As the Major League Baseball trade deadline closes on Tuesday, August 1, the Seattle Mariners find themselves in the same position they have been in all season.
They are hovering around the .500 mark and within five games of a playoff spot. It’s essentially right where the team has been since the end of April. It’s also a tough spot to be in-not good enough to go all in, but not bad enough to justify selling.
By being stuck in the middle, the odds are high that the Mariners will also choose a middle path at the trade deadline. As I outlined in June, the Mariners will probably deal from their pile of relievers and maybe move veteran players on expiring contracts, such as Teoscar Hernandez and Tom Murphy, or bullpen arms like Paul Sewald that could bring back a prospect or two. If they add pieces, they figure to be players that are cheap (either in terms of the contract or the cost of talent to acquire) and/or have multiple years of team control left on their contract.
No matter the Mariners’ path at the deadline, they have been on both sides of the buying and selling coin at the trade deadline over the past 30 years. Here are some of their more notable trade deadline deals:
2022: The Mariners went big as buyers at the deadline for the first time in years. They scraped off a large part of their highly-ranked farm system to acquire Luis Castillo from the Cincinnati Reds two days before the trade deadline. The deal worked out almost perfectly for the Mariners, as Castillo helped anchor an already solid pitching rotation and get the team to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. He signed a contract extension in the offseason and has continued to excel this year. Meanwhile, Noelve Marte, who formed the core of the package Cincinnati received in return, is now the Reds’ No. 1 prospect and currently a standout in AAA while he awaits a chance in the Major Leagues.
2021: The Mariners were in a similar position that they are now, trying to decide if they wanted to push for a playoff spot or sell some of their most useful players. They chose to do a bit of both, trading closer Kendal Graveman to the Houston Astros, in a move that angered players on the team at the time because the Mariners were chasing the Astros in the standings and had just beat them on a dramatic come from behind win the night before. The Mariners shuffled around their bullpen at the deadline and acquired some help for their infield, with utility player Abraham Toro returning from Graveman. Neither player quite lived up to expectations in their new home. Still, Rafael Montero, who was thrown in with Graveman in the trade after a miserable half-season for the Mariners, continues to pitch at an elite level for the Astros to this day.
2020: Playing a shortened season without fans in the stands couldn’t keep the Mariners from losing, and they went into sell mode at the trade deadline. In what may go down as the most one-sided of the many, many trades Jerry DiPoto has made during his time in Seattle, the Mariners shipped out catcher Austin Nola and a pair of relief pitchers in exchange for infielder Ty France, catcher Luis Torrens, reliever Andres Munoz, and outfielder Taylor Trammel. All four players in that trade have contributed in some form at the major league level for the Mariners, with France becoming the starting first baseman and Munoz serving as a setup man and closer in the bullpen. Meanwhile, Nola never took off from the Padres and recently found himself back in the minor leagues.
2014: The last time the Mariners were truly buyers at the trading deadline before 2022. Sitting four games over .500 in the week before the trade deadline, the team made a push, acquiring first baseman Kendrys Morales and outfielders Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia. The team played well the rest of the way, going 31-23 over the final two months of the season, but came up just short of the playoffs, finishing one game behind the Oakland Athletics, who took the wild card.
2010: After swinging a trade for Philadelphia Phillies Ace Cliff Lee in the offseason and finishing 2009 with a winning record, the Mariners expected to contend the following season. However, the team cratered, and at the deadline, they shipped Lee off to the Texas Rangers for a trade package headlined by young first baseman Justin Smoak, who was supposed to anchor first base for the Mariners for years to come. Smoak never did manage to hit in his time in Seattle, and the team cycled through numerous first basemen before eventually landing on Ty France a decade later.
1998: A quarter century ago, the Mariners made arguably their most significant trade deadline move as sellers, shipping out future Hall-of-Famer Randy Johnson to the Houston Astros in exchange for starting pitchers Freddy Garcia and John Halama and shortstop Carlos Guillen. In terms of return, the Mariners could not have asked for better results. Garcia would become a staff ace, and Halama and Guillen would play significant roles on a team that would become one of the best in baseball for a brief period in the late 90s and early 2000s.
1995: For the first time in forever, the Mariners were competitive. Despite sitting well behind the California Angels in the AL West entering the season’s final two months, the team still felt it had a chance. On July 31, the team traded a pair of prospects to the San Diego Padres for starting pitcher Andy Benes. Two weeks later, the team acquired outfielder Vince Coleman from the Kansas City Royals. Over the final two months, the team ran down the Angels, forced a one-game playoff for the division title, and made the playoffs for the first time in team history. Despite being near the end of his career, Coleman gave the Mariners much-needed energy in leftfield down the stretch while Benes went 7-2 to close out the season.
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