SEATTLE -- Any question about the Mariners' belief in their ability to contend even with Robinson Cano suspended for half the season was answered Friday when general manager Jerry Dipoto engineered a trade with the Rays to bolster his club's chances to compete in the tough American League West.
Dipoto improved both his bullpen and outfield with a two-for-two deal, acquiring Tampa Bay closer Alex Colome, veteran outfielder Denard Span and cash for Minor League starters Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero.
The Mariners had gone 6-3 since Cano's 80-game suspension and were 29-20 going into Friday's series opener with the Twins despite injuries to Dee Gordon, Nelson Cruz and Mitch Haniger.
Cruz and Haniger are back now, Gordon is about a week from returning and the club will add a power arm to the back of its bullpen and a veteran in Span who helps bolster the outfield now that Gordon has moved back to second base in Cano's absence.
"I think it's an awesome message that [despite] everything we've dealt with in the last 8 to 10 days here, that we're all in on this season," manager Scott Servais said. "That even though we had a setback with Robbie and the injury and suspension, it's not going to derail us. Our eyes are set on the goal and that's getting to the playoffs and I think this helps us."
The Mariners are adding roughly $10 million in remaining 2018 salary with the two veterans, but they had about $12 million of payroll open up with the suspension of Cano. According to the Associated Press, they're receiving $4.75 million in cash from the Rays as part of the deal.
"Denard Span's skill set fits our team quite well," Dipoto said. "And the impact we felt like we were getting in Alex Colome trumps what we thought we could get into in the starting pitching market, while leaving ourselves some wiggle room that if a starter or something otherwise is needed as we get [further] into the season, we still aren't entirely cut off. We have the ability to go for it if we can."
To make room on the 40-man roster, Seattle transferred right-handed pitcher David Phelps to the 60-day disabled list.
The Mariners already have an established closer in Edwin Diaz, but Colome adds another late-inning setup option to go with Juan Nicasio and Nick Vincent. The Mariners lost Phelps to Tommy John surgery this past spring, so Colome essentially fills that primary setup role.
Colome, a 29-year-old right-hander, was an All-Star in 2016 for the Rays when he posted a 1.91 ERA and 37 saves. He racked up a Major League-leading 47 saves with a 3.24 ERA last year.
Colome struggled early this season and has a 4.15 ERA with 11 saves and 23 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings over 23 appearances. But in his last 17 outings dating back to April 17, his ERA is 2.16 and opposing batters are hitting .194 against him.
The six-year veteran is earning $5.3 million this season and has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before becoming a free agent in 2021.
Span is in the final year of a contract that is paying him $11 million this year, with the Giants absorbing $2 million of that as part of their trade for Evan Longoria in December. Span does have a $12 million team option for 2019, with a $4 million buyout.
Span has primarily played center field throughout his 11-year career with the Twins, Nationals, Giants and Rays, putting up a career .282/.348/.396 line. But he's been in left much of this year for the Rays, and Dipoto indicated the veteran would play mostly left field for the Mariners as well.
"He's a pro," Dipoto said. "I'm sure his comfort zone would most likely be in center, but at the same time he's playing left for the Rays and I feel like that's the place he fits best for us and it gives Scott the ability with him and Mitch Haniger and Guillermo [Heredia] and Denard to have four outfielders who will play anywhere you need them to play.
"They can serve as a kind of rotating group and I'm sure on most days you'll see Haniger in right, Heredia in center and left field will be mostly Denard Span and that gives [Ben Gamel] the ability to roam and give the other guys a break and I'm sure he'll still be getting at-bats as if he were playing regularly."
Span has posted a.238/.364/.385 line with four homers and 28 RBIs in 43 games after the Tampa native was acquired from the Giants to play in his hometown last December.
"Obviously, we've been playing here better of late, but you know, this is part of the business," Span told reporters in Tampa Bay. "I'm just happy that I have a job and somebody wants me. So I'm looking forward to going to Seattle, even though it hasn't sunk in yet. I'm looking forward to this new challenge. …They're in a position to win. They saw an opportunity to get myself and Colome. They're trying to win over there."
To acquire the two veterans, the Mariners gave up a pair of young pitching prospects. Moore, who turns 24 next week, went 1-5 with a 5.34 ERA in 59 innings over 11 outings, including nine starts, last year for Seattle. The 2015 second-round Draft choice out of Oregon State is 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA in nine starts for Double-A Arkansas this season.
Romero, 20, was a 15th-round Draft pick out of Eastern Florida State who has been impressive for Class A Clinton this season, going 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA in nine starts and striking out 54 batters in 44 innings.