The Seattle Mariners are looking to make the playoffs for the first time in over 20 years. Ichiro’s rookie season was the last time they played past 162 games. Heading into Saturday’s games, Seattle is only a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay in the Wild Card standings, and it’s far from a guarantee the postseason drought ends in 2022. The Mariners are trying their darndest to snap that streak now, making a huge move ahead of the trade deadline.
Seattle acquired Luis Castillo from Cincinnati late Friday night in return for three of the Mariners’ highest-rated prospects — quite the haul for a team only seven games over .500. Two shortstops are headed to the Reds’ organization in Noelvi Marte, Seattle’s No. 1 farm prospect, and Edwin Arroyo, the team’s former No. 3 prospect. A pair of right-handed pitchers are also going to Cincy, exchanging places with Castillo are Levi Stoudt, the No. 5 prospect, and Andrew Moore, who was rostered with the Mariners’ Single-A team in Modesto, Calif.
The Reds have the second-worst record in baseball, and much like the last-place Nationals are sellers at the trade deadline. Castillo was one of the biggest names on the open market. Cincinnati reportedly fielded calls from around a dozen teams to attain his services. The Yankees were among them, but didn’t base talks around top-prospect Anthony Volpe, who has been performing well in AA. The return from the Bronx didn’t prove to be as strong as what Seattle was offering.
Castillo was the lone Reds representative at this year’s All-Star game and should be in the prime of his career at 29. He’s spent his entire six-season MLB career in Cincinnati. Seattle didn’t have pitching problems before bringing Castillo into the fold. The Mariners’ starting rotation has a 3.68 ERA, the seventh-best in the MLB. Castillo’s addition does give a win-now attitude from a franchise that’s never made a World Series since debuting in 1977.
The AL West is Houston’s to lose. Second-place Seattle is a dozen games back. The Rangers, Athletics, and Angels clearly aren’t going to be a factor this season. That puts the Mariners squarely into one of the three Wild Card spots. That’s a dangerous game to play with one of the five postseason teams in each league handing in their jerseys after game No. 163. Yet, that’s better than the Mariners have done for most of the millennium.
Having longed to be back in the playoffs since fall 2001, the Mariners have the fourth-longest postseason drought of all time in North American sports. The longest streaks in the NBA and NHL are also active, but the Sacramento Kings and Buffalo Sabres 16 and 12 seasons respectively don’t touch Seattle. The longest MLB streak of all time is when the St. Louis Browns, now the Baltimore Orioles, didn’t make any postseason from 1903-44. The NFL record is shared by the now-Washington Commanders and Arizona Cardinals at a quarter-century apiece.
The move for Castillo appears to be a new-age aggressive approach to end the miserable streak. There are five teams within four games of Seattle for the second Wild Card spot. A few bad series in a row and the Mariners would be far from controlling their own destiny. That’s why Seattle was aggressive. Better to have tried and lost, than not been active and fallen just short.