The Mariners sent a talented relief prospect to St. Louis in order to bolster their bullpen this season. "We view this as a move for our present and our future," GM Jerry Dipoto said.
ANAHEIM — With the Major League Baseball non-waiver deadline of July 31 looming and a flurry of deals being made over the past 48 hours, the Mariners and always-active general manager Jerry Dipoto had been surprisingly quiet. Not even a minor rumor had really leaked out on social media.
Might they be sitting this trade period out?
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Not a chance.
On Friday afternoon, the team announced that it had acquired right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailala from the Cardinals in exchange for minor-league reliever Seth Elledge.
“Sam is in the midst of his second consecutive solid big league season, and has pitched in parts of four Major League seasons but has barely two years of service time,” Dipoto said in a statement. “We view this as a move for our present and our future.”
Tuivailala, 25, is 3-3 with four holds and a 3.69 ERA (13 ER, 31.2 IP) in 31 games for the Cardinals this season. Of his 31 appearances, 21 have been scoreless. He’s allowed one run or fewer in 29 of the 31 appearances.
“I’m not quite sure when he’s going to report yet,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said before Friday’s game at Angels Stadium. “He’s certainly not going to be here tonight. We’ll see what’s going on tomorrow. He’ll probably be on our roster on Sunday. At least that’s what I’ve heard.”
Dipoto said a week ago that he would like to add relief help, preferably both right-handed and left-handed pitchers that could fill a situational role for the middle innings. Tuivailala fits that role. He’s been extremely tough on right-handed batters this season. They are hitting .230 (17 for 74) with just two extra-base hits (a double and a homer). He’s also shown the ability to be more than a one-inning reliever, pitching more than a single frame on eight occasions.
“He’s got good stuff,” Servais said. “He has a fastball that gets up to 98. He pitches more at 95-96. He’s a younger player, very athletic. He was a position player originally. He’s done very well against right-handed hitters, which will serve him well. He’ll be one of the bridge the gap type of guys. Certainly, Houston and the Angels are right-handed heavy. Texas is a little bit more balanced, but Oakland certainly has their share (right-handed hitters) as well. He’ll play a key role.”
In 2017, Tuivailala posted a 3-3 record with a 2.55 ERA in 37 games with the Cardinals, all in relief. In parts of four big league seasons (2014-current), he has 6-7 record with a 3.65 (40 ER, 98.2 IP) ERA in 96 relief appearances.
“It’s that time of year, you are trying to bolster bullpens and lineups,” Servais said. “I’m excited to see him. I’ve heard a lot about him.”
Selected in the third round of the 2010 draft as a shortstop, he was converted to a pitcher in 2012 and debuted in the big leagues just two years later.
Elledge, 22, was rated in Baseball America’s latest rankings as the Mariners’ 10th-best prospect in their farm system. He was 5-1 with nine saves and a 1.17 ERA (5 ER, 38.1 IP) in 31 relief appearances with High-A Modesto this season, including 54 strikeouts with just 15 walks. Opponents were hitting just .140 (18 for 129) against him. Elledge was fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft out of Dallas Baptist.