

Rojas, meanwhile, struggled at the plate throughout 2023 with Arizona despite solid seasons the previous two years. He now assumes a second base platoon role for Seattle, taking over for Kolten Wong, who was designated for assignment Tuesday.

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“Obviously Josh Rojas (is) having a little bit of a down year this year. The previous couple of years he was an above-average regular in the big leagues as a second baseman, third baseman for the Diamondbacks,” Hollander said. “He’s an excellent base runner, he’s a good defender at second base, he has on-base skills. He’s a really quality all-around player who’s in the middle of a little bit of a down year. Just a year ago, I believe he was at 2 1/2 win player by Fangraphs’ fWAR. He’s a good player and makes us better today.”

Who replaces Sewald?

The Mariners know their bullpen approach will have to change after dealing away Sewald, who resurrected his career when he joined the team in 2021, becoming one of the premier high-leverage relievers in baseball over the past three seasons.

“There will be, like, no purely replacing Paul… This was a particularly gut-wrenching one for the whole organization,” Hollander said of the trade. “Obviously, signing Paul as a minor league free agent and then him just erupting and becoming one of the best relievers in the American League over the last three years, there is no one way or one person that’s going to fill that kind of void. I can’t say enough about the contributions that Paul has made to the city, to our organization. Just unbelievable, and really it’s a hard one for me, as you can tell. Just really close with Paul and feel very strongly about what he’s done for our team.”

As for the plan going forward, Hollander is confident that pitchers like Andrés Muñoz (who is commonly referred to as “Muni” by those with the Mariners), Matt Brash and Taylor Saucedo (nicknamed “Sauce”) will step up in Sewald’s absence.

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“In terms of how we plug that hole or pick up the innings, I think it will just be a collective. It’ll be some combination of ‘Muni’ and Brash and Gabe (Speier), Justin Topa, ‘Sauce’ has been awesome for us. Some young guys will have to step up and fill new roles. We worked really hard today to try and make additions to make sure that we had enough (bullpen) depth. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases we didn’t get there, but it’ll be incumbent upon the group as a whole to pick up a little piece of what Paul did. There is no one person that’s going to be able to pick up Paul’s role in totality.”

Listen to the full Wyman and Bob conversation with Seattle Mariners general manager Justin Hollander in the podcast at this link, or in the video or audio players near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Mariners’ trade deadline

Seattle Mariners Trade: Closer look at 3 new players from D-backs
What They Said: Sewald, Servais after Seattle Mariners trade
Seattle Mariners trade AJ Pollock, Mark Mathias to Giants

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