Once again, Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto makes a “Dipoto-like” move by adding a player in July capable of helping his team now and in the future. This time, it’s Sam Tuivailala — a reliever from the St. Louis Cardinals.
In exchange for Tuivailala, the Mariners sent minor league pitcher Seth Elledge to the Cardinals. Elledge was a fourth round selection of Seattle during the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft. Prospect Insider had the 22-year-old ranked as the organization’s 18th best prospect in its Mid-Season Top-40 Rankings.
In Tuivailala, Seattle gets a controllable major league reliever capable of helping a Seattle bullpen in need of an infusion of talent. The 25-year-old is under team control through the 2022 season, but doesn’t have any minor league options remaining.
The main issue for any deadline acquisition is whether the new player is better than what a club already have on its roster. In Tuivailala’s case, the answer is yes.
Tuivailala By The Numbers
Tuivailala’s overall stat line may not impress, plus he doesn’t frequently miss bats. However, the right-hander has surrendered just three home runs in 31.2 innings this season and has been particularly tough on right-handed bats holding them to a .230 batting average.
The following table — sorted by expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) — illustrates the how the newest Mariner compares to his new teammates when facing right-handed batters this season.
As you can see, the only Mariners reliever with better success against right-handers is closer Edwin Diaz. For this reason, Tuivailala represents an upgrade to Seattle’s bullpen.
Tuivailala has also proven capable of going multi-innings when needed. The San Mateo, CA native has registered more than three outs eight times this year, including a two-frame stint on four occasions.
It’s worth noting left-handed hitters are slashing .333/.446/.556 against Tuivailala. Considering that drastic platoon split, Mariners manager Scott Servais could use him primarily (not exclusively) as a right-handed specialist against righty bats.
Granted, Tuivailala isn’t the perfect addition to the bullpen due to his struggles against left-handed hitters. However, Dipoto could opt to counterbalance this issue by adding a left-handed specialist before the MLB non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.
Bottom line, the Mariners bullpen is better than it was yesterday thanks to the acquisition of Sam Tuivailala.
By not expending too many assets to get his newest acquisition, Dipoto retains the flexibility to address other roster areas needing improvements. Most notably; a razor-thin starting rotation and offensively challenged center field spot.
Yep, it’s shaping up to be a fun weekend before Tuesday’s deadline.