Is Jerry Dipoto a Secret Genius?

The Paul Sewald trade still has some people scratching their heads almost a month later, but is it as bad as it seemed at the time? Was there a clear winner to this trade? Not really. Both teams are benefiting from player performance and filled vital needs for upcoming playoff pushes. The Seattle Mariners got much-needed impact offense and depth while also adding for the future, and the Arizona Diamondbacks got an instant star closer for their mediocre bullpen.

Is Jerry Dipoto a Secret Genius? A look back at the Paul Sewald trade.

Dipoto might see more than we gave him credit for

With that being said, Mariners President of Baseball OPs Jerry Dipoto has made his fair share of unpopular moves during his time in Seattle. From acquiring guys like Adam Frazier and Kolten Wong to fill the second base gap instead of signing a big-name shortstop or even being able to pluck an elite reliever out of thin air, Dipoto is no stranger to the odd move.

A former reliever himself, Dipoto has an eye for a hidden bullpen gem. Arquimedes Caminero, Casey Sadler, and Sewald, just to name a few. Even Mets closer Edwin Diaz came into play during Dipoto’s reign. Due to that ability and the Mariner’s insane knack for pitching consistency, Seattle’s bullpen has finished in the top 10 in ERA in the last two seasons and looks to do so again in 2023.

However, Dipoto is also familiar with moving on from these elite talents. Look at the Teoscar Hernandez trade. High-leverage reliever Erik Swanson, who ate 154.2 innings with a 4.13 ERA in four seasons with the Mariners, was moved on to acquire elite outfield talent.

But what makes the Sewald deal any different?

Let’s look at what Sewald did with the Mariners to answer that. Before coming over, Sewald pitched 147.1 innings with a 5.50 ERA in four seasons in a bad Mets bullpen. The Mariners signed him to a minor-league deal with a spring training invite to the big-league club in January 2021. That season, Sewald made the team and pitched in 62 games during the Mariners’ playoff push.

During his 2.5 seasons in Seattle, Sewald pitched in 171.2 innings with a 2.88 ERA, becoming a mainstay in Servais’ bullpen. Sewald became a dependable arm and a fan favorite who quickly cemented himself as the Mariners’ new closer. Sewald endeared himself to fans by pointing a heart to his daughter after every inning, a tradition that took off with his new-found success. In addition to his on-field success, his personality off the field helped grow his relationship with the Seattle faithful.

From trying to recruit Kris Bryant to the Mariners to pledging $200 per strikeout to charity, Sewald became a household name in the PNW.

With all that being said, why exactly did the Mariners trade him?

Well, for starters, Sewald is in his age 33 season. Baseball, unfortunately, is a business, and you have to trade your assets when their value is high. Sewald was enjoying his second-best season with Seattle ERA-wise, and many teams needed bullpen help at the July 31st deadline. The Mariners, however, needed offense, and they needed it badly.

The Mariners found themselves at 55-51, fourth in the AL West at the deadline. While yes, they were starting to pick things up after a very rocky first half, they still strongly needed some help. Off-season acquisitions Kolten Wong, Tommy La Stella, and Cooper Hummel were no longer with the big-league team at the deadline.

The Mariners found themselves in a bizarre place come deadline day. Was their team good enough to buy and make a run? Or was it bad enough to start a fire sale and try again next year? The answer to that question lies somewhere in between. With the success of Seattle’s off-season bullpen reinforcements Trevor Gott (also traded) and Justin Topa, the Mariners had the freedom to shop Sewald.

Enter the Arizona Diamondbacks

Sitting at 57-50, third place in a very tough NL West division at the deadline, the Diamondbacks desperately needed some bullpen help. After losing a three-game series to Seattle, both teams were able to identify needs and strike a deal. RHP Paul Sewald was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, getting INF Josh Rojas, OF Dominic Canzone, and prospect INF Ryan Bliss in return. What does this return mean for the Mariners – and what will their bullpen do without Sewald?

Let’s look at the return.

Rojas, 29, is precisely the profile Dipoto loves. Rojas spent 4.5 seasons with Arizona and was a versatile infielder, hitting .252/.330/.367 with 22 HRs and 144 RBIs. However, he has been underwhelming by his standards this year, slashing .228/.292/.296 with no HR and 26 RBIs.

Canzone, 26, is a promising young outfielder who has showcased his pop since coming over. In 15 MLB games with Arizona, he hit .237/.293/.368 with one HR and eight RBIs.

The minor-league speed-power threat Bliss, 23, hit .358 in Double-A, with 12 HR and 30 SB but hasn’t found that same success in Reno, Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate, hitting .196/.274/.357 with one HR and five SB.

New kids on the block

After starting slowly, all three players have started to find their footing in Seattle. In 14 games with the Mariners, Rojas has hit .255/.286/.426 with two HRs and seven RBIs. Canzone has hit .235/.304/.431 with two HRs and three RBIs in 15 games. Bliss is slashing .240/.318/.387 with two HRs and 13 RBIs in 18 games for Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers.

Canzone is filling in for the injured Jarred Kelenic, who is expected to be out until at least September. Canzone’s defense is far from Kelenic’s, but his ability to get on base is a valuable tool for this Mariners team and one they’ve been missing. Rojas is splitting time at second base with Dylan Moore and Jose Caballero, a formula that works for all parties. Rojas enjoyed a three-hit game against the 2022 World Champion Houston Astros in a three-game sweep over the weekend. Moore had a two-HR game and a four-hit game, and Caballero showcased his trademark pitcher-frustrating skills and even checked in with an RBI.

But what about the bullpen?

That’s a tricky question. The Mariners could’ve done with an additional arm before dealing Gott and Sewald. However, they didn’t leave the reliever market empty-handed.

The Mariners acquired Zach Muckenhirn, 28, from the Mets for Gott and Chris Flexen. Muckenhirn is yet to pitch in the majors for Seattle but has appeared in 10 games for the Rainiers with a disappointing 6.75 ERA. The Mariners also traded for Eduard Bazardo, 27, from Baltimore. Bazardo has allowed one run in two innings for the Mariners, showcasing some filthy breaking pitches while looking pretty shaky out of the pen.

Tuesday, the Mariners announced they signed Luke Weaver, 30, to a one-year deal. This move comes after they optioned Bazardo and recently-recalled Darren McCaughan to Tacoma following Emerson Hancock’s season-ending shoulder injury.

The ever-nasty Andres Munoz has taken the bulk of the closing responsibilities, with fellow high-leverage relievers Topa, Matt Brash, and even hidden gem Gabe Speier chipping in.

The Mariners now find themselves at 71-55, one of the best teams in the league since July 1st. 21-5 in their last 26, the Mariners have sole possession of the third AL Wildcard spot. This is undoubtedly thanks to who else but Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Paul Sewald. Sewald pitched two scoreless innings with a save over the AL West-leading Texas Rangers in a two-game sweep over the weekend. This, along with their sweep of the Houston Astros and series win against the Chicago White Sox, has bumped the Mariners to 0.5 games behind Houston, and one game behind Texas, with 36 games left to play.

Main Image:  Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

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