NEW YORK — The speculation can stop. Mock trade proposals drawn up by fan-agers in general can wait for the offseason. Amateur scouting of prospects through 40-second videos and statistics can be discontinued. The constant hours of checking Twitter may lessen a bit.
The MLB trade deadline has passed, and all that angst and anticipation about who a team might add or get rid of can now turn to what players teams have and how they’ll fare in the final months of the season.
When Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners’ president of baseball operations, jumped on the market and acquired Luis Castillo, the best available starter, from the Reds in exchange for four prospects, including outfielders Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo , occupy the 1st and 2nd places in the ranking. organization respectively, fans were largely giddy. The Mariners had outscored the Cardinals and Yankees.
Certainly, there would be more in the way of impact hitters to help an offense that hasn’t been without top hitters Julio Rodriguez and Ty France and hasn’t been as strong with them in the lineup.
But Dipoto, who is usually pretty candid when it comes to possible moves, maintained his primary goal was adding a top of the rotation starter, never committing to a status-like acquisition of a position player beyond being opportunists.
Even after the Castillo trade, he said on a conference call, “On the offensive end … again we’re open to opportunities, but it’s a lot harder to see where that will happen with (Mitch Haniger) coming back. We think he’s closer than far now and he’s actively playing. So we look at Mitch and the addition of Kyle Lewis last week as the moves that our offense needed.”
Instead, the Mariners made minor moves to improve the edges of their roster on the final day of the deadline, acquiring veteran left-hander Jake Lamb from the Dodgers to factor in the money and taking catcher Curt Casali and left-handed pitcher Matt Boyd from the Giants for a pair of minor leaguers.
It might have felt a little anti-climactic for some fans, but it shouldn’t have been completely unexpected.
But questions remain from fans. So here is an attempt to answer them.
Why didn’t the Mariners add a bat to help the offense?
Technically, Lamb is a hitter with a track record of success against right-handed pitchers who should complement the offense. But fans were hoping for an impact bat, or at least a name they recognize as good.
There were some complications. The trade market hasn’t been full of impact pitchers, especially with the Giants and Red Sox not going into full sell-off mode.
Given the makeup of the Mariners’ active roster, positional strengths, contract commitments and limitations of some players on it, the needle in terms of positional fit for opportunity was not high.
“There wasn’t much need to go out and improve those positions unless you can really improve them,” Dipoto told Seattle Sports 710 on Thursday. “The incremental move is probably not worth the disruption it causes to the club for a chance when you have guys who have a track record like the players we have. With the obvious exception being Juan Soto and Josh Bell… the reality is there weren’t a lot of premium offensive players available on the market.”
Perhaps the two best bats available were Chicago’s Ian Happ and Cincinnati’s Brandon Drury.
Happ, a switch-hitter who can play third base, second base and left field, seemed like a perfect fit for Seattle given his versatility. He is also under club control until the 2023 season, which is also a plus for a team that has acquired – but also increases the cost of prospects.
It seemed at one time that Happ and teammate Willson Contreras would be moved. So much so, they said goodbye to Cubs fans at their last game at Wrigley Field before the deadline.
Instead, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer did not find a trade for either player.
MLB sources indicate the Cubs’ asking prices were simply too high, expecting similar returns to last season’s trades for Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.
Happ’s versatility — his best defensive position is in left field and he’s slightly average to below average in the infield — made him a good fit. After an awful 2021, he has a .276/.357/.431 slash line with nine homers and 46 RBI. Is he better than Jesse Winker? Yes, but the Mariners have Winker under contract through 2023 and simply won’t designate him for assignment.
The well-traveled Drury became a fan favorite to replace Adam Frazier at second base. Playing with his fifth team and used mostly as a shortstop in the past, Drury had a breakout season with the Reds, posting a .274/.335/.520 slash line with 21 homers and 63 RBI in 92 of games. He has appeared in games at every position but his career, but is considered a below-average defender at all of them.
MLB scouts and analysts felt that 2022 was an exceptional performance, benefiting greatly from Great American Ballpark and other NL Central parks. It’s fair for the Mariners to be reluctant to trade for a Reds hitter who is having a breakout season and wondering if he will move to the American League.
Instead, the Padres took Drury for Victor Acosta, an 18-year-old who ranked 11th overall in a Padres farm system loaded by Baseball America.
But why not go during that breakout season?
Dipoto isn’t above acquiring a two-month rental, but it’s usually to address immediate needs, such as trading lefty Tyler Anderson last season or fringe roster pieces like Casali this season, who no prospectus costs required.
“We didn’t want to get too many pending free agents and spend real prospects and hit our prospect system harder than we already did if that player wasn’t going to be here with us for at least another year.” Dipoto said.
Did the Mariners have enough to trade for Juan Soto?
When news broke that Soto had turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract and the Nationals were shopping him for a potential trade, Dipoto put together a player package that featured Marte and Arroyo. Seattle was willing to part with Jarred Kelenic and Emerson Hancock in the deals, according to sources. Other names such as Matt Brash and catcher Harry Ford have also been rumored.
A pack of Kelenic, Hancock, Brash, Marte and Arroyo does not end. The Mariners didn’t have that top-10 prospect who was ready for the big leagues like Kelenic once was in their system.
Dipoto recognized early that they weren’t in that range and refocused on Castillo.
It speaks to how much Kelenic’s stock as a prospect has fallen over the past season and a half. His struggles at the MLB level significantly diminished his value, regardless of the numbers he put up at Class AAA Tacoma. While Kelenic just turned 23, concerns about his ability to recognize and hit MLB breaking pitches, an indifferent two-strike approach and a stubbornness to sell out for power still pervade MLB scouting circles .
One NL scout said, “His swing angles are likely to continue to expose him at the MLB level.”
One AL scout labeled his swing “robotic” and his approach “broken.” Kelenic has six more days to prove the scouts and Mariners wrong until Julio Rodriguez returns from the injured list.
Did the Mariners overpay for Luis Castillo?
Giving up on your prospects no. 1 (Tuesday), no. 2 (Arroyo), no. 10 (Levi Stoudt, RHP) and #26 (Andrew Moore, RHP) in your organization to Baseball America seems like a lot.
But the use of organizational ranking systems can be flawed because the talent of organizations varies. Yes, the Mariners were considered one of the top three farm systems coming into the season. But that ranking would drop with the graduation of prospect status, Rodriguez, Kirby and Brash.
Would Mars be a #1 prospect in the Padres or Rays system? There are many scouts and baseball insiders who believe Arroyo, a shortstop with better athleticism and defensive skills, is the best player Seattle gave up.
Marte is ranked in Baseball America’s top 20 and MLB Pipeline’s top 100. But part of that is based on a premium position — shortstop.
Given his size (6-3, 200 pounds) and footwork and throwing issues, the logical transition would have been to third base. Scouts now project Mars to play left field or first base, which lowers his value in terms of rankings. But the bat is the means of transportation for him.
Stoudt had an up and down year for Class AA Arkansas. An emphasis on his slider hasn’t yielded remarkable results, his fastball actually dropping from 94-95 mph on average last season.
The Reds wanted both Marte and Arroyo from the start. The sailors tried to find another package that included only one of them. But Cincy stood firm knowing the Yankees and Cardinals were also interested in Castillo.
“We understood at the eleventh hour when we made that deal that if we didn’t push the button, it was going to end somewhere else,” Dipoto said. “We weren’t willing to take that chance.”
The lineup of Castillo, Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert in a wild card series and even a five game series after that is formidable. Ending the postseason drought and making a run is worth the risk for the Mariners.