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Inbox: Will Seattle nab a starter at Deadline?

Mariners beat reporter Greg Johns answers fans' questions
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

With the loss of Drew Smyly, do you see the Mariners buying at the Trade Deadline if they're still in the American League Wild Card race? Their shopping list just got a heck of a lot bigger.
-- Levi F., Bellevue, Wash.

Learning that Smyly will be out not only the rest of this year, but likely much of 2018, could definitely clarify the club's needs for a veteran starter going into the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. It also opens up the possibility of acquiring a player who carries some future salary commitments, given Smyly could potentially be non-tendered rather than going to arbitration next year, which would likely clear about $8-10 million off next season's books.

With the loss of Drew Smyly, do you see the Mariners buying at the Trade Deadline if they're still in the American League Wild Card race? Their shopping list just got a heck of a lot bigger.
-- Levi F., Bellevue, Wash.

Learning that Smyly will be out not only the rest of this year, but likely much of 2018, could definitely clarify the club's needs for a veteran starter going into the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. It also opens up the possibility of acquiring a player who carries some future salary commitments, given Smyly could potentially be non-tendered rather than going to arbitration next year, which would likely clear about $8-10 million off next season's books.

With Hisashi Iwakuma not appearing destined to pitch the final 94 innings he needs to guarantee his $15 million option for next year, the Mariners suddenly have some pitching money available, as well as a need to solidify their future rotation. That could wait until next offseason, of course, but if general manager Jerry Dipoto sees a deal in the next month that would help make a postseason push this year as well, it's hard to imagine he won't pull the trigger.

That said, the price for established starting pitchers is extremely high and Seattle has held its own so far with the promotion of Christian Bergman and rookies Sam Gaviglio and Andrew Moore. But its salary flexibility and push to win now with its veteran nucleus certainly makes the club a potential pursuer of both starting and relief help over the next month.

:: Submit a question to the Mariners Inbox ::

I read that Smyly will be rehabbing from his Tommy John surgery in Texas instead of staying with the team. Is that normal, or are the Mariners already cutting ties with him?
-- Randy L., Woodinville, Wash.

Smyly will be having surgery next week in Alabama, which is where noted specialist Dr. James Andrews works, and then head to his offseason home in Dallas to rest and begin rehabbing. The situation is pretty simple. His wife is due to have their first baby in August and he'll be home now for that event, rather than sitting in Seattle during the initial recovery period.

Are our playoff hopes still alive?
-- Gabriel I., Seattle

It's fair to say that despite losing their past four in a row, at 39-41 the Mariners are still very much alive with 82 games remaining and entering Thursday's off-day three games behind the Twins for the second AL Wild Card spot. A lot can and will happen in the second half. The only sure thing seems to be the Astros winning the AL West, barring a collapse of epic proportions.

If you're looking for actual odds, FanGraphs lists the Mariners with a 13.9 percent chance of still landing a playoff berth. They've got the Blue Jays at 27.5, Rangers at 23.3, Rays at 23.2, Angels at 16.2 percent, Twins at 12.8, Royals at 11.7 and Orioles at 9.9, behind the four front-running AL teams (the Astros, Red Sox, Yankees and Indians). And yes, those odds can change in a hurry, as Seattle was at 28.6 percent just four days ago before its skid.

Which Mariners have the best chance of making the All-Star game this year?
-- Jacob S., Ephrata, Wash.

Nelson Cruz seems the most likely, though he's lost his voting lead and is now in a heated battle for the starting designated hitter position with the Rays' Corey Dickerson. Fan voting ends Thursday night at 8:59 p.m. PT and the full All-Star teams will be announced Sunday, so we'll know soon enough.

Video: DET@SEA: Cruz plates two with double down the line

If Cruz doesn't win a starting job, I think he's still the most likely Seattle representative, though Robinson Cano certainly has the numbers to be a backup second baseman behind Houston's Jose Altuve as well and could get the nod there. Ben Gamel and Jean Segura have excellent batting averages, but both have missed about a month -- Gamel because of his late arrival from the Minors and Segura due to injury -- so I don't think they're realistic contenders.

What is the latest news on last year's No. 1 Draft pick, Kyle Lewis?
-- Brian A., Cincinnati

The Mariners' top prospect is finally back in action after his long rehab from knee surgery. Unfortunately, in his second game after he started playing for Class A Advanced Modesto, he banged the same knee making a play at the wall and had to take 12 days off. They've now sent him back to Peoria to make some rehab starts with the Arizona Rookie League team, and he's gone 2-for-7 with a double and triple in three games there.

Video: Top Prospects: Kyle Lewis, OF, Mariners

Have hitters figured out Edwin Diaz, or has he lost movement on his pitches or lost confidence to get ahead in the count?
-- Ian M., Lotusland, Canada

Until his two rough outings against the Phillies, Diaz had allowed two runs over his previous 14 1/3 innings, and he has 41 strikeouts in 31 innings while allowing a lower batting average this year than last. So it's not like he's been terrible. It's more like he's human, which didn't always seem the case when he was putting up amazing strikeout numbers last season.

Hitters do have more of a book on Diaz now, and he needs to command that 98-100 mph fastball and keep hitters off balance with his slider. But it's worth remembering that Diaz is 23 years old and just completing his first year as a reliever. He's not going to be perfect.

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

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