Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto readily admits that he’s pushing hard to bolster the club’s pitching staff prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
"We will leave no stone unturned," he vowed.
Officials from several other clubs confirm the Mariners are active in multiple discussions in seeking help for their rotation and bullpen. Indications suggest they were closing in Wednesday night on a deal for a reliever.
Unconfirmed reports linked the Mariners to a deal for Miami right-hander David Phelps, a former starter who switched to the bullpen over the last two seasons. He is 2-4 with a 3.45 ERA this year in 44 games with 51 strikeouts in 47 innings.
Such a move would fit the Mariners’ expected profile — any move the club makes is not expected to be a blockbuster.
The Mariners lack the depth of high-quality prospects who are (or are near) major-league ready that such deals typically require.
"We’re not going to be in on (Oakland’s) Sonny Gray," one club official said, "or the guys like that."
If the Mariners acquire a starting pitcher, it is likely to be a projection arm — much like lefty Ariel Miranda was a year ago — or a Triple-A pitcher whom the Mariners view as a good fit in their ballpark and roster mix.
The market’s high price for starting pitching was a major factor in the New York Yankees’ recent move to pivot toward strengthening their bullpen by acquiring David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox.
A few days earlier, the Chicago Cubs forked over four prospects, including prized outfielder Eloy Jimenez, to obtain veteran lefty Jose Quintana from the White Sox. The Cubs control Quintana through the 2018 season.
While the Mariners’ stock of upper-level prospects is thin, they appear willing to trade outfielder Tyler O’Neill because of the emergence this season of rookies Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia.
O’Neill is surging at Triple-A Tacoma after a slow start. He is 31-for-97 (.320) in his last 26 games with 11 homers and 25 RBIs. Overall, he is batting .241 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs in 92 games.
In contrast, the Mariners show no inclination to trade outfielder Kyle Lewis, who continues to draw interest even as he works through a rehab assignment in the Arizona Rookie League while recovering from a bruised knee.
Dipoto said the Mariners’ search for bullpen help is a wide net.
The Mariners would prefer a right-hander such as Phelps but are open to adding a lefty. They’d like to get someone who is controllable at least through next year but are also looking at short-term rentals.
Phelps is controllable through next season.
"There are relievers available," one official from a rival club said, "but there are a lot of clubs looking for bullpen help."
Dipoto noted the Mariners are getting calls about their relievers even as they seek to add to their own bullpen.
Several relievers are drawing significant interest, including right-handers Brad Brach (Orioles), Addison Reed (Mets) and Pat Neshek (Phillies), and lefties Brad Hand (Padres), Justin Wilson (Tigers) and Tony Watson (Pirates).
Hand is controllable through 2019, which is why the Padres are seeking a stiff price. Brach and Wilson are controllable through next season. Neshek, Watson and Reed will be free agents after the season.
"The controllable guys could go at any time if the price is right," one club official said. "The market for the rentals might go right up to the deadline."
The non-waiver trade deadline in 1 p.m. Pacific time on July 31. Trades can only be made after that date if the players involved clear waivers.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners