A lot of fans who root for the Seattle Mariners are tired of waiting for their team to be good again. And who can blame them? But I’m a big believer in GM Jerry Dipoto. Let me tell you why.
The Seattle Mariners are rebuilding. Not pretending to be or trying to convince us that 81 wins are “good enough” to avoid a true tear down. Seattle has been bad for most of the past 18 years, but they haven’t actually rebuilt. At least, not until 2018.
The man in charge of the rebuild is Jerry Dipoto, Seattle Mariners General Manager. His job is to pick the players, make the deals, and sign the free agents to turn around the franchise as fast as possible. If it fails, he will be the one who receives most of the blame. If it succeeds, he will largely be ignored by the average fan. Such is the way of life for a GM. But I believe Dipoto is the perfect GM for the challenge ahead. Here is why.
Rebuilds are tough. They involve a lot of turnovers. You need to clear significant payroll and rid your roster of players who just simply do not fit. If there is one thing we know about Jerry Dipoto, is that he has no problems moving players out the door. They don’t call him “Trader Jerry” for nothing.
Dipoto’s willingness to shuffle through a lot of players is a strength in a rebuild. It keeps the parade moving and allows him and his coaching/player development staff to get their hands on a lot of options to consider moving forward.
Moving salaries off your payroll can be difficult, but we have proof that Dipoto can do just that in Year 1 of the rebuild. He shed portions of contracts belonging to Robinson Cano, Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce, Juan Nicasio, Jean Segura, and many others. As with most high salary players, Dipoto couldn’t clear the entirety of their salaries, but that actually brings us to reason number 2.
In these salary dump type of trades, Dipoto illustrates one of his biggest strengths: creativity. Dipoto’s relentless roster churn leads to a lot of conversations with other GMs, which gives him information that allows him to maneuver typical obstacles for other GMs.
Let’s use the Cano and Edwin Diaz trade as an example. Many Mariners’ fans, myself included, didn’t think there was any reasonable way for Dipoto to attach Cano to his best trade chip and still get full value for him. But Dipoto did, by essentially making two separate trades contingent on the other.
He had other suitors for Diaz, but none for Cano. So how did he convince the Mets to take a long-term salary headache off his hands? By taking short-term salary headaches from the Mets in the form of Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak.
By convincing the Mets that the trade was really Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn for Diaz and that Cano and $50 million was costing them just Bruce, Swarzak, and Gerson Bautista, Dipoto is able to get full value on Diaz while clearing $50 million of payroll over the next handful of seasons.
We also see Dipoto’s creativity in other deals, like the Sonny Gray trade to the Reds. The Mariners were surprisingly interested in Gray in the first winter of their rebuild, despite the fact that he was set to be a free agent after 2019. Ultimately, the Reds outbid the Mariners, but Dipoto still managed to get in the middle of the deal.
He offered a prospect that was a better fit for the Yankees for one of the prospects the Reds were willing to part with, now known as the second baseman, Shed Long. Dipoto’s knack for sticking in talks all the way to the finish instead of turning his attention to other deals when he is beat is a great trait for a team desperate to acquire as much talent as possible.
This could be Dipoto’s best trait and the reason I am the most optimistic about his chances of success. Dipoto owns his mistakes and isn’t afraid to move on from them quickly. Chris Taylor for Zach Lee was a disaster, but Dipoto didn’t try to force Lee to be a thing despite the inevitable bad press he would receive. Lee never pitched a game for Seattle and Dipoto would later acknowledge the bad deal he would make.
Remember when he acquired Wade Miley from Boston? Miley was struggling in Seattle and was upset at the team’s emphasis on the shift. Convinced the issue was the Mariners, Miley becomes a disgruntled employee of the team. Dipoto traded him halfway through year one without any hesitation.
This may seem like an obvious trait that all GMs have, but we know that isn’t the case. You don’t have to look any further back than the previous regime of the Mariners to see how long they would desperately try to show how right they were.
Jack Zduriencik was notorious for keeping players up from the minors for weeks or months after they had shown they needed more time. Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, and Mike Zunino are prime examples. Which brings us to reason #4.
Scoff all you want at this, but the Mariners farm system is good. Like, really good. And what’s more important, we are seeing the player development staff actually improve players as well. Prior to the rebuild starting in the winter of 2018, the Mariners had one of the 3 worst farm systems in baseball. Now, just one draft class and two seasons later, they have one of the 10 best. That type of turnaround isn’t common or indeed easy.
Dipoto has shown to be an apt drafter who has hired a good player development staff. He has hit some home runs in the international market with guys like Julio Rodriguez, Noelvi Marte, and George Feliz, something the previous regime never really got right.
Dipoto understands what his staff is great at and where they need help. He listens to his teams’ input, trusts their judgment, and as a result, the farm system is not only loaded with back-end talent but elite, difference-making prospects. Dipoto has created an atmosphere where it’s okay to be wrong and it is okay to be vocal.
None of these traits merit their own section, but this list of adjectives should be required for any rebuilding GM. Dipoto is smart, fearless, self-aware, willing to own up to mistakes, daring, creative, articulate, curious, and willing to be wrong. He understands who he is and what his strengths and weakness are.
These are just a few of the many reasons I believe Jerry Dipoto is the right man for the job. Of course, he will make mistakes. And of course, he will make moves I do not like. And when he does, I won’t have an issue saying it all. But when you consider the scope of his task dating back to the off-season of 2018-2019, his job performance is more than enough for me to see that he deserves the chance to see this through. And you should be willing to give him that chance too.