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Mariners 2021 Trade Deadline Heat Check

The LL staff analyzes the Mariners trade deadline

MLB: Houston Astros at Seattle Mariners
New Mariner Abraham Toro
Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 trade deadline has come and gone, and it was one of the wildest ones in recent memory, with the flurry of moves only eclipsed by the number of typos and incorrect info (including getting goofed on by fake accounts) coming from the blue checkmarks on Twitter. It was a wild day that didn’t involve the Mariners at all, which understandably frustrated many Mariners fans, who had been promised a series of moves to offset the incredible vibes letdown from Tuesday’s trade. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t come to fruition as prices crept higher and higher as Friday’s deadline approached, with some teams going full fire sale-mode and others opting to hold their best trade chips. Now that some of the dust has settled from the deadline, we check in with the LL staff to see how we’re feeling about the deadline.


Heat check: Miami Heat, but the 2008-2009 season

Already enough time has passed from the vibe-crushing trade of Kendall Graveman to the division rival Houston Astros that I can appreciate what a good trade it is on paper. Toro seems fun, is well-regarded in the prospect world, is happy to be here and get full playing time (perhaps a Ty France-like progression is in the works, which feels like a good outcome), and the Astros—as evinced from their other deadline deals—are desperately pushing all their chips in to try to win with this core before they start losing players to free agency with no real farm system to replenish the team. The Angels are sellers at the deadline, punting yet another year of generational talent because pitching, we don’t know her. The A’s are moving small pieces around while Dave Kaval is flying around the country doing Bachelor-style hometown visits with possible suitors for a new ballpark. The Rangers have finally started the rebuild they should have started before the city of Arlington treated them to a brand new Apple Watch even though the one they have still works fine. I’m glad the Mariners weren’t willing to pay inflated deadline prices and will keep the core of prospects who should help them push to contend in the AL West as soon as next year and hopefully for years after that. My one regret is that the Mariners didn’t get Kris Bryant, as that return from SF felt easily matchable by Seattle, but I don’t know where you find space for KB in Seattle’s infield, meaning you’re pushing him to the OF primarily, and maybe the Cubs did him a solid by dealing him to a better team and a better situation in SF. The fun thing about the trade deadline is we will likely never know, and instead will be beholden to however Dipoto wants to spin it.

Speaking of Dipoto, my opinion of him took a hit this trade deadline, between clumsily handling of an unpopular trade in the clubhouse and then undermining the moves that were made by needlessly pumping hot air across the radio waves in Seattle, lulling half the fanbase into thinking the Mariners were acquiring a frontline ace and potentially salting his own game in trade talks. Jerry, take it from Mike Birbiglia: sometimes it is okay to say nothing.


Heat Check: Preheating the oven to roast at 400 degrees for either big spending in hot stove season or roasting Jerry’s ass, whichever comes first

First off, I love acquiring both Diego Castillo and Abraham Toro because they both make the 2021 slightly better (probably) and will definitely make the upcoming contending Mariners teams of 2022 and beyond better. Secondly, the other acquisitions are highly meh. Joe Smith is just Adam Warren/Zach Duke in a different skin suit and Tyler Anderson is just here to prevent excessive bullpen days the rest of the season. Jerry Dipoto could have saved himself A LOT of grief the last few days if he’d just left it at “we’re not done yet” after the Graveman trade, but he couldn’t help himself and now he has to deal with the fallout of disappointed fans who wanted the impact players he said he was after. Given the prices that the big names went for, I’m fine with Castillo/Toro being the guys that the team will carry into 2022 ASSUMING THE TEAM ACTUALLY SPENDS THIS OFFSEASON. That’s a massive assumption given the current ownership’s track record since 2019, but if “the plan” is going to work, they need more MLB-ready bats to fill out the lineup and provide lineup protection for the younger/developing players. And a couple more live arms wouldn’t hurt, of course. So yes, overall I’m happy with this trade deadline for the Mariners as it portends to the upcoming offseason. The 2021 just got outspent for the Wild Card race, which is fine. Things could still get chaotic and the Mariners could still get there with the team they have right now, but I’m totally okay with not giving up significant prospect capital right now for a shot at a highly-contested WC slot.


Heat Check: Flame retardant pants on fire

To me there are two ways to look at this trade deadline: 1) With Dipoto’s “We’re not intentionally done,” “this is the first move in what should be a succession of moves…,” etc. quotes in mind or 2) Pretending Dipoto never said those things.

If you follow #2,

Dipoto somehow managed to make what could have been one of the most exciting trade deadlines for Seattle in recent years all about his own quotes.


Heat Check: 300 Kelvin, or lukewarm

I’m with Kate; I feel much better about the Graveman trade with a few days of distance. Toro is a young, solid, controllable infielder—far more than what a rental reliever, even one as good as Graveman, should be worth. He’s Whit Merrifield at a fraction of the cost, both in terms of dollars and prospect equity. The Tyler Anderson deal is fine. Someone needs to get through innings this season and I’m not sad about losing Bins. And on the surface, it seems like the Mariners traded a low-ceiling positionless Austin Shenton for a strict upgrade at RP in Diego Castillo.

Graveman was the only obvious expiring deal to sell off. I wish the team had been able to do more as buyers, and I believe Jerry when he says he wishes that too. That said, even trading for Berríos or Bryant wouldn’t have made this team likely to do much this postseason, and looking at what those guys cost… I’m glad the Mariners didn’t pony up. That Jerry said earlier this week that the Mariners were focusing on controllable pitching, but not necessarily controllable hitting, this deadline would seem to me to indicate that he has some specific hitters he’d like to target this offseason.

All bets are off if March of 2022 rolls around and the Mariners are still sitting on their hands. Fool me once, fool me twice - I truly believe that the Mariners are going to go for it this offseason and will be a contender in 2022. If they don’t even try, I mean really try, then I’ll be at a loss. This has been the plan all along, and it’s time.


Heat Check: “You Owe Me An IOU” by Hot Hot Heat

Don’t think that I’d forget, you know I won’t forget (if the Mariners don’t spend any money again) this time (read: winter).

Seattle had an extremely safe trade deadline, something I don’t mind, but the club has kicked serious decisions down the curb once again. There were no easy wins to be had at the deadline, only bold moves, like seeking a controllable ace, but if Seattle was truly held in discussions only to moving Jarred Kelenic or Julio Rodríguez as they claim, there’s no reason for much remorse. The current club is not a serious contender for the playoffs this year, but major investments this winter can make them, much like Toronto this past winter or the White Sox a year before, into that caliber of team - no longer a paper tiger but perhaps a fully grown or at least adolescent sea beast.

Flipping two single-year signee relievers and a couple decent but far from top tier prospects into a long-term infield depth option and bullpen upgrade are solid moves. They’re also the sort of incremental, fringe-nibbling choices that Seattle has made in droves over the past five years. We’ll need impact talent this winter, which means this deadline was an IOU on future improvements.