Last Updated on August 31, 2020 by Luke Arkins
When it comes to communicating about their team, Jerry Dipoto of the Seattle Mariners may be the most forthcoming GM in MLB. Yet, some struggle to see what’s obvious to me – Dipoto’s actions normally align with his words. Then again, I do fancy myself as a “JeDi whisperer.”
I’m being somewhat tongue-in-cheek referring to myself in such a manner. But I do believe it’s not hard to understand the direction Dipoto wants to take his team or how he’ll act in the trade market. The key to being a JeDi whisperer is listening closely to what he’s saying without any preconceived notions. Let’s consider several comments made by the fifth-year GM regarding 2020.
Let The Kids Play
After the 2019 season, Dipoto repeatedly stated the Mariners would preserve opportunities for the club’s youngsters to play. The following quote from Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN Seattle is representative of what the Virginia Commonwealth alum professed throughout the offseason.
We’re growing a young core and I guess by virtue of what that requires, we have to give them the opportunity to play.” – Jerry Dipoto
And that’s exactly what the Mariners have done.
Management labeled Shed Long as the team’s everyday second baseman before the season began despite the presence of veteran incumbent Dee Gordon. Although Long has struggled and Gordon is still with the team, the Mariners haven’t wavered and continue playing the 25-year-old.
Emphasis on letting the kids play explains why the Mariners made short-term acquisitions to the rotation in the offseason. The team didn’t want to block development of its young arms – Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Nick Margevicius, and Ljay Newsome.
Granted, Margevicius and Newsome weren’t starters at the start of the season. But Dipoto turned to the kids instead of looking for veteran help when Kendall Graveman went down with an injury and after he traded Taijuan Walker.
That’s been the recurring theme during this wacky 2020 campaign. Substitute scuffling youngsters or injured players with young, unproven replacements. The underlying goal – advance the development of the kids and assess them at the big-league level. It’s why players like Braden Bishop, Jose Marmolejos, Sam Haggerty, Joe Hudson, and Joseph Odom received the call to replace an injured Tom Murphy and Dylan Moore, a struggling Mallex Smith and Daniel Vogelbach, and a traded Austin Nola.
Youth Movement Continues
During a recent team broadcast on ROOT Sports, Dipoto stated, “We’re going to get younger as the season goes.” A seemingly bold comment considering the Mariners entered this year with the youngest roster in MLB. Once again, JeDi backed up his words with action.
First, the absence of Walker (27) and Graveman (29) provided opportunities for Margevicius (24) and Newsome (23). Then came the seven-player trade brokered by Dipoto over the weekend.
The Mariners dealt a 30-year-old Nola with relievers Dan Altavilla (27) and Austin Adams (29) to the Padres for a quartet of prospects who are 26-or-younger – outfielder Taylor Trammell, infielder Ty France, pitcher Andrés Muñoz and catcher Luis Torrens. Seattle got even younger, while increasing the talent and depth in an already well-regarded farm system.
Once he clears the Mariners’ COVID-19 intake process, the 24-year-old Torrens likely receives the majority of playing time behind the plate in September. Similarly, France will also join his new club after COVID screening. Where he plays long-term isn’t as clear, but Dipoto does believe the 26-year-old can be regular middle-of-the-order bat.
Down the road, Trammel (22) may form an outfield rotation with Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic, and Julio Rodriguez. The youngest new Mariner – Muñoz – is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery That said; Dipoto noted during today’s game broadcast that he views the 21-year-old right-hander as a potential future closer.
National pundits and fans bandied about the name of Mariners Opening Day starter Marco Gonzales leading up to the trade deadline. However, I never felt dealing Marco was going to happen.
Why the confidence?
As we discussed after the June draft, Dipoto places a high value on premium quality starting pitching. The notion of the New Jersey native dealing away a proven major league arm his club just signed to an extension was preposterous to me.
Could the Mariners trade Gonzales in the future? It’s certainly a possibility, but I don’t see Dipoto’s loosening his grip on the team’s controllable starters until he and his staff better understand what they have down on the farm.
I’ve maintained this opinion since hearing Dipoto reiterate the importance of starting pitching to Danny, Dave, and Moore in July 2017. At the time, the 52-year-old executive referred to the market as the “pitching store,” which is rarely open and always has high asking prices.
Sure, it’s cool having a stable of first round picks moving through the system. But these talented youngsters will remain unknowns until proving otherwise at the big-league level. For this reason, I can’t seeing Dipoto peddling Marco at the pitching store anytime soon.
And Kyle Seager?
When asked about the status of Kyle Seager during a recent conversation on the Danny & Gallant Show, Dipoto said “we’re going to hold on to him and see where it takes us from here.” Yet, Mariners Twitter continued to formulate potential Seager trade scenarios until today’s deadline.
Now, I’m not saying Dipoto won’t trade Seager between now and the end of next season when his contract expires. But it was clear to this JeDi whisperer the Mariners were keeping the 32-year-old third baseman through the 2020 season.
Perhaps the team considers moving Seager this coming offseason or during the 2021 campaign, assuming there’s a suitor willing to take on the “poison pill” player option in his contract that activates if Seattle trades the former All-Star. After all, France has experience at both corner infield spots and second base. With the team already committed to Evan White at first base and Long currently holding down second base, the San Diego State alum could potentially fill a void left in the aftermath of a Seager trade.
The Mariners will continue introducing us to more young players this season, although I don’t expect we’ll see Kelenic this year. I know this disappoints some fans, but Dipoto has subtly suggested as much when asked about the highly touted prospect.
Sure, Dipoto’s approach means the club will have a terrible win-loss record this year. But so what? The endgame was always about getting the kids playing time and that’s exactly what has transpired. Again, this shouldn’t be a surprise – Dipoto has consistently reiterated the future mattered more to him than current results in 2019-20.
Moving forward, I suggest taking in every word Dipoto says during his frequent media availability sessions and on his Wheelhouse podcast. Then, digest them with an open mind. He’s likely to divulge what’s next for the Mariners.
Or you could simply ask me – I’m always happy to talk baseball and the ways of the JeDi with you.
My Oh My…