HOUSTON — Was Jerry Dipoto really done moving before activity leading up to Tuesday’s Major League Baseball trade deadline even started to pick up?
Well, the Mariners general manager is never really done taking phone calls or sending and responding to texts (many with emojis or GIFs) from other teams when it comes to potential offers.
But after giving up four prospects, including infielders Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo, the organization’s No. 1 and No. 2 prospects, in a trade to acquire Reds ace Luis Castillo late Friday night, Dipoto didn’t exude his typical certainty when it comes to potential moves to improve his team.
“We will look for opportunities,” he said on a conference call after Castillo was traded. “We are always open to the idea of adding a bullpen arm. Luck exists. Although we think you know that Diego Castillo and Kenny Giles will be back shortly after the deadline.
What about adding another impact hitter to his roster to help an offense that has been inconsistent and unproductive at times, relying heavily on rookie Julio Rodriguez and first baseman Ty France to provide the production?
“Offensively…again, we’re open to opportunities, but it’s much harder to see where it’s going to go with (Mitch Haniger) on the way back,” Dipoto said. “We think he’s closer than far now and is playing actively. So we see Mitch and the addition of Kyle Lewis last week as the moves our offense needed. That being said, we’ll stick with it. listen to the street if the opportunity arises. It’s just a little harder to see where it might be.
Is Dipoto playing coy in hopes of gaining some clout in trade talks? It’s not usually his operating plan, and most opposing GMs don’t rely on media commentary to gauge intent or motivation.
The Mariners bullpen is heavily taxed in games after the All-Star break and the absence of an experienced southpaw outside the bullpen would be helpful instead of relying on Ryan Borucki.
On offense, the Mariners are averaging 4.05 points per game with a .235/.317/.387 slant line this season, compared to the league average of 4.25 ppg with a .242/.309/. 0.394. A healthy Haniger certainly brings improvement, but Lewis is still relegated to a part-time player. The biggest problem is that everyday players such as Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez have struggled lately. Winker has .172/.238/.293 since July 1 with three home runs and three RBIs, while Suarez has a .151/.292/.245 slant line with two doubles, one home run, seven RBIs, 10 walks and 23 strikeouts. in their last 16 games.
The roster is filled with utility players, outfielders who are better at the designated hitter, and two first basemen. This limits the field as many of the hitters available are outfielders or first base/DH types.
Where does Dipoto find an opportunity?
Five hitters who could help:
Ian Happ, LF/2B/3B, Cubs
Although he has played mostly outfield this season, Happ has played third and second base in his career. Mariners value positional versatility and love switch-hitters. Happ is also under the club’s control for next season which is an added bonus. In 97 games this season, he posted a .284/.366/.444 slash with 25 doubles, two triples, nine home runs, 46 RBIs, 42 walks and 86 strikeouts.
But for all the reasons he’s a great fit for the Mariners, Happ is also a great fit for the Padres, Cardinals, Yankees and Dodgers. The asking price might be a bit high.
Whit Merrifield, 2B/OF, Royals
The Mariners reached out to KC last year about the veteran utility player. The Royals said they would trade Merrifield to the Mariners for Julio Rodriguez. It was an indication that the Royals didn’t really want to trade him. But things are different this season as Merrifield, now 33, struggled, posting a .243/.292/.348 slant line with 22 doubles, a triple, five home runs, 40 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. Merrifield is under contract until 2023. He is also unvaccinated, which would be a problem in a playoff series against the Blue Jays in Toronto.
Christian Vazquez, C, Red Sox
The emergence of Cal Raleigh as a primary receiver is one of the main reasons for the Mariners’ recent success. But he can’t play every day and the Mariners have already pushed him to play more than is ideal. It shows how poorly Luis Torrens performed at home plate and behind. Vazquez, who would be a rental, has a .280/.324/.430 slant line with 19 doubles, eight homers and 30 RBIs and would be a major improvement.
Brandon Drury, SI, Reds
Well, why not just add the rest of the Reds to the list? Drury has a career year in free agency, posting a .271/.332/.512 slant line with 21 doubles, two triples, 19 home runs and 57 RBIs in 89 games. But some scouts think it’s a product of playing at the Great American Ballpark. He has a .292/.347/.543 slash with 15 doubles, 11 home runs and 36 RBIs in 50 games at Cincy versus a .241/.310/.468 slash with six doubles, eight home runs and 21 RBIs in 39 road games.
Miguel Andujar, SI, Yankees
A bit of a scope that would come at a cheap cost. Andujar is stuck in Triple-A with no spot on the Yankees’ big league roster. He has a .305/.350/.516 slant line with 14 doubles, 11 home runs and 43 RBIs at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He can play third base, first base and left field. But is he better than Dylan Moore or Sam Haggerty?
Five relievers who could help:
Matt Moore, LHP, Rangers
Once a touted starter for the Rays, Moore has thrived as a reliever for the Rangers this season, posting a 4-2 record with a 1.66 ERA in 36 appearances. In 48 2/3 innings, he struck out 52 batters with 24 walks. He is not a left-handed specialist and has actually been more effective than right-handed hitters. He also had 19 appearances over an inning pitched, which has major value.
Andrew Chafin, LHP, Tigers
A hired reliever, Chafin looks like a bouncer at a honky tonk bar in Texas. In 37 appearances, he has a 2.53 record with 39 strikeouts and 10 walks in 32 innings pitched. While the Tigers are also listening to offers on left-handed relievers Joe Jimenez and Gregory Soto, the team is closer, the asking price for Chafin is much lower. Chafin is also not vaccinated and cannot travel to Toronto.
Michael Fulmer, RHP, Tigers
Another rental reliever, Fulmer’s big draw is his versatility. Although he hasn’t done it as much this season, the former starter can work more innings if necessary. He is 3-4 and has a 2.77 ERA in 40 appearances with 38 strikeouts and 20 walks in 39 innings pitched.
Jorge Lopez, RHP, Orioles
A waiver request by Baltimore in 2020 and an All-Star in 2022, Lopez has a 4-6 record and 1.68 ERA in 44 appearances. Using a powerful ’90s lead and quality slider, Lopez struck out 54 batters in 48 1/3 innings pitched with 17 walks. Opposing hitters have a .174/.262/.267 slant line against him.
Joe Mantiply, LHP, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks’ representative in the All-Star Game this season, he would come with a higher prospect price due to controlling the club through the 2026 season. Mantiply has a 2.35 ERA in 42 appearances with 38 strikeouts at bat and only two walks, yes, two, in 38 1/3 innings pitched.