The Mariners’ less-talked-about trade deadline need

Jun 20, 2024, 7:53 AM | Updated: 8:08 am

Seattle Mariners...

Cal Raleigh and Andrés Muñoz of the Seattle Mariners celebrate a win during a 2024 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Much of the conversation surrounding the Seattle Mariners and the upcoming July 30 MLB tradeline has centered around just how Seattle can bolster its offensive production, and rightfully so.

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Even with improved play of late, the Mariners still rank near the bottom of the league in many offensive categories, including the frustrating designation of leading the league in strikeout rate.

The lineup is not the only place Seattle appears to have a need to add at, though. As former Mariners pitcher and MLB Network analyst Ryan Rowland-Smith highlighted Wednesday on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy, the bullpen is also in need of some reinforcements.

“One thing that concerns me with the Mariners is just the bullpen,” Rowland-Smith said, “and that’s something that, if you had to have one element of your team, whether it be rotation, offense or bullpen, the easiest fix, easiest place to go and get it, is the bullpen.”

The problem

Seattle’s bullpen has put together a solid season thus far and ranks near the middle or in the top 10 of MLB in most categories. That includes being 15th in ERA (3.83), eighth in FIP (3.74), eighth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.23) and 10th in fWAR (1.8), according to FanGraphs.

However, those numbers have perhaps been aided by the usage of the unit. Mariners relievers have thrown an MLB-low 225 1/3 innings, thanks in large part to a league-best 46 quality starts from their starting pitchers.

The importance of those long outings by starters has been amplified by the injuries to relievers. Strikeout monster and go-to pivot man Matt Brash won’t pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery, key offseason addition Gregory Santos is still rehabbing from an injury that’s kept him from pitching during the regular season and closer Andrés Muñoz has dealt with back issues that have limited his availability in recent weeks. Additionally, key left-handers Tayler Saucedo and Gabe Speier have each missed time, and Speier is currently on the injured list.

The danger of having unreliable arms in the bullpen showed last Saturday when Eduard Bazardo nearly gave up a six-run lead in the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers.

The need

Rowland-Smith wasn’t necessarily suggesting Seattle puts together a costly package to acquire a top-of-the-line, high-leverage reliever like the San Diego Padres did in 2022 to bring in Josh Hader.

“Let’s focus our attention on filling up that middle pack,” he said. “Who’s someone who can go an inning and one-third? Who’s someone who’s not going to walk people and can come in and put out a fire? That inherited-run percentage is a big factor to me, come the sixth and seventh inning.”

The M’s history of developing relief pitching shows they could likely find value with a much lesser-known commodity.

“If they can get someone where it’s not going to cost you a whole lot, the Mariners do such a great job of bringing guys in and identifying what they can do from a bullpen standpoint,” Rowland-Smith said. “We’ve seen that with (Paul) Sewald, (Justin) Topa, (Drew) Steckenrider, Gabe Speier, guys like that.”

Rowland-Smith believes solving that bullpen problem would ultimately give the team a chance to focus on what it’s going to do to address its offense.

“If they can clear up that bullpen depth issue, which they’re dealing with a little bit at the moment, if they can get that right come the trade deadline, they can put all their focus into getting offense, which we all know they need,” Rowland-Smith said.

Listen to the full conversation with ex-Mariners pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Bump and Stacy weekdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

More on the Seattle Mariners

• ESPN’s Passan: Could Mariners win World Series with current roster?
• Mariners Insider: An unexpected move that may pay off for all involved
• Mariners’ Josh Rojas has elite ‘instincts,’ Gold Glove case at 3B
Family of Mariners’ Luke Raley plays wacky role in his big game
• Seattle Mariners Trade Deadline: A look at three routes with Passan

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