Drayer: Why Mariners hung on to veteran bats, didn’t trade more

Aug 2, 2023, 10:02 AM

Seattle Mariners Teoscar Hernández...

Teoscar Hernández celebrates with Seattle Mariners teammates after walking off against Toronto. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

As it turns out, any trade deadline excitement – or angst, depending on how you looked at it – due to rumors around the Seattle Mariners were mostly for naught.

Seattle Mariners Trade: Closer look at three new players from D-backs

Paul Sewald was indeed traded for young bats, but Logan Gilbert, Teoscar Hernández, Ty France, Tom Murphy and others were all still Mariners when the clock struck 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. Despite the lack of “splash,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto and general manager Justin Hollander believe a step was taken in improving the club.

“In the end, we came into this deadline with the intention of doing what we could to improve our opportunities or chances in 2023 while building a bridge to 2024,” Dipoto told the assembled media shortly after the deadline had passed  “And we felt like we did that. We did the things that we thought were necessary to address holes on our current club. We do think we’re a better, deeper, more athletic roster than we were this time last week.”

That could prove to be true on the offensives side of things. The price to add outfielder Dominic Canzone and infielder Josh Rojas, however, took a big bite out of a bullpen that has played a critical part in the Mariners having any shot at a playoff berth this season, a fact Dipoto did not need to be reminded about.

“Obviously, we have a void in our bullpen that hopefully we are deep and good enough down there to cover,” he said. “I think we are.”

It is impossible to say there was a full commitment to boosting the current club for a playoff push while taking away Sewald. The line had been drawn in the sand early that prospects would not be traded. If the Mariners were to add to the major league roster, they would have to subtract from the major league roster.

In the case of a leverage reliever, the price is never higher than it is at the deadline when the need has been established. With the holes the Mariners need to fill and a weak free agent class coming up,  this was an opportunity Dipoto and Hollander could not pass up. But that was as far as they would go. They would not go into full sell mode, as some predicted.

“Our club’s playing well, we think they deserve the chance to keep playing well,” Dipoto said, “and hopefully the week and all the rumors weren’t too disruptive to them. And it doesn’t appear that they are. They’re playing as well as they’ve played all year.”

Hanging on to Teo and Murph

By all reports, there was good interest in Hernández, the slugging right fielder who the M’s acquired in a trade with Toronto in the offseason and is set to be a free agent after this year. In the end, both the offers and who was offering played large roles in the Mariners deciding to hold onto Teoscar.

“We didn’t want to send Teoscar to help somebody else when we might be the team that needs that one win to get over the edge,” Dipoto said.

As for Gilbert and the other young starting pitchers, the Mariners as always were willing to listen. But having established a value for their pitchers that eliminated many clubs at the get-go, listening was about all they did as names were never exchanged.

Catcher Tom Murphy, who has been one of Seattle’s hottest hitters with a 1.086 OPS over his last 30 games, drew interest as well but did not appear to ever be on the table. You can potentially credit manager Scott Servais for that.

“We kind of disregarded it pretty quick, and mostly because I think Scott would have had a heart attack if we were to trade him,” Dipoto said.

Murphy, who is a free agent at the end of the year, has been vocal about wanting to stay with the Mariners. He might get his wish as Dipoto said they had considered working on a contract extension with the catcher this week but thought it might be a distraction. There are plans to talk with his agent soon.

State of Seattle Mariners’ pitching

On the field, Dipoto believes the Mariners have the pitching that “can take them to the promised land.” That pitching will be tested going forward. Can the remaining leverage arms in the pen – Andrés Muñoz, Matt Brash, Justin Topa, Gabe Speier and Tayler Saucedo – each take on a bit more? And can a new pivot arm be found? Recent acquisition Trent Thornton looked every bit the part Wednesday night, pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings in his Mariners debut.

Rookie starters Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo will pitch into September for the first time in their careers. Dipoto did not reveal the plan to manage their innings when he met with the media Wednesday, but in his weekly Seattle Sports show two weeks ago, he mentioned piggyback starts or a six-man rotation as something we could see in mid-August.

In the past two weeks, it has been the offense that has picked up the pitching for the first time this season. That will likely be needed going forward, but it remains to be seen if the improvements with the current roster will be sustained and if the new additions (Canzone and Rojas) can add to that. Will it be enough?

“I wish we could have been more aggressive,” Dipoto said. “They gave us every reason to believe in them and be more aggressive. There just wasn’t a lot to be aggressive with. And I think, you know, in aggregate, you can look around the league and it’s pretty obvious not a lot of bats moved. We got some of the better ones that did, at least the more interesting guys.”

Boost for a postseason run or merely a headstart in 2024 roster building? Only time will tell.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Salk: Mariners being in between is why deadline was frustrating
How Seattle Mariners’ trade deadline compares to rest of AL West
Seattle Mariners Trade Breakdown: GM Justin Hollander on deal with D-backs
Seattle Mariners DFA Kolten Wong, make five other roster moves
What They Said: Sewald, Servais after Seattle Mariners trade

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