In 2014 it was Game 162. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Félix Hernández walked off the mound with one out in the sixth, his team ahead 4-0.
(Mariners acquire Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia at the trade deadline.)
On October 1, 2016 it came in the 10th inning of Game 161. Our hearts soared alongside Nelson Cruz’s home run ball in the eighth but plummeted with a Joey Wendle double.
(Mariners acquire Ariel Miranda, Drew Storen, Daniel Vogelbach and Paul Blackburn at the trade deadline.)
Last year it was October 3, before Game 162 could even start, our fate in the hands of others.
(Mariners acquire Diego Castillo, Tyler Anderson, Abraham Toro and Joe Smith at the trade deadline.)
The end to the 2022 season is yet to be written, the trade deadline still days away, but in acquiring Luis Castillo yesterday the Seattle Mariners have made it clear to fans and the league that they are all in.
It’s the type of move that we’ve waited years for, watching with envy as other teams went big while ours played it safe(r). This is a move that is unequivocally brash and, after so much time spent opting for the conservative option, a bit nerve-wracking in its boldness.
The loss of hope that the four prospects in the deal represented - Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo in particular - stings, but it pales in comparison to the devastation of ending another season close but not close enough. Neither Marte nor Arroyo are slated to make the big leagues until at least 2025/6, while Castillo is the guy you want to start twice in a postseason series. As a major league club, you hope to develop as many prospects as possible into major league talents, but realistically you’ll never be able to field an entirely homegrown team. Great players are increasingly being signed and extended to circumvent free agency, so the only remaining option is to trade for them with some of those prospects. The Mariners have plenty of time to rebuild their farm system; their window of contention isn’t nearly as generous. They have to act now - and they did.
Seattle’s acquisition of Castillo also goes beyond his positive impact on the club; it weakens other teams the Mariners are directly competing with. Reporters noted that a dozen other teams were in the mix for Castillo, including the Yankees, who were “close.” With the addition of the third Wild Card slot this year, more teams than ever can fool themselves into thinking they’re in contention at the trade deadline, which makes the market particularly buyer-heavy. Luis Castillo is now a Seattle Mariner, yes, but he’s also not a Yankee/Blue Jay/Ray/White Sock/Twin, etc. and that carries value in and of itself.
There will be plenty more written about what Castillo brings to the Mariners; about the ramifications of this trade on Seattle’s farm system; and far too much about which team “won” the trade (an antiquated and binary notion if ever there was one). But this move represents so much more than the acquisition of an ace. This is the most it has ever felt like the front office truly believes in the team they’ve assembled. And maybe it’s pressure more so than belief, but you know what? That’s okay. There should be pressure. Our seasons have ended far too early for far too long.
“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart,” Bartlett Giamatti writes in his glorious essay, The Green Fields of the Mind. “The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.”
The end will always come, but perhaps this year, with the help of this move, we can delay our aloneness a bit longer.