In moves that seem to signal resignation in a deeply disappointing season, the Seattle Mariners traded two veteran pitchers just prior to Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
Right-hander Mark Lowe, the club’s best reliever, is heading to Toronto for three minor league lefty relievers, while lefty starter J.A. Happ went to Pittsburgh for another minor league pitcher, a right-handed starter.
“Had the situation been a little bit different,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said, “we probably would have viewed that differently.”
Instead, the Mariners entered the weekend at 46-57 and trailing first-place Houston by 12 games in the American League West; they were also eight games back in the wild-card race.
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So time to deal.
The Mariners received lefties Rob Rasmussen, Nick Wells and Jake Brentz from Toronto in the trade for Lowe. Rasmussen is joining the big league club, while Wells and Brentz were assigned to Short-A Everett.
The trade for Happ returned right-hander Adrian Sampson, a Redmond native who attended Skyline High School in Sammamish and Bellevue College. Sampson was assigned to Triple-A Tacoma.
The two deals came one day after the Mariners sent outfielder Dustin Ackley to the New York Yankees for two minor-league players: outfielder Ramon Flores and right-handed reliever Jose Ramirez.
Flores was assigned to Tacoma, while Ramirez was recalled to the big league club. The Mariners also recalled first baseman/designated hitter Jesus Montero and infielder Ketel Marte from Tacoma prior to Friday’s game.
“Obviously, we’ve gotten a lot younger,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It gives us a chance to take a look at some of our young talent and see what happens. My hope is they energize us a little bit.”
Zduriencik and McClendon each denied the Mariners were shifting to a development-and-evaluation mode over the season’s final two months.
“I don’t think that’s fair (as an assessment),” McClendon said. “Every time I put on this uniform, I’m going out to win a game. In the process, we’ll evaluate. But you can bet your (backside), I want to win games.”
Zduriencik said: “I don’t think I view it that way. Mark Lowe was a really nice piece for us, and it’s very difficult to give him up.
“But when you’re sitting there with an opportunity to acquire three players, and all three guys have a number of years of control, that’s a hard call.”
Rasmussen, 26, was 4-1 with one save and a 2.36 ERA in 34 games at Triple-A Buffalo. A second-round pick by Miami in 2010, he is 28-34 with a 3.72 ERA in six minor-league seasons with four organizations.
Wells, 19, was Toronto’s third-round pick in 2014 and was 1-2 with a 4.78 ERA in seven starts for Bluefield in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He was ranked as the Jays’ No. 28 prospect prior to the season.
Brentz, 20, was an 11th-round pick in 2013. He was 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in six starts at Bluefield.
“Our guys,” Zduriencik said, “view both of these guys as young, upside left-handers. We thought that was a good get.”
Sampson, 23, was the Pirates’ fifth-round pick in 2013 and ranked prior to the season as the organization’s No. 15 prospect. He was 8-8 with a 3.98 ERA in 21 starts at Triple-A Indianapolis.
“A big hard sinker,” Zduriencik said, “and really solid makeup kid. Really good intangibles.”
The non-waiver trade deadline was 1 p.m. (PDT) on Friday. Players can be traded now only if they clear waivers.
Lowe, 32, resurrected his career this season after adding zip to his fastball through an offseason conditioning program and developing a new slider to complement his increased velocity.
“My slider — I talked to (former teammate Dominic) Leone about his cutter in spring training,” Lowe said. “It made my slider better and harder.
“The time I was in Tacoma (at the start of the season) was very good for me because I was able to throw that.”
Lowe is 0-1 with a 1.00 ERA and 12 holds in 34 games since his May 4 promotion from Tacoma. He has 47 strikeouts while allowing 11 walks and 31 hits in 36 innings.
The Mariners traded Lowe, in part, because he is a pending free agent and because his value is at its peak. Happ is also a pending free agent, and his departure appears to clear the way for Roenis Elias to return from Tacoma.
Happ, 32, was 4-6 with a 4.64 ERA in 21 games after allowing 16 earned runs over his final 17 innings. He gave up six earned runs in 31/3 innings Thursday in a 9-5 loss to Minnesota.
MONTERO, MARTE ARRIVE
Montero and Marte each appear to be in line for regular duty after arriving from Tacoma. Both were in the lineup Friday against the Twins: Montero at first base; Marte at second base in place of still-ailing Robinson Cano.
It was Marte’s major league debut.
“Very energetic young man,” McClendon said. “Very instinctive type of player with an ability to steal bases. A switch-hitter. I don’t think there’s any manager in baseball who doesn’t like switch-hitters.
“That certainly brings a different dynamic to what we’re doing. I’m going to put him in the leadoff spot and see what he can do.”
Marte, 21, was batting .314 in 65 games at Tacoma. A native Dominican, he signed with the organization in 2010 and recently started at shortstop in the All-Star Futures Game and the Triple-A All-Star Game.
“I’m a little nervous,” he said, “but that’s normal. I’m good.”
Montero, 25, is back with the Mariners for the third time this season. He was 3 for 10 in five games in his previous two tours and returns after batting .346 at Tacoma with 16 homers and 75 RBIs in 93 games.
“My hope is to play him as much as possible,” McClendon said. “We need to find out about him and see what he’s got.”
Single-A Bakersfield outfielder Tyler O’Neill is No. 6 on Baseball America’s weekly Prospect Hot Sheet, which seeks to identify which prospects are surging.
O’Neill, 20, was 10 for 20 with three homers and 10 RBIs over the last seven games.
He was Mariners’ third-round pick in the 2013 draft.
“O’Neill faces big questions about his hit tool,” Baseball America reported, “but there are no such worries about his power. The Canadian outfielder is third in the California League with 21 home runs.
“O’Neill’s .280 isolated power is exceptional, but his 31.5 percent strikeout rate will have to improve for O’Neill to continue to get to his power consistently.”
It was 19 years ago — Aug. 1, 1996 — that left-hander Jamie Moyer, acquired two days earlier from Boston for outfielder Darren Bragg, won his first start as a Mariner in a 9-2 victory at Milwaukee.
Moyer permitted one earned run and four hits in seven innings. It was the first of his 323 starts for the Mariners in 11 seasons. That was a franchise record until Wednesday, when Felix Hernandez made his 324th start.
Hernandez also passed Moyer earlier this year for the franchise record in innings pitched, but Moyer remains No. 1 with 145 victories. Hernandez is second at 137.
Moyer will be inducted Aug. 8 as the ninth member of the Mariners Hall of Fame in a pregame ceremony at Safeco Field.
Cano remains slowed by a strained abdominal muscle. He hasn’t played since Tuesday, although the Mariners remain hopeful he might be able to serve this weekend as the designated hitter. He took batting practice before Friday’s game. … First baseman Logan Morrison continues to nurse a bruised left thumb but was available, McClendon said prior to the game, to serve as a defensive replacement in a pinch. … Austin Jackson entered Friday needing to score one more run to reach 500 for his career. … The Mariners entered Friday with a .265 club average in July after batting .230 over the season’s first three months. Even so, they were 11-15 in July. … Here’s why: the Mariners, prior to Friday, had a 4.77 ERA in July. The last time they finished a month above 4.00 was September 2013.
The Mariners and Twins continue their four-game series Saturday at Target Field with a start time listed as 4:10 p.m. (PDT). The actual start could be delayed up to 30 minutes because the Twins are honoring their 1965 club, which won the American League pennant, in a pregame ceremony.
Seattle left-hander Mike Montgomery (4-4, 3.20 ERA) is scheduled to start against Minnesota right-hander Kyle Gibson (8-8, 3.48). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.