Deadline Coverage: The Mariners Anger Fans While Making Smart Moves

Jeff Zimmerman and I will be covering the fantasy relevant deals this week, highlighting the winners and losers and pointing out the actionable items for you in your leagues.

HOU gets: RP Kendall Graveman, RP Rafael Montero

SEA gets: IF Abraham Toro, RP Joe Smith

On the heels of an amazing comeback win, the optics of trading your closer to team you just beat aren’t great, but optics don’t win games and this move makes a lot of sense. The Mariners have a 6% chance to make the playoffs, sitting behind Houston and Oakland, both of whom are unquestionably better than them at this moment. Keeping a 30-year-old free-agent-to-be with 33 good innings make absolutely no sense. Just because it angered fans and even some players doesn’t mean it was wrong.

Graveman’s season is a microcosm of the Mariners season at large as their 55-47 record despite a negative run differential and incredibly unsustainable record in 1-run games (23-8) is akin to their former closer posting a 0.82 ERA despite a strong, but hardly elite set of skills: 28% K, 7% BB, and 54% GB rate. His 2.93 SIERA is more indicative of where he should be and there is an easy case to make that he isn’t (or wasn’t, as it were) even the team’s best reliever.

Enter Paul Sewald. He, too, is a 30-something who has come out of nowhere (as relievers are wont to do), but his gaudy swing-and-miss numbers make it more sustainable. He has a 43% K rate (only Craig Kimbrel and Josh Hader are high among 163 RPs w/at least 30 IP) while his .163 AVG slots 13th. He seems like the obvious fit to replace Graveman, though if they want to keep him in the fireman role he’s excelled in thus far, they could turn to yet another out-of-nowhere 30-something they have cultivated this year in Drew Steckenrider.

Steckenrider showed some glimpses in Miami, but nothing like this. He has developed a useful change (15%) to go with his normal fastball-slider combo and it’s turned him into a monster, especially over his last 20 outings during which he has posted a 0.92 ERA and 0.86 WHIP thanks to a 27% K and 5% BB rate.

I am bidding on Sewald if I need to replace Graveman or just need saves in general, but some teams opt to put their 2nd- or 3rd-best reliever in the closer’s role as the game’s hottest moment often comes somewhere in the 6th-8th innings so don’t completely discount Steckenrider getting the role while Sewald remains their go-to guy in those key situations. If you are FAAB poor, take the $1-2 lottery ticket on Steck.

I would be surprised if Graveman gets anything other than a few random saves the rest of the way with Ryan Pressly firmly locked in as Houston’s closer and one of the league’s best this year:2.25 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 32% K, 5% BB, and 19 SVs in 44 IP. Graveman should remain in leveraged situations as he instantly becomes their 2nd-best late inning reliever and that should generate plenty of holds and could foster some sneak wins so leagues that reward solid non-closers will now be where he is most valuable.

Toro exceeded his rookie status last year but he can still be viewed as something of a prospect for the Mariners. The 24-year-old switch hitter hasn’t done much in three MLB stints totaling just 309 PA, but he did make a nice entrance with the Mariners, clubbing a 2-run pinch-hit home run that gave them a puncher’s chance in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game. He has a solid minor league track record aided by quality plate skills – 17% K, 11% BB – and he has shown some pop at the major league level this year as the aforementioned homer was his 7th in 123 PA and gave him a .200 ISO on the year.

He can handle all four positions on the infield and will likely serve in a super utility role the rest of this year as they see what they have and decide how they want to deploy him in the long-term. This leaves his fantasy value in AL Only leagues for the time being, but if he shows some upside they may find a bigger role for him in 2022.

Smith is a throw-in and the 37-year-old has zero expectations, but we’re not that far removed from a strong 25-inning sample when he posted a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP back in 2019.

SEA gets: SP Tyler Anderson

PIT gets: C Carter Bins, P Joaquin Tejada

PHI gets: merked

The Phillies seemed to have a deal in place for Anderson before it fell through a couple hours after it was rumored to be done.

DiPoto hinted that the Mariners weren’t done after the Graveman deal and hours later they had another starter. Anderson has a 4.35 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 103.3 innings this year, making him a solid middle of the rotation innings eater. He should log another 60-70 innings and even at status quo there is a chance he is more valuable to them than Graveman would’ve in 20-30 IP.

Projections don’t even think it’s close (~0.5 to ~0.1 WAR) in favor of Anderson, though I’m willing to give Graveman more of a high-2.00s/low-3.00s ERA from here on out given his improved skills, but the 2-3x innings gap still gives Anderson a real shot to be the fit for what this club needs, especially if Sewald seamlessly takes over the closer’s role. And if Anderson can avoid the implosion start and find himself with a sub-4.00 ERA over the remainder of the year, he will be huge for the M’s.

Now this is where fantasy and real-life value diverge a bit. Anderson eating innings at a capable mid-4.00s ERA clip is much more valuable to Seattle than it is to us on the fantasy landscape, even in deeper formats. That said, his 1.20 WHIP has value. He remains a traditional streamer in most formats with some team streamer (don’t cut him after using him, but instead just reserve him) upside. He is currently in the midst of such a run with a 3.03 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over his last five that includes just 21 Ks in the 29.7 innings, but also a mere 5 walks.

He draws Texas this weekend, but then heads to the Bronx. Playing it out a bit further, he would then draw Texas two more times in a row if things hold. I view him as a team streamer in 12- and 15-team formats with 3 of his next 4 against the Rangers. 10-teamers will be team dependent given the shallow format’s penchant for a richer waiver wire while on the other end of the spectrum, he could be a game-changer in AL-Only leagues if this schedules plays out like this.

Bins was 29th on our Seattle prospect list this year while Tejada is a 17-year-old righty making his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League this year.





Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

7 Comments
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geeves72member
1 year ago

Just note that not all Mariners fans are angry. A few of us actually understand why this deal makes sense. We also understand that players are human, so it’s not surprising that they would look at this and think ownership was selling. But when you have the chance to trade relievers to get something of value, you do it. Especially when you can potentially fill a big hole (3B) for the next few seasons.

Sportszillamember
1 year ago
Reply to  geeves72

This is me, too.

Shawnuelmember
1 year ago
Reply to  Sportszilla

I third!

Goob
1 year ago
Reply to  geeves72

hear hear!