Diamondbacks’ Paul Sewald trade boosts bullpen for multiple seasons

Aug 1, 2023, 10:02 AM

The Arizona Diamondbacks addressed the back end of their bullpen for the rest of the season and beyond by adding former Seattle Mariners closer Paul Sewald in a trade on Monday.

Sewald, a 33-year-old right-hander with 21 saves this season, has one more arbitration year remaining and won’t become an unrestricted free agent until after next season.

D-backs general manager Mike Hazen said that stability gave the front office the push complete the deal, sending infielder Josh Rojas, outfielder Dominic Canzone and prospect Ryan Bliss to Seattle.

“I think given how things have progressed over the month, we wanted to continue to support this team,” Hazen said. “Part of it was that, but the other part of it was we looked out on the horizon into the offseason, I didn’t really want to be dealing with this issue in the offseason either, because it’s going to pop right back around on us. We were in on the rental market. We’re always in on the rental market … The biggest factor was that we were going to hopefully solve a problem for this year and next, so two playoff runs at it instead of one.”

Hazen has said the D-backs are built for the next couple seasons, and much of the corps is under contract through at least 2024. He explained last week that the rental market is usually what is most available, but brining in players with multiple years left is always the preference.

The Diamondbacks entered the 2023 campaign without an established MLB closer and leaned into that with a group effort. Andrew Chafin, Scott McGough, Miguel Castro, Drey Jameson and Kevin Ginkel have each picked up at least one save, while Mark Melancon has been on the injured list all year.

But Arizona ranked No. 29 in MLB with a 5.28 ERA in the ninth inning or later entering Monday, with 18 blown saves.

“We’ve struggled to close out some games in the ninth inning, and it’s probably some of the difference between where we’re standing today and where we were standing a month ago,” Hazen said. “We made it a priority to address that.”

Hazen said the expectation is for Sewald to take over as closer when he joins the team on Tuesday, but that will be up to manager Torey Lovullo.

It has been a while since the D-backs have turned to a go-to closer. Brad Boxberger (2018) and Fernando Rodney (2017) were the only pitchers with at least 20 saves in a season since Hazen took over in 2017, and they both had ERAs over 4.00.

Hazen said the need for a late-inning reliever was their worst-kept secret as the D-backs push for their first postseason appearance since 2017. Lovullo said on Saturday that adding at the deadline can be a morale boost as a message the organization is all in.

Sewald was a late bloomer at the major league level, but he broke out for the Mariners in 2021 and took over as closer last year. He owns a 2.78 ERA since the start of 2022, leaning on his fastball-sweeper combination out of a three-quarter arm angle. Opponents are hitting below .180 against both his pitches, and Hazen credited his ability to throw strikes and miss bats.

The veteran closed out the D-backs Friday in a 5-2 Mariners win at Chase Field, striking out Christian Walker to end the game.

That’s around the time trade talks got under way. Hazen said the deal came together roughly 12-20 hours before it was announced.

“I don’t know if playing each other (had anything to do with it), it could have had nothing to do with it. It had nothing to do with it for us,” Hazen said. “I doubt it had anything to do with them. It’s just the way it worked out.”

The trade deadline is Tuesday at 3 p.m., but deals have picked up over the weekend into Monday.

Hazen said the D-backs have been making calls for weeks, but trades well before the deadline are infrequent and difficult to pull off.

“To be frank on the reliever market, we didn’t really get prices until recently,” Hazen said. “It wasn’t something where we had a choice placed in front of us and we said no to it. We basically got our prices here in the last few days.”

Hazen made it clear that adding Sewald was not going to inhibit their ability to make other moves.

The Diamondbacks did not waste time, trading with the Oakland Athletics for 33-year-old infielder Jace Peterson to replace Rojas’ versatility soon after.

Making additional deals for both pitchers and bats remains on the table, Hazen said.

The D-backs closed July with an extra-inning win over the San Francisco Giants to pull within a game of the top wild card spot in the National League.

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