Paul Sewald quickly turned into many a fan favorite out of the Mariners bullpen. He wasn't your prototypical closer, seeming to fit in more with relievers from 25 years ago than the flamethrowers that are out there now. A 92 mph 4-seamer and a sweeper are literally the only two pitchers he throws, and it just doesn't seem like it should work. Great control and attack angle make all the difference in the world, and the Mariners took advantage of his success.
Sewald had a good 2023 for the Mariners. A 2.93 ERA and 2.95 FIP were right in line with what he had done in the past, and an ERA+ of 139 showed how successful he really was. He was also striking guys out at a rate of 12.6/9 while limiting baserunners with a 1.023 WHIP. At 33, it seemed like he had found a great spot and formula for success.
Then, the road trip to Arizona came. The Mariners were essentially in no-man's land, unsure if they wanted to buy or sell. To me, they did both when they left Sewald in Arizona, and took back 2B Josh Rojas, OF Dominic Canzone, and MI Ryan Bliss. Sewald did well enough in Arizona, sporting a 3.57 ERA but a 5.07 FIP across 20 games.
Paul Sewald gets an A Grade on his 2023 Mariners report card... but isn't the only one.
To me, the Mariners made a hard choice, but the right choice, in shipping out Sewald. 2024 will be his age-34 season, and he will also be a UFA after next year. In return, the Mariners filled a hole at second with Rojas, who they could platoon(ish) with Cabby. They also let Teo DH more and had another worthy (enough) bat to put in a corner outfield spot in Canzone.
Canzone would hit just .215/.248/.407 with the Mariners, providing an occasional nice diving play or important homer. Just above replacement level, they got 0.1 WAR from him, which wasn't terrible for a young and inexperienced 25-year-old. Rojas played better, hitting .272/.321/.400 with a 103 OPS+, a nice mix of SB/HR, and decent defense that resulted in a 0.7 WAR with the Mariners.
Bliss played well in Tacoma, hitting 10 HR and swiping 20 bags in just 47 games. He will be only 24 next season, with Rojas (30) still having a good amount of control and Canzone (26) in the same boat. That's a lot of control and youth for one year of a great reliever.
The Mariners get an A grade on this trade as well!
I'll miss Sewald, and it would've been nice to have him around. The Mariners needed one more reliable reliever in their pen. However, I think it wouldn't have mattered as we would've still had a hole at second base and needed another outfield bat. Bliss is the gem to me, as he finished with 23 HR, 55 SB, and a slash of .304/.378/.524 across AA (68 games) and AAA (60 games).
Paul Sewald had a great season for the Mariners... but the return makes that much better.