MLBTR's list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’re bringing you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with Diamondbacks executive Jerry Dipoto, who ranked first on our list.
By May of 2000, right-handed reliever Jerry Dipoto had appeared in 378 big league games for the Indians, Mets, and Rockies, saving 49 along the way. Faced with a lengthy DL stay for a neck injury, the Rockies invited the 31-year-old to take part in a unique experience: exposure to the inner workings of the front office. Though he had not yet retired, Dipoto's education beyond the mound began, as Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd let him into the draft room to be a fly on the wall and many of the organization's future star executives showed him the ropes. When retirement officially came about in 2001, O'Dowd invited Dipoto to officially "step across the aisle and help the Rockies build a champion."
Dipoto assumed a jack-of-all-trades role for Colorado, taking in everything from baseball operations and trade discussions to postgame commentary on television. After a few years his education continued with the Red Sox, as he followed Josh Byrnes to Boston and was a member of the front office for the '04 World Champion team. Dipoto went back to the Rockies in '05 as their director of player personnel, and then settled in with the Diamondbacks in '06.
Dipoto initially served as Arizona's vice president of player personnel, overseeing all aspects of the club's scouting and player development. During his tenure, he's had interviews for GM openings with the Mariners and Nationals. When the D'Backs let Byrnes go last summer, they made Dipoto interim GM, and he authored multiple crucial trades. Dipoto interviewed for the full-time job, but the D'Backs hired Kevin Towers after the season, with Dipoto staying on as the senior vice president of scouting and player development. Dipoto, a self-described "talker," chatted with me on the phone Friday evening.
On his experience with the Red Sox:
It's a great franchise with a storied history and they had a new, young, cutting edge general manager who was building a group around him that was very eclectic. There were longer-in-the tooth, experienced baseball people with decades of experience to younger up-and-comers that I knew personally. It was cool to be in at the ground floor of a system they were creating from scratch.
On his education of the statistical side of the game:
As the Bill James literature became more mainstream you had somebody you could read along with and understand. I wouldn't qualify myself as a saber-junkie but I would say that from the early stages you start to understand trends. There are things you notice when you're a 12-year-old kid that you can break down in more specifics when you're a 40-year-old man.
I've always been hungry for information and have an understanding of the analytics and have a personal feeling on how to apply them on a case-to-case basis. There are times when the blend starts to favor one side or the other [stats or scouting]. If you try to apply one formula or stick with one natural inclination I think you'll make a lot of mistakes.
On the constant thirst for baseball knowledge:
The day I feel like I've stopped learning about baseball is the day I should go home. Every single day you're going to learn something new and start to adjust your lines of thinking. It's an ongoing education. Every person I meet in the game, my first instinct is to learn something from them. My mentor is the game.
On his experience as the Diamondbacks' interim GM:
It's experience you really can't buy. Until you're into the fire you really don't know, like pitching the ninth inning of the World Series. It was a very unique time for the organization. As a group we made a lot of really effective moves that positively changed the future of the team. Ken Kendrick said to me, "You are in charge now. These are your decisions to make." I appreciated their trust. At the end of the day I am very happy with what we were able to do.
On his proudest moments in player acquisitions…
I'm very proud of this draft. Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin, Anthony Meo, Kyle Winkler in the tenth round. I'm also proud of the 2009 draft, the way we went about picking off offensive performers and restocking a system that had been picked apart a little bit by graduations and recent trades.
The trades last summer, in particular the Dan Haren deal with the Angels and the Edwin Jackson deal with the White Sox, largely because it was essentially the first time I was operating and had done that with no net. The industry's reaction to the Dan Haren trade in the hours and weeks surrounding it, there might be a little bit different opinion of it today, which is I think the essence of scouting. I'm extremely proud of the Edwin Jackson deal, not only because Daniel Hudson's been terrific for us since they we acquired him, but because the guy on the back end of that deal, David Holmberg, is actually a good prospect himself.
Take the total haul from those two deals and it's a pretty high volume of pitching. And it helped us get our finances situated so that we could handle this draft and build a team within our payroll confines. I'll probably always look back on it, whether I have an opportunity to be a full-time GM or not, as one of more exhilarating moments I've had in the game. If I do get a chance to be a full-time GM and do another hundred deals, I'm not quite sure any of them will bear the weight that those deals did in that moment in time.
On his career goals and whether he's aiming to become a GM:
I wouldn't tell you that I don't have the desire to be a GM. As a general rule I've always believed the game will tell me how far I will go. My current role is awfully hard to complain about. If a GM job becomes available it's be an honor to be considered, but I have no expectation of it nor do I feel like my career is a failure if I don't get it.