Of course, it was with the Rays.
If the Mariners were going to make a trade to address the obvious needs of bullpen and outfield depth this early in the season, why not make a deal with their favorite trade partners?
For the ninth time since he’s been general manager with the Mariners, Jerry Dipoto made a trade with the Rays. And it wasn’t an insignificant deal.
Seattle acquired Tampa’s closer Alex Colome, veteran outfielder Denard Span and $4.75 million in cash in exchange for minor-league starting pitchers Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero. Based on pro-rated salaries, Span is owed just over $6.24 million of the $11 million salary for this season, while Colome is owed $3.8 million of his $5.3 million salary. Colome is in his first year of arbitration eligibility and is under club control for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Dipoto won’t win a free set of steak knives for trade No. 10 with Tampa. But he did make his players and manager happy with the ninth trade. It was a big move for a Mariners team that has overachieved to a 29-20 record, despite a myriad of injuries and the suspension of Robinson Cano.
“That’s what we do,” Dipoto joked. “We sit and think of the next trade we are going to do with the Rays.”
But on a serious note, this trade brought back two players who are expected to be significant contributors for the Mariners going forward. The Rays familiarity with the Mariners’ farm system also helped.
“Their availabilities met our needs almost perfectly,” Dipoto said. “As you know, it’s a group we are pretty comfortable working with. It’s a pretty easy dynamic.”
The Mariners get a proven bullpen arm in Colome, who led Major League Baseball in saves last season with 47, and a veteran outfielder in Span, who will be the Mariners every-day left fielder. That means Ben Gamel will slide to a reserve role.
“Obviously a big trade for us today,” Dipoto said. “Pretty exciting. I think this makes us a better team certainly more complete team in the immediate future.”
Colome, 29, has been Rays’ closer for the past three seasons, saving a total of 95 games since taking over the duties in 2016. He has 11 saves in 2018, but a 4.15 ERA. He’s converted his last 10 consecutive save opportunities. He will move to a set-up role and pitch in front of Edwin Diaz. Dipoto believes he’ll handle that transition from the spotlight of closing with grace and ease.
“I just spoke to him on the telephone,” Dipoto said. “His response was positive. He said, ‘I will do what the team needs to me to do. I want to win.’ That’s the right answer. By all reports, he’s a great guy and good teammate. We were looking at this as an eighth-inning impact guy. He was all for it. Since the Andrew Miller acquisition by the Indians, I think there’s little less skepticism about this.”
Span, 34, reached base safely in 35 of 43 games with Tampa Bay, he’s hitting just .238 (34 for 143) but has a .364 on-base percentage, seven doubles, a triple, four home runs, 28 RBIs, 28 walks and six stolen bases.
“You’ll see Span probably in left field quite a bit, but it does give you options to move some guys around,” manager Scott Servais said. “Span can play some center field. You can mix and match how you want to go with Gamel, Heredia and Span. But Denard Span is going to play. He gets on base. He knows what he’s doing in the batter box. And like I said, he’s been on a few playoff teams.”
A Tampa native, Span wasn’t expecting to be traded this early in the season.
“Definitely shocked,” he said. “Obviously I knew coming into this situation that it probably wouldn’t be a full season that I’d get an opportunity to play here. I was honestly concerned I would even get out of spring training. But once I got out of spring training, I figured I would at least have until July to play here. So this definitely caught me off guard. I’ve only been here for three months including spring training, but it feels like I’ve been here a whole lot longer than three months.”
Moore, 23, was once considered the Mariners’ top pitching prospect and was named the Mariners’ minor-league pitcher of the year in 2016. After making his MLB debut in 2017 and appearing in 11 games (nine starts), Moore struggled this spring and started the season with Class AA Arkansas. He posted a 3-1 record with a 3.04 ERA in nine starts. He’s a former second-round draft pick out of Oregon State, where he was an all-Pac-12 performer.
Romero, 20, was 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA in nine starts with Low-A Clinton. He struck out 54 and walked 15 in 44 innings pitched while limiting opponents to a .252 (41 for 163) average. Romero was taken in the 15th round of the 2017 draft out of Eastern Florida State College. He has a low 90s fastball and a solid breaking ball.
“I don’t want to short-sell Tommy Romero because he had a pretty good start to his career in the Midwest League,” Dipoto said. “But it’s not easy to trade Andrew Moore and I told him as much when I spoke to him earlier today. He works hard. He’s always prepared. He shot to the big leagues pretty quickly. We couldn’t be happier with his productivity and time with the Mariners. In this moment and this time, we felt like for the now, and really the future of the organization, this was the impact move we could make. We took the shot while it was open.”