With the Major League Baseball trade deadline completed, we fans can finally see how the Mariners intend to compete in the immediate future. The trade deadline separates the league into three categories: buyers who mortgage their future to win now, sellers who haul in good players at the expense of their current stars, and teams who don’t think they need to make any moves, which is called staying put. The Mariners bought, but the good news is that they did so in such a way that they opened a window over the next four to five years where they could establish a dynasty in the MLB.
Let’s start with their actual moves. While in the middle of a series against the Houston Astros, the Mariners made their first big trade with their opponents. The Mariners sent star closer Kendall Graveman and substantially less-good reliever Rafael Montero in exchange for veteran reliever Joe Smith and young infielder Abraham Toro. While it looked really bad initially, Toro’s breakout start with the Mariners has changed people’s minds. Graveman was set to be a free agent after the season (available to go to the highest bidder), but Toro is under team control through 2025. Additionally, his hot start has made him the most valuable player in baseball over his first seven games.
In their second move with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Mariners obtained a two-month rental of starting pitcher Tyler Anderson for two minor leaguers, Carter Bins and Joaquin Tejada. Anderson was destined to be a temporary pickup to fill out a rotation that has been decimated with injuries. It’s likely that he will leave at the end of the year because of the pitchers that Seattle will look to bring back from the injured list (Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, for example). Still, putting a reliable arm in the rotation is a great idea for a Seattle team that wants to stay in contention for the playoffs in 2021.
In their final move, the Mariners sent relief pitcher JT Chargois and minor leaguer Austin Shenton to the Tampa Bay Rays for closer Diego Castillo. After sending away Graveman, closer became an obvious need for the Mariners, and they got it. Castillo is under team control through 2024 and is an established talent at the Major League level, posting a 2.40 ERA over 2020-21. Sure, Chargois had performed fine as well, but it’s hard to turn down this kind of return.
Through these trades, the Mariners made a statement in their confidence in the core group of young players they have developed over the last few years. With the new additions, the Mariners avoided hedging their bets on their 2021 results and could transition into a state of dominance in the MLB over the next several years. We could be seeing the birth of a new era of Mariners baseball.
The Rangers had sold off two of their best players when the Mariners came to town after the deadline. However, they suffered a brutal 2-1 series loss when Rangers catcher Jonah Heim hit four of his eight home runs this season in those three games, single-handedly leading Texas to victory.
They bounced back, however, winning two of three against the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays. The season series between the two ended with the Rays narrowly avoiding a seven-game sweep in their last game.
After a 3-3 stretch in the last two series, the Mariners remained two games back from the second wild card spot, tied with the Yankees. Interestingly enough, the two are about to face off in a four-game series that could permanently influence their place in the standings. The Yankees did take two of three in their last series in July, with the lone win being a masterpiece pitching effort by Logan Gilbert.
The Mariners are in the best shape they have ever been in their 20-year playoff drought. It’s not a sure thing that they’ll make it this year, but fans around the league are going to be watching Seattle’s development with great interest.