Mariners Notebook: Sewald addresses trade, echoes Cal’s comments

Oct 19, 2023, 4:16 PM

Seattle Mariners Paul Sewald...

Former Seattle Mariners pitcher Paul Sewald reacts after an Arizona Diamondbacks win in the 2023 NLDS. (Elsa/Getty Images)

(Elsa/Getty Images)

In an alternate timeline, Paul Sewald may be still be pitching for the Seattle Mariners, looking to lock up saves as the team pushes toward the World Series. Instead, he’s doing that for the Arizona Diamondbacks while his former team is preparing for the long MLB offseason.

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Sewald was dealt by Seattle to Arizona just before the trade deadline in late July, as the Mariners parted ways with their veteran closer to bring in three bats of varying ages, experience and positions.

That trade has remained in the back of the minds of Mariners fans and players alike, especially after the M’s fell from first place in the American League West to missing the playoffs completely with a dismal September. In fact, that trade was a big part of the comments Mariners catcher Cal Raleigh shared the night Seattle was mathematically eliminated from postseason contention.

In a conversation this week on the “Chris Rose Rotation” podcast, Sewald addressed the aftermath of the trade, as well as what Raleigh and later Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford said about the M’s front office’s approach to roster building. Sewald’s take is pretty close to what his former teammates said.

“Had I been there, probably would have echoed the exact same thing,” Sewald told Rose, a longtime national sports media host and broadcaster. “I had my frustrations while I was there about the team that we had put together, as well. And frankly, that’s why I got traded. … I don’t blame Cal at all, I understand exactly what he’s saying. You notice a few people came to his side and kind of said the same thing. As a group, it felt frustrating that we went from the ALDS last year, being right there, that we didn’t improve our team as much as we thought we probably needed to.”

What Sewald meant by saying “that’s why I got traded” is that after a fairly quiet offseason in free agency, the roster the Mariners took into 2023 didn’t produce enough during the first half of the year, making him as the team’s usual closing pitcher an obvious trade chip. But he was still a bit surprised by the timing of when he was traded by president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto and general manager Justin Hollander, as it came after Seattle seemed to find its groove on the field in July.

“So June 30, I thought I was going to be (traded). We couldn’t win any games, and when you’re a closer with a year and a half of control left, you’re usually a pretty wanted commodity,” he said. “I take a look, and we kind of felt like we needed to improve things in Seattle, it would be irresponsible for Jerry and Justin maybe not to trade me. Then we roll off the best record in baseball in July, and on July 30 when we left (a series win in) Arizona, I thought, ‘Man, it would be great if we could trade a prospect or two and get a bat, like really see what we could do down the stretch. I think we have something.'”

Even as Sewald pitches now for the D-backs, he seems to feel there was a missed opportunity with the Mariners.

“I’m so excited to be here in Arizona, but a part of me is like, well, had we done something different (in Seattle), I wouldn’t have been traded and I would have been there and we would have been in a position where we could have run it back there.”

What makes that missed opportunity stand out even more is the fact that the Texas Rangers, who went 68-94 in 2022, entered Thursday leading the Houston Astros in the ALCS thanks to a dramatic turnaround this year that came after two years of big acquisitions. Last season, Texas had to watch the Mariners make the playoffs. This year, the Rangers clinched the postseason on Seattle’s home field.

“Now Jerry’s job is difficult, and I don’t question how difficult that job is. And I love (Mariners CEO) John Stanton and that ownership group, as well, and I’m forever thankful for them,” Sewald said of the Mariners. “But when your division rival literally takes you out at your home stadium like that, and all they did (to) go from (second-to-last) place to (now) two games away from the World Series (was) spending money, it just hits you. … They went from a team that we used to just wax to taking our spot in two years by spending. And it can be spent irresponsibly – look at New York and San Diego – or it can be spent really, really well like the two teams that are up 2-0 (in the ALCS and NLCS) right now.”

Despite those criticisms, Seattle is clearly still a special place to Sewald, who became one of MLB’s premier relievers by rejuvenating his career after joining the Mariners on a minor league contract before the 2021 season.

“We had my daughter when I was there, I grew up as a player there. It was a great spot, and I had become very comfortable and very happy there. We broke a 21-year playoff drought, and that’s something no one will ever be able to take from those 26 guys,” he said. “… I had to put my sunglasses on in the middle of the airport (after being traded to Arizona) because people recognized me and kind of knew, like, ‘Hey, you’re leaving the city.’ And it was kind of like, ‘Alright, like, I gotta get it together.’ I just wanted to thank the fans for everything that they had done for me, and I was very appreciative of everything Seattle gave me.”

Sweet Lou up for Hall of Fame

The Baseball Hall of Fame announced an eight-person ballot Thursday set by its contemporary era committee for managers, executives and umpires, and an important name in Seattle Mariners history is included on the list: former manager Lou Piniella.

Voters on the committee will determine if any of the eight men will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., next July. The results of the ballot will be announced on Jan. 21.

The 80-year-old Piniella is the winningest manager in Mariners history with a record of 840-711 in 10 seasons with Seattle from 1993 to 2002. He led the two most accomplished teams in franchise history – the 1995 squad that won the AL West and reached the ALCS after a dramatic five-game series win over the Yankees in the ALDS, and the 2001 team that tied the MLB record with 116 wins in a single season. Piniella’s Mariners teams reached the playoffs four times and made the ALCS on three occasions. In M’s history, teams managed by anyone other than Piniella have reached the postseason only once.

Overall, Piniella won 1,835 games as a manager with the Yankees, Red, Mariners, Rays and Cubs. He also was the skipper of the 1990 World Series champion Reds. As a player, Piniella won AL Rookie of the Year in 1969 with the Kansas City Royals, ultimately playing 18 MLB seasons with career numbers of a .291 average, 102 home runs, 766 RBIs, and a pair of world titles with the Yankees.

Also on the ballot alongside Piniella are former MLB managers Davey Johnson, Jim Leyland and Cito Gaston, umpires Joe West and Ed Montague, former NL president Bill White, and former general manager Hank Peters.

More on the Seattle Mariners

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Mariners winners, losers from Bump & Stacy’s second annual Bumpies
Seattle Mariners Offseason Primer: Who could be on their radar?
Morosi: How Mariners must address bullpen, lineup this offseason
What lessons do Seattle Mariners need to learn with Astros, Rangers in ALCS?

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Mariners Notebook: Sewald addresses trade, echoes Cal’s comments