Two Wild Card contenders have come together for a deal just 24 hours before the 2023 trade deadline, as the Seattle Mariners have reportedly sent closer Paul Sewald to the Arizona Diamondbacks for outfielder Dominic Canzone, infielder Josh Rojas and Minor Leaguer Ryan Bliss.
The D-backs’ end of this deal isn’t too hard to figure out. Arizona has been fading of late, losers of eight of their last 10 and now a game behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the final NL Wild Card spot after a dream first half. And while the bullpen hasn’t been the sole culprit, several late-game meltdowns certainly haven’t helped: Erstwhile closer Scott McGough has allowed a whopping 14 earned runs in his last 11 appearances, while fellow high-leverage arms Andrew Chafin (July ERA: 9.95) and Miguel Castro (7.00) have also struggled.
Sewald will immediately stabilize the ninth inning. The veteran righty is in the midst of another excellent season, with a 2.93 ERA, 12.6 K/9 and 21 saves in 24 opportunities. With a deceptive fastball and wicked frisbee slider, he’s developed into one of the game’s surest relievers, and he has one more year of team control before entering free agency after the 2024 season.
All of which makes you wonder why Seattle gave him up for so relatively little. Granted, the Mariners aren’t hurting for bullpen arms; Andres Munoz and his 100-mph fastball are plenty capable of sliding into the closer’s role, while the team has shown an aptitude for finding spare parts and developing them into effective relievers (Justin Topa, Matt Brash, Tayler Saucedo). And you can understand why Seattle would be motivated to add position players at the deadline, as they rank a disappointing 22nd in team OPS this season and just lost one of their top bats, Jarred Kelenic, to a foot fracture.
But there’s a good chance they just traded away 1.5 years of control of their best relief arm for ... exactly zero Major League-quality regulars. Canzone finally broke into the Majors earlier this year after tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A, but he’s also a 25-year-old former eighth-round pick who’s hit .237/.293/.368 in his first 15 big-league games. Rojas, meanwhile, struggled so badly at the plate to start the year (.589 OPS) that Arizona had recently more or less replaced him at third base with Emmanuel Rivera. A second-round pick out of Auburn back in 2021, Bliss broke out at Double-A this year, but he’d struggled mightily at the plate in the Minors before that and was just the D-backs’ 29th-best prospect per MLB Pipeline.
Again, the Mariners had needs for a corner outfielder and an upgrade over Kolten Wong at second base. All three of the players they got in this deal come with major red flags, though, and given how good Sewald has been, it’s hard not to interpret this as GM Jerry Dipoto waving the white flag on 2023.