Of the teams chasing the second American League Wild Card spot, which ones have the easier remaining schedules? How does the Mariners' schedule compare?
-- Brian P., Bigfork, Mont.
It's been widely noted how tough the Mariners' August schedule is, and indeed they'll be on the road as much or more than any of the AL Wild Card contenders over the final two months. Of their remaining 49 games, the Mariners play 22 home and 27 away. The Royals have 24 home, 28 away; the Orioles have 23 home, 28 away. The Rays have the best remaining slate in that regard with 26 at home, 23 away. The Angels are split at 25 and 25.
But there is another significant factor in Seattle's favor. Of the Mariners' final 49 games, only 15 are against teams with records over .500 entering play Monday (six against the Astros, three against the Rays, three against the Yankees and three with the Indians). Contrast that with the Orioles, who play 29 of their final 51 against winning teams. The Rays play 26 of their 49 against winners, the Royals 24 of 52 and the Angels 24 of 50.
So the Mariners have the toughest road slate, but the easiest level of competition. Of course, there are a number of teams just above and below .500, so there is not always a huge difference between playing "winning" and "losing" teams. But Seattle clearly still has a do-able path for making a postseason bid.
Can the Mariners still get a reliable starter via trade?
-- Pat S., Edgewood, Wash.
General manager Jerry Dipoto has tried hard to land additional pitching help, but the trade market has been very difficult in that regard. Dipoto has made more trades than anyone in baseball over the past two years, so it's not for lack of trying or willingness to deal. Supply and demand have just made the price of the few available veteran starting pitchers untenable, so Dipoto instead made other moves where he felt it made more sense.
The Mariners are high on young lefty Marco Gonzales, who made his debut on Sunday, and he'll get a chance to show what he can do now with Felix Hernandez sidelined. And Erasmo Ramirez will continue building his arm back up in a starting role, so we'll see where that goes. But I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a big pitching acquisition until the offseason, given the limited current market.
What do you think the chances are Dipoto tries to make a deal for Justin Verlander? He's pitching well and we could take on some salary the next couple years.
-- Paul F., Temecula, Calif.
Anything is possible, but I don't see Verlander being a viable option unless the Tigers are willing to eat some of his contract, which they aren't eager to do unless they get blown away with prospects in return. Verlander has pitched better of late, but he's 34 years old and under contract for $28 million each of the next two seasons. Much like Hernandez, a team that acquires him now would be paying premium dollars for the final years of a huge deal for an aging pitcher. And like Hernandez, Verlander has 10/5 rights (10 years in the Majors, five-plus with the same team) and can veto any trade if he chooses.
If you add Verlander, the Mariners would be paying Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Hernandez and Verlander a combined $98 million each season in 2018 and '19. That's a whole lot of payroll tied into four players, particularly with three of them getting up in age.
How do teams make trades after the Deadline?
-- Nolan M., Tacoma, Wash.
July 31 is the non-waiver Trade Deadline, which means teams can make deals before then without having to expose players to the waiver process. Trades can be made after that Deadline, but only after any players involved are put on revocable waivers, which means any other team can claim them. If a player is claimed, his team can then either pull him back off waivers (revoke the waiver), let him and his full remaining contract go to the team that claimed him, or work out a trade with the team that claimed him within a 48-hour period.
The third option is how the Mariners and A's worked out Sunday's deal for Yonder Alonso. Such post-Deadline deals are possible, they just aren't as easy to make. If you want a more detailed explanation, here's a great primer on how trades can still be made after the July 31 Deadline.
Do you think the Alonso trade will make a substantial difference?
-- Becky J., Quad Cities, Ariz.
Alonso provides another solid left-handed bat against right-handed pitching, which will help some. He allows the Mariners to do what they'd initially planned with Danny Valencia, which is platoon him with Daniel Vogelbach. And Alonso is definitely an upgrade over Vogelbach at this point.
Dipoto would have preferred to upgrade the rotation, but as noted above, that's hard to do. So they made a move that should incrementally improve the offense. You try to get better wherever you can. The Mariners also need to answer their first-base question beyond this year since Valencia and Alonso are both pending free agents, and Dipoto noted Alonso could be a player they're interested in longer term, so the next two months might be a trial run to see how the two sides fit.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.