Yesterday was pretty enjoyable, at least through the early afternoon. We were all firmly in the afterglow of Monday night’s thrilling comeback victory over the Astros (which I’ll write about tomorrow, when I get to the series recap). That all shifted ON A DIME the moment the Mariners made their first deal of the day.
Where was I when I heard about Kendall Graveman being traded? I was in my bedroom, listening to a podcast from 710 ESPN where the radio hosts did an interview with Scott Servais. I wanted to lap up every last drop of the previous night’s win. As soon as it was over, I looked at my phone and noticed the “Breaking News” alert at the top of the screen.
I saw something to the effect of “Graveman Traded To The Astros” and my mind was on fire. So many conflicting thoughts!
- Wait, our closer?
- Wait … to a divisional rival?
- Wait, doesn’t this fill the Astros’ most glaring hole?
- Who did we get?
- The Astros have a pretty deep roster and farm system, I bet it was somebody really good!
- I mean, after all, you don’t trade to a team in your own division unless they’re willing to pay a king’s ransom, right?
- Oh shit, it’s going to suck when we have to try to hit off of this guy now.
I ran to the office, opened my laptop, and continued scrolling through Twitter until I got all the details.
Kendall Graveman and Rafael Montero to the Astros for Abraham Toro and Joe Smith.
Okaaaaaaay. Who dey?
Abraham Toro is an infielder (primarily third base, but can also play second) who is 24 years old and under organizational control through the 2025 season. All right! Not bad! Except, he’s played in parts of three seasons now and his career slash line is: .196/.278/.364. Yikes. So, he hits poorly, AND he doesn’t really have much power to speak of. And even his minor league numbers aren’t super eye-popping. He was originally drafted in the fifth round in 2016, so it’s not like he has this amazing pedigree.
But, I’ll say this: scouts seem to really believe that he’s due to break out anytime now. That’s encouraging. On top of which, he has homered in three straight games now (including Monday night against the Mariners, and last night against the Astros). I know that’s not a lot, but Mariners fans – and the players on that active roster – really needed to see him do something as a pinch hitter last night, considering the mood on the team.
If you haven’t read the Seattle Times article in the immediate aftermath of the trade yesterday, do yourself a favor and check it out. Odds are you’ve seen the quotes elsewhere, but the players – anonymously, of course – really let the organization have it, including Jerry Dipoto specifically. They DO NOT LIKE that guy! I mean, obviously, this is a continuation of the Kevin Mather nonsense from earlier this year, but now it’s all out in the open and actively harped upon: the Seattle Mariners – from the perspective of not just the fans, but the players too – do not care about winning ballgames at the Major League level.
I guess I had no idea how much the players liked Kendall Graveman! The amount of tears the article talks about is astonishing to me. I mean, I always liked the guy. He’s gutty and tough – playing through his degenerative neck issue, that has taken his ability to be a starter from him – and oh by the way, he’s also really fucking good! 0.82 ERA, 10 saves, 4-0 record across 30 games; he was far and away the best reliever in this bullpen that’s one of the best in all of baseball. That’s saying something!
But, also, he’s only signed through the end of this season. He’s on a cheap contract now, but with the way he’s been dominating, he’s going to be commanding a salary ten times that amount next year and beyond (getting it, almost certainly, from a team other than the Mariners). And, we absolutely cannot forget the fact that he has that injury issue, and could go down at any time. This is, 100%, the peak of Kendall Graveman’s value, and the Mariners would’ve been insane to NOT trade him.
However, yesterday afternoon was also 100% the peak of Worst Timing Ever when it comes to dealing Graveman, as again, we were all living in the afterglow of the previous night’s dramatic come-from-behind 11-8 victory, where Graveman came in for the 8th inning and shut the Astros down, to give the Mariners offense an opportunity to hit the go-ahead Grand Slam. He was instrumental in that victory, as he’s been in just about every game he’s appeared in this year. And, apparently he was also one of the most respected and beloved leaders on that team.
In a vacuum, taking out all of the emotions, it’s not a bad deal for the Mariners. We traded Graveman, again, at the apex of his value. We also were able to unload Rafael Montero, who’s a guy we’d just Designated For Assignment. In return, we get a relatively highly-touted Major League-level prospect (in other words, not a guy we have to wait on to develop in the minors), who we control through 2025 … and sure, we take on a veteran reliever in Joe Smith who’s been struggling this season with a bloated 7.48 ERA (but has otherwise been rock solid throughout his 15-year career). Joe Smith and Rafael Montero are essentially the same – two proven guys who need a change of scenery – which makes this a Graveman for Toro swap.
To get a guy of Toro’s potential, and not have to give up ANY prospects whatsoever? I’d do that in a heartbeat every time!
Now, obviously, the downside is specifically 2021-related. As I mentioned, the Astros are a great team with one major flaw: their bullpen. Kendall Graveman immediately slots into the back-end of their bullpen, shoring that up in a big way in the short term. With their offense and starting pitching, it shouldn’t be difficult to get the lead in most games. If they can hold that lead to the 7th or 8th inning, with Graveman in the mix, they should have no problem whatsoever holding onto those victories. A guy like Graveman, on a team that good, is worth his weight in gold. If I’m the A’s or the rest of the American League, I’m super-pissed at the Mariners right now, because we just handed the Astros a FastPass to the ALCS.
And, considering everyone on the Mariners believed this team had the potential to overcome the deficit and at least earn a Wild Card spot, you can see why helping one of your most direct rivals in this way is a slap to the face. We were already playing with one hand tied behind our backs when it comes to how many games behind we are, and the overall deficit in talent (necessitating additions, not subtractions), now we’re that armless and legless knight in that Monty Python movie, trying to fend off our opponents with no limbs and a plucky attitude.
The other deal of the day was a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Tyler Anderson. In return, the Mariners dealt two minor leaguers I’ve never heard of and don’t feel compelled to mention here (okay, you got me, they are Carter Bins – a catcher – and Joaquin Tejada – a pitcher). These appear to be low-level prospects (outside of our organizational Top 20, maybe even outside of our Top 30) who are more or less just lottery picks for the Pirates.
Tyler Anderson, meanwhile, is somewhat interesting. He’s a starter, so that’s good. He’s a lefty, which seems like overkill a little bit (with Kikuchi, Gonzales, and eventually Sheffield). He doesn’t throw particularly hard, his stuff isn’t amazing, his numbers aren’t spectacular. But, he’s an innings eater who shouldn’t embarrass himself as a member of this rotation. Indeed, if he pitches to his potential, he’ll probably be in our top three starters the rest of the way. He’s also only costing us the pro rated portion of $2.5 million. The downside is, of course, the fact that he’s only signed through this season, making him the dictionary definition of a deadline rental. But, we’ll get a good look at him and see if he’s someone who might be worth re-signing after this season. I can’t imagine he’d be super expensive even if he puts up good numbers here; Tyler Anderson is who he is: a competent back-end of the rotation starter.
Jerry Dipoto had a lot to say after the first deal of the day. He acknowledged that the Graveman trade doesn’t look great by itself, but he seemed to promise that more moves were coming. The trade deadline is July 30th at 1pm (for some reason, GMs can’t make deals on a Saturday? What is this, Shomer Fucking Shabbos?), so I still expect more deals to be made between now and then.
They better be made, because if this is it, it’s a pretty pisspoor way for the organization to say it believes in this 2021 squad. Kyle Seager said it best the other day; I’m paraphrasing here, but at some point it has to be about winning now, it can’t always be about future contention.