Jerry Dipoto, who was named the new general manager of the Seattle Mariners in late September, has been the busiest GM in all of baseball during his short tenure. Once the offseason hit, Dipoto did not hesitate to hit the ground running. He’s made nine trades and signed five free agents, which is more than any other team’s GM has been able to make happen.
He’s also had to reconfigure the front office staff and the managerial and coaching staffs. He allowed legendary Mariner Edgar Martinez to stay on as the team’s hitting coach and Chris Woodward as the team’s infield coach. In the front office, he surprisingly did not hire his own assistant GM but allowed Jeff Kingston to keep his position, along with amateur scouting director Tom McNamara and pro scouting director Tom Allison.
Dipoto has done well in a short time with what he was given to work with.
He was handed a mess to straighten out. The Mariners have one of the worst farm systems in the league, and a large chunk of their payroll is invested in just four players: Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez. He’s expected to take those two messes, no viable prospects and limited funds, and turn the team around from finishing at 76-87 in 2015 into a strong contender in 2016.
That is far from an easy task.
Dipoto has absolutely improved the Mariners from where they were last season. He has turned over 40% of the 40-man roster since September 28. A deal with reliever Steve Cishek, which was made official Monday, resulted in the 17th player to sign with the Mariners.Dipoto’s three biggest needs were to improve athleticism and on-base percentage, find a first baseman, get bullpen help and get another starter. That’s a tall order. The Mariners had a collective team on-base percentage of .311–that’s a little over a tenth of a point above what Fangraphs considers to be “Poor.”
They had issues with the bullpen, first removing Fernando Rodney from his closer role and mid-way through the season he was shipped off to the North Side of Chicago. The starting pitching was injury ridden and inconsistent for the most part, and Dipoto traded first baseman Logan Morrison to the Tampa Bay Rays in one of his first moves.
Some of the moves that Dipoto has made could be called questionable. I already wrote that it was a dubious decision for Dipoto to hire a rookie manager in Scott Servais, especially when you add the facts that he is Dipoto’s friend and former assistant GM from his time with the Los Angeles Angels. Even his choice of players seem like a risk. But knowing he didn’t have much to work with, Dipoto’s put together the best Mariners team possible.
Dipoto signed Cishek to act as the team’s new closer, even though Cishek was just non-tendered by the St. Louis Cardinals. He acquired 38-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit from the San Diego Padres for two prospect pitchers, but overall health could be an issue.
Dipoto traded pitcher Trey Cochran-Gill to get A’s reliever Evan Scribner . Scribner has never been very consistent or reliable, but he was usually used as a long reliever and spot starter with the A’s. It will be interesting to see what role Dipoto and Servais place Scribner. Perhaps if he has a change of scenery and a new role, he’ll thrive.
Those moves help shore up the bullpen, but they are all buy-low options. If they don’t bounce back, the season could be over before it starts.
I’m not saying that he was wrong in trading for Adam Lind from the Milwaukee Brewers to play first base. It’s the inability to hit lefties and poor defensive skills that make this appear to be a bad idea. Then when you take a look at what he brings with him it makes sense. Lind is a high on-base guy with power against righties. Plus, being able to get Lind for three teenage minor league pitchers is a bargain.The Mariners definitely need to find a platoon partner for Lind, though. Mike Napoli is an option if there’s enough room on the payroll. Otherwise, they’re stuck with Jesus Montero.
Of course, Dipoto’s moves could fall flat. Cishek as the closer? Set up by 38-year-old Benoit? That doesn’t sound promising. Neither does a Lind/Montero platoon. Scribner feels like a wild card, it could go either way with him. Still, Dipoto, on limited resources, managed to rebuild the bullpen.
Other changes Dipoto’s made have been brilliant. Acquiring Chris Iannetta and Steve Clevenger to cover the catcher’s position was smart. As ESPN’s David Schoenfield writes, “they aren’t Buster Posey and Yadier Molina”, but they’re huge upgrades at the position.
He brought in right-fielder Nori Aoki after dumping Mark Trumbo’s salary and traded for Leonys Martin to man center field. In the Mariners and the Rays six player trade, Dipoto got outfield prospect Boog Powell and Nate Karns for the rotation. Both are great pickups, especially Karns. Especially when it allowed Seattle to get rid of Morrison and utility-man Brad Miller. They may miss reliever Danny Farquhar, but only if he bounces back from a poor showing in 2015. Regardless, he took care of the outfield.
When he lost out on starter Hisashi Iwakuma to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dipoto turned around and traded to get Wade Miley. With Hernandez, Karns and Miley at the top of the rotation, the Mariners can be pretty formidable. Hernandez is one of the best, and Karns and Miley can be above-average. Catch them all in a three game series and a team is probably in a bit of trouble.
Of course that is assuming that Dipoto’s more questionable choices of players/staff pan out. If the starters stay healthy, the bullpen is lights out and the team can score more runs with Lind and Cruz going yard at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field, then the Mariners appear to actually be in pretty good shape. The roster is all but set for 2016.