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Inbox: Will Mariners acquire a starting pitcher?

Mariners beat reporter Greg Johns answers questions from fans
July 27, 2017

Do you think Jerry Dipoto addresses the need for a starting pitcher before the Trade Deadline on Monday? Or just stay pat and fill the open slots this winter? -- Zach J., Sunburst, Mont.Don't ever bet against Dipoto making more moves, given by my count he has engineered 48 trades

Do you think Jerry Dipoto addresses the need for a starting pitcher before the Trade Deadline on Monday? Or just stay pat and fill the open slots this winter?
-- Zach J., Sunburst, Mont.

Don't ever bet against Dipoto making more moves, given by my count he has engineered 48 trades involving 110 players (some who were acquired and then dealt again) in the 22 months since he took over as general manager. The Mariners have been the most active team in the Majors in his tenure, and that includes 22 trades since the end of last season.
That said, Dipoto won't give up the future to land a short-term veteran starter. He staunchly disagrees with any perception that the Mariners have a shrinking window of opportunity. Many of his moves have helped the club become younger and more athletic, and he has made it clear he's only interested in trading young talent to bolster the rotation if that starter will be under team control beyond this year -- and available big-name arms in that category are extremely costly in terms of prospects required.
Dipoto already made one move to add that sort of controllable pitcher by sending one of his top position prospects, Tyler O'Neill, to the Cardinals for young lefty Marco Gonzales. I suspect we'll see Gonzales up with the Mariners soon. And he checked off his other primary goal by acquiring veteran reliever David Phelps from the Marlins. So this might be a quieter Deadline than some expect, at least in terms of a blockbuster.

Submit Inbox questions
Will it finally be Sonny in Seattle?
-- Kalen A., Spokane, Wash.

Kudos for the most original way of asking the Sonny Gray question. The 27-year-old has been prominently linked to the Mariners in trade rumors -- and for good reason. He fits exactly what Dipoto is looking for as a potential impact starter who has two years of control after this season. But he is also going to require a huge package of young talent -- something like No. 1 prospect Kyle Lewis, plus one of the team's current young Major League outfielders like Mitch Haniger or Ben Gamel, as well as a low Minor Leaguer or two. And he comes with a recent history of injury issues.
I'm not ruling it out because with Drew Smyly, Hisashi Iwakuma and Yovani Gallardo not likely in the picture for next year, Dipoto definitely has a need and payroll flexibility to pursue rotation help. If he can get someone like Gray or the Marlins' Dan Straily, who has three more years of control, it would help make an American League Wild Card push now and fill a big hole going forward. But Seattle certainly isn't the only team with similar thoughts, and the bidding will be costly.

Any chance of Leonys Martin being brought up to give Haniger some time to get his mojo back?
-- Aidan P., London, England

It looked like Haniger was back on track when he went 5-for-12 in the first three games against the Yankees, but he is 0-for-16 since and has just a .200/.293/.308 line in 35 games since returning from his oblique injury. He has been dealing with a pretty nasty finger injury, and my guess is he'll lose playing time in the short term when Jarrod Dyson returns this weekend from a toe injury of his own.
That will allow Guillermo Heredia to play right field instead of Haniger if they choose. They could bring Martin up and let Haniger get some time at Triple-A Tacoma, but my guess is he'll just get some reduced playing time to let the finger heal completely and see if he can get his timing back at the plate. Martin is playing well in Tacoma, but with Dyson and Gamel, the club already has two left-handed-hitting outfielders who are ahead of him now.

What does Shawn O'Malley's return timeline look like? Could he be ready in September?
-- Zach W., Auburn, Wash.

After five games in the Arizona Rookie League, the Mariners transferred O'Malley to Double-A Arkansas to continue his rehab from shoulder surgery this week. He went 0-for-10 with three walks in his first three games, so clearly the timing is still coming back. But the bigger long-term issue is getting his shoulder to where he can play third base and shortstop at the Major League level in order to fill that utility role. So far, O'Malley has played just a handful of games at designated hitter and second base, where the throws are obviously easier. September seems a realistic goal.

Adrian Beltre is at 2,996 hits and will most likely face Felix Hernandez on Monday in Arlington. How fun would that be if Beltre was at 2,999 going into the game?
-- Marc L., Salt Lake City

Any matchup between those two former teammates and long-time friends is interesting and, yeah, if Beltre is looking for his 3,000th hit against Hernandez, that would be something indeed. But don't bet against Beltre getting there before Monday. How about Sunday afternoon against the Orioles, about the same time another former Rangers standout, Pudge Rodriguez, is being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown?
How long do you think Lewis needs in the Minors: another two years, or can he make a move next season?
-- Evan G., Gresham, Ore.

The Mariners' top prospect is still getting his legs under him as he returns from last August's knee surgery. He has played seven games for Class A Advanced Modesto and came out of Monday's game with some soreness, sat out Tuesday and was back in the lineup for six at-bats on Wednesday. It seems likely the final seven weeks of this season will be a chance to get back to full speed, then 2018 will be a big year to push forward in the Minor League system before setting him up for an opportunity in '19 if things go well.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.