Unless Washington’s severe weather has had you powerless and without working utilities since early November—in which case I applaud your dedication to the Seattle Mariners but implore you to go get some help (how are you reading this?)—you have probably noticed that Jerry Dipoto has been a busy little bee this off season. So busy in fact, that almost half of the Mariners 40-man roster has been ejected into the baseball atmosphere. In case this is the first you are reading of this roster rollover, or you’d just like a refresher (it’s hard to keep up) here is a rundown of departures and arrivals.
Onto Greener Pastures
New in Town
For those of you counting, that is 22 players connected to the previous regime out the door, 21 by choice. Dipoto had a very clear vision of what he intended to do with this roster once he arrived; a vision he shared in his introductory presser. The roster is most certainly more athletic and the team has certainly gotten deeper—for the most part, but I’ll address that later. Dipoto took the reigns as if he was an internal hire, some an up-and-comer waiting in the wings of this organization for years. In his mind, this team belonged to him long before he was ever given the job; to mold and model in his vision and he certainly hit the ground running. Being familiar with the team as a division rival executive probably helped his hasty start, his stated desire for this “dream job” even more so. There was no transition period and after assembling his front office and field staff Jerry made his first trade on November 5, 2015.
Enter present day and numerous transactions later, we arrive at the roster we see now. Dipoto has declared this to be all but a finished product, save for a few minor tweaks here and there. Seeing as he has stayed true to all of his previous statements, you can probably pry your weary eyes away from MLBTradeRumors and relax. Scanning up and down the still hot off the press 40-man, here’s a generic overview what you’ll find: platoons, an unaltered core, an outfield defense that can finally handle the vast green abyss that is Safeco, two new and very different pitchers, a new catching tandem, and perhaps most importantly a wealth of cost controlled assets. Despite the flurry of moves, nothing Dipoto has done this off season could be considered traditionally sexy. He didn’t sign a big free agent, or trade for anyone that could be considered a star, he didn’t even make a Rule 5 pick that could conjure up discussion about stealing a forgotten talent from another organization.
Jerry’s off season has drawn copious amounts of praise and captured the attention of the baseball world, very similar to Zduriencik’s second off season in office in which he brought in Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Casey Kotchman, and Brandon League. No, I’m not trying to say that Jerry Dipoto is or will inevitably become Jack Zduriencik. I’m not even trying to say that in either of these off seasons the wrong moves were made. No, what I am trying to highlight is that even when good moves are made and the right logic is applied,the results don’t always materialize. Did Jerry have a perfect off season? No, it was good, maybe even great, but there are still a few spots that are potential areas of strain for the Mariners next season. Number one being the starting rotation.
As it stands now the Mariners will deploy a starting rotation of Felix, Walker, Miley, Karns, and Paxton. That in itself is a talented enough rotation for a contending team however, the talent level is not the issue. Major League Baseball teams just don’t use the same starting five the entire season, it doesn’t happen anymore. Pitchers are not the epitome of health and stability either; the body is not meant to be utilized in that manner. Fangraphs has done a interesting little study on rotations and injuries. Long story short, the Mariner back up rotation options are Anthony Bass, Vidal Nuno, and Mike Montgomery. Montgomery has his own little issue in that he is out of options and isn’t a lock to make this roster. So in a situation in which the Mariners jettison Mike in favor of a superior talent, the team is down to two back-up starters. The farm isn’t set to help ease this issue either as the cabinets are looking rather sparse down south. For wanting to add depth and stretch out the roster, the rotation is still incredibly thin. Losing Iwakuma and shipping off Elias certainly compounded the issue. Regardless, for a roster that is mostly set, the starting rotation depth is a cause for concern. Having your two spot starters serve double duty as bullpen members only increases the risk level and need for further starting options. A couple of Spring Training injuries could potentially spell disaster for this already shallow rotation.
So are the Mariners as sturdy as they would like to be? Probably not, but they are certainly better off than when Dipoto first took over. The off season has been far from perfect and while Jerry deserves more than his fair share of praise, it’s okay to reserve judgement and even criticize as well. More than anything however, this off season has been fun. While painful at times (Kivlehan, Smith, Elias we hardly knew ye), their were debts to be paid and losing players that we had grown attached to was bound to happen and not every trade was perfect (the Wade Miley and Steve Clevenger trade in particular could have the propensity to eventually look unfavorable for Seattle), overall we shed the dead weight left over from the Zduriencik regime and stabilized a shaky 40-man riddled with holes. I am still reserving judgement on Mr. Jerry Dipoto, I have not decided on him one way or the other. However, I can tell you one thing for sure: Dipoto is not Jack Zduriencik, and I mean that in the best possible way.