Series opener highlights Mariners' pressing trade needs and valuable assets

Despite getting the win, it's the same problems on a different day for the Seattle squad in a low scoring Mariners' win against the Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays v Seattle Mariners
Toronto Blue Jays v Seattle Mariners / Stephen Brashear/GettyImages

Now that we're 90 games into the 2024 season, it's not much of a mystery what teams need. With the trade deadline fast approaching and the postseason not too far off, the Mariners have repeatedly shown off what they do best and what they're still missing.

Pitching is where the Mariners have the most talent and the most depth

The first game of the Blue Jays series highlighted this perfectly. Coming off of a bumpy road trip and a home series loss to the Orioles, Seattle needed to get their stuff together to fend off the roaring Astros who are still just two games behind.

Luis Castillo, who had posted a 5.13 ERA across six starts in June, put on a great performance, pitching 6.1 innings and striking out eight while giving up just two hits and one earned run. His slider/four-seam combination was impeccable, helping him retire the first nine Blue Jays in a row. Things were firing on all cylinders and it was a great return to a form for the ace after a rough stretch.

After Castillo departed the mound, Austin Voth, Ryne Stanek, and Andrés Muñoz retired the final seven Blue Jays in a row. Toronto never had a chance to get their offense going outside of a solo home run from Kevin Kiermaier and strung together just two hits in nine innings. Admittedly, the Blue Jays have a combined OPS of .683 which places them 20th in MLB, but credit must also be given to the pitching staff which has been held in high regard all season.

Seattle struggles with guys in scoring position

Despite holding Toronto to just one run, the Mariners scraped by with just two runs of their own, both the result of a two-RBI double from Luke Raley in the third inning. In 11 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, the Mariners had one hit, two walks, and four strikeouts. Seattle struck out 13 times in total, 10 of which were against starter Kevin Gausman.

This season, the Mariners' lineup have an OPS of .714 in scoring position, 21st in MLB. The only potential postseason contenders below them are the Cardinals (.641 OPS) and Giants (.703). In contrast, the Astros have a .772 OPS with RISP, a big improvement that has allowed their run differential of +44 to dwarf Seattle's own mark of +6.

It's not a secret that fans are begging Seattle to pursue bats at the trade deadline. With so many teams still fighting over a handful of Wild Card spots, any sellers with premier bats (e.g., White Sox, Athletics, Nationals) will be entering trade talks with a leg up. In order to be a competitive buyer for the few names that would be true upgrades to the lineup, the Mariners might have to be willing to part with some of their deep pool of pitching talent.

On one hand, it's never great to let go of great arms. On the other hand, Seattle has clearly found a way to consistently develop excellent pitching. Trade one arm, two more will take its place. Few baseball teams have been successful with lopsided roster construction and the front office may have to make some hard decisions to take the team to the next level.