SEATTLE -- Seeking to add some versatility to the Mariners' pitching staff, general manager Jerry Dipoto acquired former Seattle starter Erasmo Ramirez from the Rays for reliever Steve Cishek on Friday in his third trade in the past eight days.
Ramirez has worked primarily in relief for the Rays over the past two years, but has started eight games this year and will move into the Mariners rotation, replacing rookie Andrew Moore for Tuesday's start in Texas.
"Versatility is the first thing that comes to mind," Dipoto said. "Right now what he provides us is almost a perfect scenario in that he can start and we have the ability with young guys like Andrew Moore and Marco Gonzales to potentially promote if that's something we want to explore later in the season. And Erasmo has had a fair amount of success in this league as a starter. He's been pretty good since he's been with the Rays."
The 27-year-old from Nicaragua spent the first three seasons of his Major League career with Seattle -- going 7-12 with a 4.62 ERA in 47 games, including 35 starts from 2012-14 -- before being traded by previous GM Jack Zduriencik to Tampa Bay for lefty Mike Montgomery in 2015.
Ramirez has gone 22-20 with a 3.90 ERA in 124 games, including 36 starts, with the Rays. He started 27 games his first year for Tampa Bay, then pitched 63 games in relief last year with one spot start. This season, the 5-foot-10 right-hander is 4-3 with a 4.80 ERA in 26 outings, including the eight starts.
He last started on June 21 and is 3-2 with a 6.05 ERA in those eight outings. In his six-year career, Ramirez is 22-20 with a 4.30 ERA in 71 starts and 7-12 with a 4.04 ERA in 100 relief appearances.
Ramirez is making $3.25 million this season and has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before he becomes a free agent following the 2019 season.
Cishek is earning $6 million in the final year of a two-year deal he signed in 2016 as a free agent. The 31-year-old got a late start to the season after missing all of Spring Training while recovering from offseason hip surgery, and he is 1-1 with a 3.15 ERA in 23 relief appearances.
Cishek initially signed with the Mariners to be their closer, but he lost that role last July to rookie Edwin Diaz. He has been one of several setup men used this season by manager Scott Servais, but the club added right-hander David Phelps in another trade last week from the Marlins and also has Nick Vincent and Tony Zych in that role.
"Steve did a great job for us," Dipoto said. "He had an outstanding year last year. He maybe took a little more criticism than he deserved. I thought he did a great job and then he battled back this year and came in and contributed when he could have punted. He's a warrior and did what we asked of him. But right now, the multi-inning capability and starting ability of Erasmo Ramirez just makes far more sense for our roster.
"And it sets us up as we head toward a free agent market this coming offseason where starting pitching is not a particularly deep group. Therefore, Erasmo presents us an option that didn't otherwise exist."
Even now, the back end of the Mariners rotation looms as a bigger question than the bullpen with Moore posting a 5.65 ERA in six starts since his promotion and veteran Yovani Gallardo owning a 5.58 ERA on the season.
Dipoto also acquired young starting candidate Marco Gonzales from the Cardinals last Friday for outfield prospect Tyler O'Neill, a day after trading four prospects for Phelps.
Friday's deal is a rare swap between two teams battling for a playoff berth as the Rays and Mariners are currently the top two contenders behind the Royals for the second Wild Card berth in the American League. The Rays are 53-50, three games back of the Red Sox in the AL East and 1 1/2 games out of a Wild Card slot. The Mariners are 51-52 and 3 1/2 games out of the Wild Card heading into Friday's series opener against the Mets at Safeco Field.