The Mariners grab veteran outfielder Denard Span and closer Alex Colome, and while their playoff pursuit is likely of the one-game, loser-out variety, it was a trade they earned in recent weeks and deserve considering their playoff drought.
The Mariners are in full go-for-it mode – “all-in” was the phrase Scott Servais used – and for once, it’s not predicated on wishful thinking.
They earned the startling move that general manager Jerry Dipoto made on Friday, one that fortifies them for what looks like a more legitimate playoff run by the day.
They earned it by rising above the calamity of May 15, when Robinson Cano was suspended for 80 games and their season seemed to hang in the balance. The team’s reaction to that blow and all the other misfortune that befell them in recent days, from Dee Gordon’s placement on the DL to injuries that have hobbled other key players, emboldened Dipoto to act decisively.
He took what had been a troubling lack of consistency in the eighth-inning bridge to Edwin Diaz, and filled the hole with Alex Colome, an All-Star-caliber closer with the Rays. Dipoto has visions of doing with Diaz and Colome what the Indians have done with Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, a power combo he has long coveted.
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He attacked the hit to their depth with Cano’s extended absence by acquiring outfielder Denard Span, a solid veteran with a winning pedigree. And they took on about $5 million in extra salary, using some of the “mad money” that Cano’s suspension gave them.
Yes, they’re likely doing all this in service of the second wild card, and a one-game, loser-out playoff on the road. But with a 16-year playoff drought that has become an oversized albatross that haunts every fan, it’s a goal well worth pursuing to the utmost extent.
If they had gone into the tank after Cano’s suspension, as easily could have been the fallout, I doubt this deal would have been made. But instead, they entered Friday’s game with a 7-3 mark after that dark day, a roll that has thrust them past the Angels into possession of the second wild card.
They are winning close games (the most one-run victories in the AL, 13) and they are rallying frequently (13 come-from-behind wins, second in the AL). They are on pace to win 96 games. That was legitimate enough for Dipoto.
“This team has done a remarkable job, and they’ve done it with one arm tied behind their backs, and maybe on one leg, so to speak,’’ he said. “Guys lost to injury, impact players not able to get back there, and it really has been something to watch. These guys have come together.
“There’s a ton of character in that room. The ethic and belief in one another. I don’t think this group thinks anything other than they are going to win every game, regardless of what the score is at any point in the game.”
The appeal of the trade, which cost minor-league pitchers Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero, is twofold, beyond the way it strengthens the team in two important areas.
First, it was made in late May, not late July, when deadline deals are traditionally swung. That gives the Mariners an extra two months of benefit that could be the difference in separating them from the Angels, A’s and Twins, whom they figure to battle for the second wild card.
“I think it’s huge,’’ Dipoto said. “It truly is huge, especially in this particular case where we are in our schedule, and the ability to get these guys in and acclimate them to what we’re doing.
“The fact we were able to do it and maintain another four to five months of their contribution for this year, it’s so much different than an ordinary in-season or July-type of pick up.”
Perhaps even more important is the message that has been delivered, emphatically, to the clubhouse with this deal – that despite nearly three months without Cano, despite the injuries, despite the presence of the mighty Astros in their division, they are going for it.
“I think it’s an awesome message,’ ‘Servais said. “Everything we’ve dealt with in the last eight to 10 days here, it starts at the ownership level and front office, that we’re all in on this season. That even though we had a setback with Robbie and the injury and suspension, it’s not going to derail us. Our eyes are set on the goal, and that’s getting to the playoffs, and I think this helps us.”
The Mariners still have evident flaws that Dipoto might have to address down the road. But they are a much better team today than they were yesterday. And they are a team that had every reason to pull off the kind of win-now trade that Dipoto did on Friday.
They earned it.