The Seattle Mariners were tied to yet another starting pitcher in the trade market.
It’s little secret that the Texas Rangers had been shopping veteran left-hander Cole Hamels. He’s in the final season of a six-year, $144 million contract, which includes a club option for the 2019 season.
MLB.com’s Jon Morosi reported Thursday night that the Mariners and Rangers “have had dialogue” about a trade involving Hamels, though he also reported that the two sides weren’t close to a deal.
But that’s another sign that the Mariners are at least inquiring other teams about starting pitching, which with general manager Jerry Dipoto’s reputation for wheeling and dealing more than any other GM since he arrived ahead of the 2016 season, that’s quite unsurprising.
The Mariners were also connected less than two months ago as having interest in bringing left-hander J.A. Happ back from the Toronto Blue Jays, which was also reported by Morosi. He later said that the Mariners were also interested in Detroit Tigers’ left-hander Matthew Boyd, a graduate of Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish.
Hamels isn’t producing as well as those other two this season, but he would bring a championship pedigree. Hamels led the Philadelphia Phillies to the 2008 World Series, earning World Series MVP.
And Morosi’s report said the Mariners have an advantage if they were to agree to a deal to get Hamels because Seattle is one of the places he’s not able to block a trade to, per his no-trade clause.
Also, the Mariners have money to spend. They had almost $12 million in salary freed up because of Robinson Cano’s unpaid 80-game drug suspension, though Dipoto said they incurred almost $9 million in their trade to acquire right-hander Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span from the Tampa Bay Rays.
With the Mariners eyeing and end to their 16-year postseason drought, the longest active streak in American professional sports, it’s not unfair to believe they’d be willing to spend even more than that before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Hamels, a four-time All-Star, is 34 years old and is 4-6 with the Rangers this season with a 3.61 ERA after posting a 4.20 ERA in 24 starts a season ago, though he’s already allowed more home runs in 16 starts this year (20) than all of last year (18).
If it’s any consolation, that 2008 season he allowed a career-high 28 home runs and finished with a 3.09 ERA — and that World Series ring.
Others have speculated the Phillies might be interested in bringing him back.
Dipoto was asked during his weekly segment on 710 ESPN radio Thursday about what the Mariners might do to augment the roster before the trade deadline, especially considering they entered Friday with the fourth-best record in the major leagues.
He was first asked about the prospect of going big and chasing Rays ace left-hander Blake Snell, a graduate of Shorewood High School.
“I’m fairly certain he’s not available,” Dipoto said with a laugh.
But he continued.
“We’re not particularly looking to replace anybody because they have all been really strong contributors to what we’re doing,” Dipoto said. “It’s a good group of five. If we have a chance to augment it, we will. But we’re not looking to replace anybody. They’ve all done such a nice job.”
His main concern is workload. It is going to, and in some cases already has, become an issue.
Marco Gonzales has never pitched this many innings in the big leagues. He was at 91 1/3 innings before his start on Friday, though he previously pitched 122 innings in the minor leagues in 2014.
Wade LeBlanc has already pitched more innings (72) than he has in any season since 2011. He threw a career-high 146 innings with the Padres eight seasons ago. Then James Paxton, who has thrown 103 2/3 innings after tossing a career-high 136 last season. Felix Hernandez went eight consecutive seasons pitching at least 200 innings but threw 86 2/3 because of injuries last season and 153 1/3 the season before – he was at 95 1/3 entering Friday.
“The only real concern with our starting rotation is as the innings start to pile up, there’s going to be guys who go into innings thresholds and zones they’ve never been to before,” Dipoto said. “We want to be conscious of that.”
Mariners starters were 21-8 since May 8, and that .724 winning percentage was second-best among starters in the major leagues behind only the Houston Astros’ stacked rotation (.750) in that span.
And entering Friday, Mariners starters had pitched the third-most innings in the major leagues this season (478) behind the Astros (518 2/3) and the Cleveland Indians (499).