Passan: Why Mariners didn’t trade their young pitchers

Apr 22, 2024, 3:36 PM

Seattle Mariners Bryce Miller Cubs 2024...

Bryce Miller of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Cubs earlier this month. (Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

One of the big questions for the Seattle Mariners this past offseason was whether they would trade one of their talented, young starting pitchers for an impact bat to improve their lineup.

Young starting pitching is extremely valuable, and the Mariners have developed a slew of it with 26-year-old George Kirby, 26-year-old Logan Gilbert, 25-year-old Bryce Miller and 24-year-old Bryan Woo.

By the Numbers: Mariners pitching staff has righted the ship

According to reporting from The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier this past December, the Boston Red Sox approached the Mariners about Kirby, Gilbert and others, but Seattle rebuffed. MLB Network insider Jon Morosi also reported in mid-December that Miller was drawing “steady trade interest” from teams.

How close did the Mariners come to trading one of their young arms? ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan answered that question Tuesday during his weekly appearance on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk.

“Not close,” Passan said. “Even if you can develop good major league pitching – and that’s something that the Mariners (have done) – even when you believe organizationally you have the skill to do that, it’s the greatest commodity in baseball and it’s not even close. Young starting pitching is coveted everywhere. So in order to trade them, you need to ask for and receive a disproportionate return to what the guys’ value is in computer systems.

“Those sorts of trades just very rarely happen these days, where teams are willing to give up more future value for present value. There’s just fear. And there’s fear, understandably, because the guys throw hard, and guys who throw hard tend to get hurt, and guys who tend to get hurt makes for awful trades. So it’s almost like even though the Mariners have this very valuable grouping of players in their young starting pitchers, they will almost never be able to get commensurate value in return.”

Dominant run for M’s pitching

It’s still early in the season, but the Mariners’ decision to hold on to their young arms certainly seems like a smart move so far.

After a slow start, Seattle’s rotation has been dominant over the past 10 games. Mariners starters have led the majors with a 1.44 ERA and 0.77 WHIP over that stretch, while totaling 64 strikeouts and just nine walks. They have nine quality starts over that span, with the lone exception being Kirby’s five shutout innings in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader against the Colorado Rockies. The victories have followed, with Seattle having won seven of its last 10 games after a 4-8 start.

How rare is this 10-game run of pitching dominance from the Mariners?

“It’s very rare, but it’s also not entirely unexpected,” Passan said. “This is how the Mariners were going to win, right? This is why people, myself included, were as bullish on them going into the season as they were, because they have the stuff to throw this way every time out.”

Seattle’s starting rotation solidified itself as one of the best in baseball last season, when its starters combined for the fourth-best ERA in the majors (3.89) and the best WHIP (1.14). They sputtered out of the gates this year, logging a combined 5.21 ERA and 1.34 WHIP through the first 12 games. But after this recent 10-game stretch, their early struggles figure to end up being an anomaly.

“Man, it has righted itself,” Passan said. “Since I came on (Seattle Sports) last week, the Mariners’ starters have had a seven-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio. None of them in a start has allowed more than one walk. And when you punch guys out and don’t walk guys, chances are you’re going to be really good. It’s pretty simple formula.”

Listen to the full conversation with Jeff Passan at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Brock and Salk weekdays from 6-10 a.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

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