Diamondbacks Land Closer Paul Sewald from Mariners for Rojas, Canzone, Prospect

Paul Sewald, who was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, celebrating a save on July 2.
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Diamondbacks Land Closer Paul Sewald from Mariners in 3-for-1 Swap

The Arizona Diamondbacks, desperate for a closer to stay competitive down the stretch, pulled off the heist of the 2023 trade season to this point, landing closer Paul Sewald Monday in a 3-for-1 deal with the Seattle Mariners. In exchange, they sent Triple-A infielder Ryan Bliss, rookie outfielder Dominic Canzone, and a fan favorite — infielder and Valley native Josh Rojas.

The move remedies the most glaring weakness of the team: clutch ninth-inning relief. Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen admitted that the team’s goals coming into the Deadline were “probably one of the worst kept secrets.” He added, “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.” In addition, Hazen wanted to address the closer role “not just for this year, but for next year as well,” which justified the higher price the team paid — two major leaguers and one Triple-A prospect — to get Sewald, who still has one more year of arbitration before he becomes a free agent.

The Diamondbacks had a surplus of left-handed hitters, which made it less difficult for them to part with Rojas and Canzone. In addition, the team has not needed much from Rojas to get where they are, and Canzone did not reach the majors until recently. This came from the team’s draft philosophy, according to Hazen. “When you don’t draft for specific purpose,” he said, “and you just draft for the best player, you end up getting a certain type of player sometimes at the upper levels. Then the whole point of that is that you’re going to trade some of those guys to get what you didn’t draft or develop very well. And that’s what you’re seeing here.”

Paul Sewald, traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and his rank on the AL Closer Leaderboard.

What Sewald Adds to the Diamondbacks

Sewald entered Monday as the third-ranked closer in the American League. The two pitchers ahead of him, Will Smith of the Texas Rangers and Felix Bautista of the Baltimore Orioles, are both on first-place teams. Three of the top four closers in the NL — Devin Williams of the Milwaukee Brewers (second), Alexis Diaz of the Cincinnati Reds (third), and Raisel Iglesias of the Atlanta Braves (fourth) — are in the thick of division races. NL Leader David Bednar of the Pittsburgh Pirates has such a high asking price that he’s highly unlikely to move. Therefore, Sewald was the highest-ranked realistic trade option.

In 45 games in relief, Sewald has tossed 43 innings, finishing 31 games. He has a 2.93 ERA, 72 ERA-minus, 80.0% Scoreless Outing Percentage (ER only), and a 1.023 WHIP. In addition, he has a 35.5 K% and 27.2 K-BB%, both better than anyone on the Diamondbacks. His home run percentage of 3.0% is one tenth of a percentage point lower than the NL average of 3.1%. But the biggest plus for Sewald is his ability to close games. For those who prefer saves, he has converted 21 of 24 opportunities, a rate of 88% (AL avg: 61%). In Goose Eggs, he has 21 versus two broken eggs — a ratio of 10.5, second highest in the AL (min. 20 appearances).

Other Deals and What Might Be on the Horizon

Later in the day, the Diamondbacks picked up utility infielder Jace Peterson from the Oakland Athletics for Double-A pitcher Chad Patrick. Peterson will play a reserve role.

The Diamondbacks have “a lot of irons in the fire,” according to Hazen, who added that the Sewald deal came together in the nine-to-twelve hours preceding the afternoon press conference. Another glaring need for the team is a starting pitcher. They already were facing a big dropoff in both production and experience when getting past Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly in the rotation. But with the injuries to Zach Davies and Tommy Henry, they have an even more pressing need for more starters. While the team will give some Triple-A pitchers chances to prove themselves at the major league level — something Hazen hinted at Monday — they would certainly breathe easier if they can land a dependable starer before Tuesday’s deadline, which is at 3 pm Arizona Time.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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