Trade deadline recap and the new state of the M's
Though he'll need a new jersey number, Ty France will add some je-ne-sais-quois to the Mariners
August 31, 2020
The wild and wacky 2020 mini-season, with its expanded playoff structure and small-sample-sized skewing of performances, made for some interesting wheeling and dealing over the last few days. With 2020's oddly timed August 31st trading deadline now behind us, what interesting conclusions can we make?
We'll get to the Mariners in a bit, but for 2020 contenders, we can infer that:
- The Padres are in it to win it, but didn't do their due diligence on their new acquisitions. It's clear they thought they needed more offensive production in order to get past the first round of playoffs, and in that respect they did well in their deals—in addition to getting Austin Nola from the M's, San Diego also added veteran bats in Mitch Moreland and Yonder Alonso—but they utterly failed to address their biggest weakness, which is relief pitching. They picked up a solid starting pitcher in Mike Clevinger, who fell out of favor with the Indians after ignoring coronavirus protocols earlier in the season, and a veteran reliever in Trevor Rosenthal, but (a) gave up one of their few productive relievers in Cal Quantrill and (b) took on two of Seattle's problem children in RHPs Dan Altavilla and Taylor Williams. So their relief corps is worse now. They did get Austin Adams as well, but it's an open question whether he'll be ready to pitch again before next year. All their frantic activity here might have been for naught if their relief blows up down the stretch.
- The Blue Jays want to make the most of their displaced campaign. They've been a surprise team this year that under normal circumstances would just be playing for pride (and not playing in a Triple-A park in Buffalo), but there are eight berths in this year's playoff tourney, and by gum the Jays want to be one of them. With their new additions they may very well climb the ladder to a higher berth, too; they added three starting pitchers in Taijuan Walker, Ross Stripling, and Robbie Ray, plus infielder Jonathan Villar to give some depth with shortstop Bo Bichette currently on the injured list. They probably won't catch the Rays, but might climb high enough to get home-field in the first playoff round. Not that such a thing will mean much this year.
- The Reds seem to think they're not out of it, and they might be right as .500 is probably going to be good enough for a berth. They got a little better without giving up much.
- The Marlins and Phillies are in great position for a run, but didn't improve themselves that much; the Fish did get Starting Marte, but that's it, really.
- The 2020 playoffs are going to be truly bizarre, at least at the start.
As for the Mariners, they did astonishingly well.
Really. Look what general manager Jerry Dipoto's accomplishments over the last week or so:
- Cut bait on Daniel Vogelbach, which might have been a tough call on sentimental grounds, but was an easy choice on rational ones. His personality will be missed, but his baseball production is instantly replaced by José Marmolejos for the time being and will be bettered longer-term by others.
- Got return for pending free-agent Taijuan Walker that he seems pretty stoked about. We don't know who the player the M's will get back from the Jays is, but in an interview today Dipoto confirmed that there is in fact a player coming after season's end that is a high level prospect. If Walker was/is to be a part of the Mariners' future, he'd have had to be re-signed anyway and at the moment he was superflous to this year's squad thanks to an abundance of good starting pitchers needing development time.
- Absolutely fleeced the Padres. In three separate deals, Dipoto traded one solid player—Austin Nola—along with one good reliever still out with injury (Austin Adams) for a top outfield prospect (Taylor Trammel), a promising young catcher (Luis Torrens), an on-base machine—and headline-writing inspiration—in last year's Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year (Ty France), a different currently-out-with-injury good reliever (Andres Muñoz), a warm body for bullpen tryouts (Jimmy Yacabonis), and a PTBNL that reportedly is an RHP drafted just last year in the fourth round (Matt Brash). AND he got San Diego to take Altavilla and Williams off his hands.
We'll get to see what new catcher Torrens has first-hand when the M's resume play later this week; he figures to be the everyday catcher going forward. We'll also see France in the remainder of the season, as he'll likely get into the lineup as a platoon DH and to spell a couple of the infielders now and then. The bullpen is better off just by removing Williams and Altavilla from manager Scott Servais' menu of options. And for the future, Dipoto now has a surplus of outfielders he can use in offseason dealings. With Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley with the M's now, Mitch Hangier due back next season, and Mallex Smith on the taxi squad, they're well set for 2021; after that, add Trammel, Jarred Kelenic, and Julio Rodríguez to the mix and it's an embarrassment of riches, and that's not even considering the contributions of versatile utility guys like Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore (though I'm still unconvinced that Moore's recent surge is for real).
It's looking good for the Future M's. There are still issues to be resolved, like what to do with Shed Long and who might be brought in to make the bullpen actually decent, but on the whole, this rebuild thing seems to be working out.