Mariners in a “Win-Now” Mode at the start
In his first offseason, Dipoto was tasked with building a winning team with a roster already built up by the previous regime. Left with a bottom-five farm system in the league and little payroll flexibility, Dipoto made 7 different trades involving 35 different players to completely revamp the roster.
While it meant shipping away some young lottery tickets that would eventually blossom into Major League talent, (Freddy Peralta) the team dramatically improved and won 86 games in the 2016 season. The positive end to the season left the organization primed for an eventful offseason in order to put them over the top and crack to playoffs.
The following offseason featured even more action than the one prior. Dipoto made a whopping 15 trades featuring 42 different players in just one offseason. These trades featured the acquisition of major Mariner cornerstones such as Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura. While the vast majority of the trades were minor acquisitions that resulted in net zeroes for both sides, the desire to build a roster that was worthy of competing was clear.
Dipoto was trying to construct the team he envisioned making the playoffs, not the team the previous regime had inherited to him. The result was unfortunate, as a 78-84 record left many questioning if his efforts were all for naught.
The offseason preceding the 2018 season was much more subdued than years prior. Featuring 7 minor trades often involving bonus pool money, the Mariners saw themselves finish as a finalist in the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, an unfortunate outcome that was largely out of their control.
Outside of acquiring Dee Gordon from the Marlins and signing Juan Nicasio, the Mariners were largely silent during the winter months. However, despite the lack of significant talent acquisition, the team saw a dramatic improvement, finishing 89-73. The success was fueled in large part by a historic season from Edwin Diaz that saw him finish the year with 57 saves.
While these three years saw varying levels of team success, Dipoto had been left with an aging roster with very little roster flexibility and was told to make it work. Having two winning seasons with an aging inherited roster is a success. Dipoto did not overwhelm and turn nothing into something. He did exactly as much as he could have with the assets he had in place.
Without a shred of prospect capital and a core of talent locked in for the foreseeable future, the significant pieces of the team largely went unchanged. While the revolving door of supplemental pieces was real, cornerstones such as Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, and Felix Hernandez occupied a large amount of the payroll and were tasked with making the playoffs year in and year out to no avail.
While it is fair to criticize the lack of a playoff birth from Dipoto’s teams, it is also fair to acknowledge how little roster flexibility he had and to understand that he may or may not have been able to build the team he truly envisioned. He built multiple winning teams and acquired a young controllable asset in Mitch Haniger. It may have been underwhelming in the eyes of overly optimistic fans, but to call his first three years a failure is overly critical and an unfair assessment. The end result was a net positive.