The Seattle Mariners made their first major trade of the 2023 season. They traded high leverage reliever Paul Sewald to the Arizona Diamondbacks in return for big league infielder Josh Rojas, rookie Dominic Canzone, and Triple-A infielder Ryan Bliss. The trade was not a shocker when it came across Twitter because the Mariners had been rumored to be available, but it still was shocking. It is disappointing because Sewald is a fan favorite and he will be deeply missed.
However, the return for Sewald is rather significant. Starting with Josh Rojas, he has Major League experience and has two above average seasons under his belt. He played in almost 60 big league games in 2019 and 2020 before having a breakout season in 2021 and following it up with a similar season in 2022. In those two seasons Rojas hit .267/.345/.401 in 264 games with 20 home runs, 32 stolen bases, and 100 runs driven in.
After those back to back above average years, Rojas has been struggling this year. He is only hitting .228/.292/.296 with no homes in 59 games. He has been disappointing so far this year no doubt. However with two years of quality contributions under his belt, there is real hope that he can return to form and be a contributor for the Mariners now. He has played mostly third base in Arizona but can also play some second base.
Based on his Outs Above Average numbers, Rojas is not a great defender. In his career Rojas is worth 2 Outs Above Average at second base and is worth -6 at third base where he has played more often. This is probably an Abraham Toro defensive profile in the infield, but he has played outfield in his career a little bit, but not very well.
Overall Rojas slots in as an infield contributor who can take away Kolten Wong's at bats and adds a left handed bat to the lineup or the bench depending on the matchup. Now they can run more of a platoon at second base with Jose Caballero facing lefties and let Rojas hit righties. Rojas could also take some DH at bats away from Mike Ford. If the Mariners can find the fix to get Rojas back to 2021-2022 form then they have an average or better bat with three more years of club control.
The second player the Mariners received for Paul Sewald is Dominic Canzone. He is 25 years old and is a lefty hitting outfielder who just made his Major League debut earlier this month. I had been hoping that if the Mariners traded Paul Sewald that they could get Canzone and they did. He earned his big league call up after having a big season at Triple-A Reno. In 71 games at Triple-A Canzone hit .354/.431/.634 with 16 home runs and had just one more strikeout than walk.
In just 41 at bats with Arizona so far Canzone is hitting .237/.293/.368 with one home run. Canzone has hit at every stop in the minors, and while there should be an asterisk with his Triple-A numbers because Reno and the Pacific Coast League is a hitters paradise. However Canzone still was a real threat in Reno's lineup this season and was really raking and was getting on base a ton. The upside here is with his bat.
There is so much upside with Dominic Canzone because he has six years of club control remaining after this season. He is about to turn 26 years old in August so he is entering his prime years at the same time the Mariners look to enter their prime winning years. Canzone is listed on MLB Pipeline as an outfielder/first baseman because his outfield defense isn't the best. He will be a corner guy at best but could be a designated hitter too. Here is Canzone going deep off of Spencer Strider.
Finally, the third player the Mariners got in this deal is minor league infielder Ryan Bliss. He was a second round pick back in 2021 and is now 23 years old and just was promoted to Triple-A earlier this month because he crushed in Double-A this year. He hit .358/.414/.594 in over 300 plate appearances and had 12 homers and 30 steals and had a 162 wRC+ according to Fangraphs. He has only had 13 games at Triple-A and has struggled some but it is early.
Bliss is a smaller guy with speed that profiles better at second base, which is nice because the Mariners do not have a long term answer at second base and Bliss could fill that role next year and has the club control to keep him here. MLB Pipeline said, "Bliss doesn’t even have to hit a ton to become a potential utility infielder at the top level." So even if he isn't the forever second baseman for Seattle, there is a floor of a Dylan Moore type player for the Mariners.
Overall these three players help the Mariners because Rojas and Canzone are big league ready players who are young and controlled. This fills an organizational need because Seattle did not have any young players to add to the roster this year that are the caliber of player that those two are. Bliss is also in the near big league ready bucket. Seattle does not have a highly ranked prospect in the upper minors close to the Majors.
It does hurt to see Seattle move on from Sewald. He was a really fun player to watch because of the emotion he pitched with and his story of being a minor league free agent that Jerry Dipoto turned into a high level closer. The Mariners got significant value and return on their investment in Paul Sewald and he will be dearly missed. This seems like the right move and this return is significantly better than the Kendall Graveman for Abraham Toro trade.
It does seem however that the Mariners are slightly worse right now after this move. That is because they lost their best reliever. However, if the Mariners get last year's version of Josh Rojas and Dominic Canzone gets better and hits at a league average level that will improve the M's offense significantly. There has to be more to come and since the Mariners have time left before the trade deadline judgement should be reserved until then for how the club handles the deadline.