Retooling of the Good Ship Mariner never ends.
Even with Seattle owning one of the best records in baseball since the All-Star break, the Mariners aren’t going anywhere. So in the wake of Monday’s 4-1 win over Toronto, in which Hisashi Iwakuma struck out 13 Blue Jays, the highest-scoring team in the majors, the club started dismantling its bullpen.
Brandon League, who started the season as the closer but lost the job and was struggling to get by as a set-up man, was shipped to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are hoping he can help them in their duel with San Francisco in the National League West.
Steve Delabar, who was rescued from nowhere after a broken right elbow in 2009 left him jobless, came in the clubhouse post-game to find he’d been traded to the Blue Jays, the team the Mariners had just beaten.
“I came in here thinking we were going to celebrate Iwakuma’s great start and (Lucas) Luetge’s first career save,” Delabar said. “And they told me I was going to the other clubhouse.”
Seattle gets a minor league outfielder, Leon Landry, and a right-handed reliever, Logan Bawcom, from the Dodgers in exchange for League. For Delabar, part-time major leaguer Eric Thames (rhymes with tames) gets called up from AAA Las Vegas, where he was hitting .335. He will join the Mariners Tuesday.
“We like (League and Delabar), but these are probably the right moves for the ball club,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “Brandon is going to be a free agent at the end of the season. We’re getting Thames, a left-handed hitter with some big league experience who also has some options left.”
It’s possible, even probable, that the Mariners will make one more move before the non-waiver trade deadline hits at 1 p.m. PT Tuesday. Lefty starter Jason Vargas, 4-0 in his last five starts and the owner of a career-best 11 wins, is highly prized by contenders looking to shore up their rotation.
Kevin Millwood, at 37 eight years older than Vargas, is, unlike Vargas, due to be a free agent at the end of the year. He wouldn’t bring as much in return, but his upside is limited for a franchise where the rebuilding never stops. He’s been effective for most of the last three months.
Regardless, there will be new faces in the Seattle clubhouse today. Carlos Peguero, the outfielder who was given first shot at right field with Ichiro Suzuki traded a week ago, was packing his bags Monday after going 0-for-3 with three terrible-looking strikeouts. He’s 1-for-20 since the Ichiro trade with 11 strikeouts. Thames will take his spot on the roster.
Seattle has to get two relievers with League and Delabar gone. One is likely to be Stephen Pryor, a rookie who has been up with the Mariners earlier. The other could be David Pauley, who was traded by the Mariners this time a year ago but who could fill a gap in the bullpen now that he’s rejoined the organization and has a 2.35 ERA in his first five games with Triple-A Tacoma, including two starts.
Neither League nor Delabar wanted to be traded; for that matter, Vargas and Millwood don’t want to be dealt away, either. But baseball can be cruel that way.
“I expressed myself that I wanted to be here, that I love Seattle,” League said. “But I’m going to be a free agent at the end of the year. I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given here. In the end, you have to keep moving forward.”
As for Delabar, he gets a chance to pull an Ichiro. Just as the right fielder was traded to New York when the Yankees were in town, Delabar was dealt to the Blue Jays with Toronto in town. The next two games he can stay at home and pack when he’s not at the ballpark with his new club.
“I really have to thank the Mariners for the chances they’ve given me,” Delabar said. The Padres, for whom he’d played for a half dozen minor league seasons, cut him after his injury before the Mariners picked him up. “They’ve done a lot for me, and I’ll always be grateful. And I’m going to stay in the big leagues.
“How is that not a positive?”
For most of the last decade, the Mariners have approacbed the July 31 trade deadline as sellers. Seemingly every year, it’s a matter of building for the future.
It is not clear when the future will get here. It is clear it is not now.