Mariners Trade Steve Cishek for Erasmo Ramirez: Looking to 2018?

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 21: Erasmo Ramirez Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 21: Erasmo Ramirez Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

Mariners General Manager made a straight-up swap of pitchers today, dealing reliever Steve Cishek to the Tampa Bay Rays for Erasmo Ramirez. Why?

Everyone expected the Mariners to be active in the weeks and days leading up to the Trade Deadline this year. A team hovering around .500, General Manager Jerry Dipoto either had to sell and punt on this year or build up for a Wild Card run. So far, he seems to be playing both sides.

Dipoto flipped Mariners reliever and former closer Steve Cishek to the Tampa Bay Rays for Erasmo Ramirez, who will start his second tour of duty in Seattle. Dipoto sent Ramirez to Tampa in the first place for Mike Montgomery in 2015. After a year and a half in Florida, he’s coming back to Seattle to presumably help the rotation, I think.

It was painfully evident in the recent home series against the New York Yankees that the Mariners needed to get serious about the back end of their rotation, because Yovani Gallardo and Andrew Moore don’t appear to be part of the solution in 2017. If Seattle expects to be good enough to contend, they need to minimize the innings that Gallardo and Moore pitch for the rest of 2017. Moore could be a good starter down the road for the Mariners, but he doesn’t seem ready this year. Gallardo should never have been viewed as more than a placeholder in the rotation.

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The Mariners needed a starter, which makes Ramirez’s second go-around with Seattle puzzling. He’s made eight starts this year for the Rays, sporadically filling holes in the rotation. In fact, Ramirez has made only nine starts in 2016 and 2017 so far combined. The last time he was a full-time starter was 2015, his first year with the Rays, in which he went 11-6 with a 3.75 ERA overall and a 1.13 WHIP in 163.1 innings. He even made seven relief appearances that year.

Cishek hasn’t been the same since he lost his closer’s role last season but pitched relatively well for Mariners manager Scott Servais.

Trading an established reliever for a spot starter and long relief man is a head-scratcher on the surface, but perhaps Dipoto does have his eye on 2018. Ramirez is under club control until 2020. The Mariners had to pay Tampa Bay to finalize the deal and even out the contract situation of Cishek, who will be free from his tender after this season.

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Perhaps the plan is to convert Ramirez back to a starter for next season, or maybe Dipoto liked something about Ramirez only he knows about. It’s unknown if Ramirez will stretch himself out into starter form this season. Watch for how the Mariners use him the rest of the way.