Continuing their trend of building toward the future, the Seattle Mariners moved three of their more experienced pitchers to National League teams ahead of Wednesday’s MLB trade deadline.
Roenis Elias, who acted as the Mariners’ closer for much of the season, and Hunter Strickland, who was the club’s projected closer before an injury derailed him for nearly four months, were both traded to the Washington Nationals. And, at long last, after rumors have been swirling for months, the Mariners sent starter Mike Leake and cash considerations to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“We continued to transition our roster, picking up younger players — players that can play a part in our future going forward,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters in Arlington ahead of Wednesday’s series finale against Texas.
Elias and Strickland have more than 600 innings of major-league experience and nearly 550 strikeouts between them, and could stabilize the back end of a Nationals bullpen that is, somehow, worse than Seattle’s with a 5.99 ERA, the highest in baseball.
Leake, after a possible trade with Arizona earlier this season fell through, waived his full no-trade clause to join a Diamondbacks rotation contending for one of the NL’s two wild-card spots. He had been one of Seattle’s most consistent starters since joining the club in 2017.
“It’s one team I’d definitely want to say yes to above Seattle,” Leake told reporters in Arlington. “I grew up a Mariners fan, so that’s in my heart, but going home to Arizona is definitely a chance.”
All together, Seattle, in an already lost season, opted to give up a combined 22 years of major-league experience between the three pitchers Wednesday, placing an even bigger value on its future.
None of the prospects they received in return — not the three pitchers from Washington, nor the infielder from Arizona — have ever played a game in the majors. None of them are older than 26, fitting into the Mariners’ plan of building a playoff contender somewhere in the 2021-2022 window.
The Mariners received minor-league infielder Jose Caballero in return from the Diamondbacks. Caballero was slashing .268/.388/.396 with High-A Visalia this season, and had 28 steals in 43 games, but is currently on the seven-day IL with a hand injury.
About two hours before the deadline, reports started flowing in about the five-player deal between the Mariners and Nationals.
Elias, who is 30 years old, was the first of the two relievers to be moved after posting a 4.40 ERA in 45 relief appearances with the Mariners this season. He struck out 45, walked 17 and notched 14 saves in 16 opportunities.
Strickland, also 30, was later looped into the deal. He made just four relief appearances with Seattle, earned two saves, struck out three and allowed three earned runs in just 3.1 innings. A Grade 2 lat strain sent the right-hander to an extended stay on the injured list at the end of March. He returned to the bullpen last week.
For those two, Seattle got three minor-league relievers in left-handers Taylor Guilbeau and Aaron Fletcher, and right-hander Elvis Alvarado. Guilbeau was the No. 15 prospect in the Nationals’ organization, while Fletcher was No. 21.
Guilbeau, who has been with Triple-A Fresno since June, has the best chance of the the three to make a quick impact for the Mariners.
The 26-year-old allowed five earned runs in seven appearances in the hitter-friendly PCL since being promoted to Triple-A Fresno three weeks ago. He started the season in Double-A, and had a 2.57 ERA in 27 outings with 44 strikeouts to 10 walks.
Fletcher could factor into Seattle’s big-league roster in the next season or two after flying through Washington’s ranks in just his second season of professional baseball. He started this season in Low-A, was promoted to High-A less than two months later, and called up to Double-A Harrisburg two weeks ago.
Between the three levels this season, the 23-year-old has a 1.79 ERA in 32 outings and 69 strikeouts to just 15 walks.
Alvarado, who is 20, was originally signed by the Nationals as an outfielder, but has been converted into a relief pitcher, and has a 6.00 ERA with 19 strikeouts and 16 walks through seven games of rookie ball this season.