Arrow-right Camera
Subscribe now
Seattle Mariners

Mariners trade closer Paul Sewald to Diamondbacks in exchange for three position players

Paul Sewald of the Seattle Mariners is removed from the game against the Houston Astros during the ninth inning in game one of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on Oct. 11 in Houston.  (Getty Images)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

Paul Sewald walked quickly into the clubhouse, carrying his phone, looking at a few people and nodding as he exited out the back, presumably to notify his family of what he had just learned.

Moments later social media began to leak reports that the Mariners had traded the veteran reliever to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for infielder/outfielder Josh Rojas, outfielder Dominic Canzone and minor league infielder Ryan Bliss.

MLB sources confirmed the parameters of the trade immediately. The team later announced the trade during pregame batting practice.

“Dominic, Josh and Ryan are excellent fits for our organization,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said in a statement,” “Each brings something a bit different to the field with athleticism being a common denominator. We feel like this deal makes us a deeper, more well-balanced team, both now and moving forward.

“Paul was a huge part of an excellent ’pen during his 3 years in Seattle. I’m forever thankful for his contributions, both on-and-off the field.”

But Dipoto wasn’t done for the day. He needed to clear 40-man roster spots for two of the three players acquired from the Diamondbacks.

He did that by sending outfielder AJ Pollock, minor league infielder Mark Matthias and cash considerations to the Giants in exchange for a player to be named later or future cash considerations.

On January 8, 2021, the Mariners Player Development Twitter account put out a tweet saying:

We have agreed to terms on minor league contracts with the following players:

• LHP Roenis Elías

• RHP Paul Sewald

• INF Jantzen Witte

The return of Elias was probably the most notable aspect of news that didn’t even generate a press release.

Sewald was nontendered by the Mets after four forgettable seasons. But the Mariners liked his pitch profile and brought him in as an invitee to big league spring training. They pushed for him to elevate his fastball to the top of the strike zone and combine it with a sweeping slider to the opposite corner of the zone. Those two pitches only. He was the opening day starting pitcher for Class AAA Tacoma and was called up on the same day as then-top prospects Logan Gilbert and Jarred Kelenic.

He was used sparingly as a multi-inning reliever, but slowly earned the trust of manager Scott Servais to move into high-leverage situations. By the end of the season, he was one of three pitchers closing out games.

“It happened really quickly,” Sewald said. “As soon as I got called up, we had a couple of people that weren’t producing and a couple of COVID violations and next thing you know, they had no choice but to pitch me in high leverage. I got lucky enough to pitch well in that situation and never looked back.”

He’s made 172 appearances with Seattle since being added to the active roster. He has an 18-8 record with a 2.88 ERA. In 1712/3 innings pitched, he has struck out 236 batters with 55 walks. That includes a 3-1 record with a 2.93 ERA and 21 saves in 45 appearances this season.

“I’m not sure I’d even have been in baseball without Seattle,” he said. “As bittersweet as today is, I am very thankful for everything that happened in early 2021 that got me here.”

Players like Ty France, Eugenio Suarez and J.P. Crawford were told by the media that Sewald had been traded while others got messages on their phones; most didn’t seem that surprised or shocked. Instead, they were more curious about the return.

After Jerry Dipoto, Mariners president of baseball operations, traded closer Kendall Graveman when they were one game back in the wild card standings in 2021, they learned a hard lesson about the game.

“We know better,” said one player. “You can’t be surprised by anything.”

Indeed, it’s just a few days past the two-year anniversary of closer Graveman and fellow reliever Rafael Montero being traded to the Astros, whom the Mariners were playing in a series at T-Mobile Park, in exchange for reliever Joe Smith and infielder Abraham Toro. The move blindsided a young Mariners team, which couldn’t believe Dipoto would trade the team’s closer and a popular leader when they were one game out of a wild card spot.

A week ago, Sewald told the Seattle Times that he wouldn’t be surprised if he was traded at the deadline, given the Mariners underachieving season, his own success and the demand for relievers at the MLB trade deadline.

“It is jarring,” Sewald said. “As much as I could have expected it, I was hoping it didn’t happen, but it’s just one of those things that you have to take in stride. And I’m excited to get to San Francisco tomorrow and pitch for the Diamondbacks.”

Sources indicated the Mariners and Diamondbacks tried to get a deal done for Sewald during the recent series in Phoenix. It would have allowed Sewald to join the D’Backs on their flight to San Francisco after Sunday’s game.

“I honestly thought he was just going to switch clubhouses when we were in Arizona,” said one Mariners player. “They NEED him.”

Both Rojas and Canzone played against the Mariners in the three-game series at Chase Field.

Rojas, 29, can play second base, third base and left field. In 59 games this season, he has a .228/.292/.296 slash line with 13 doubles, 26 RBIs, 18 walks, 51 strikeouts and six stolen bases.

Canzone, 25, made his major league debut with the Diamondbacks on July 8. He has played in 15 games, posting a .237/.293/.368 slash line with two doubles, a homer and eight RBIs in 41 plate appearances.

Bliss, 23, is having his best professional season, posting a .332/.391/.556 slash line with 27 doubles, three triples, 13 home runs, 51 RBIs, 29 walks and 35 stolen bases in 81 combined games between Triple-A Reno and Double-A Amarillo this season. He was selected to participate in the 2023 Futures Game in Seattle, starting at second base for the National League.