In the first episode of a new Mariners podcast, The Wheelhouse, general manager Jerry Dipoto joined host Aaron Goldsmith to discuss a plethora of topics regarding his team. The 41-minute, must-listen interview is packed with candid assessments of the Mariners’ roster, trade anecdotes and, perhaps most appealing to the general MLBTR audience, more than 15 minutes of talk on Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani.
Dipoto doesn’t shy away from expressing his excitement to finally be able to talk about Ohtani now that the 23-year-old is going to be posted for big league clubs, and he’s frank in explaining his desire to make a serious run at signing the right-hander/slugger.
“We want to sell the Seattle experience,” says Dipoto. “What it means to the Japanese-American, our culture and how this organization has trended — and trended so positively — when we have a star Japanese player. And make no mistake — this is a star Japanese player. He’s talented. He’s gifted. He’s going to make some team a lot better.”
The GM goes on to acknowledge, of course, that Ohtani’s specific preferences when selecting a team remain unclear. It’s possible that Ohtani, for instance, would rather head to an organization that doesn’t have a storied history of Japanese stars so that he can form his own legacy, Dipoto suggests. For the time being, there’s not yet a great way to gauge his top priorities. There are countless variables that’ll determine where Ohtani lands, and while money doesn’t appear to be the primary factor, the Mariners will be on the lookout for means by which to acquire additional international funds to pad their offer to Ohtani.
To that end, Dipoto concedes that his trade of hard-throwing righty Thyago Vieira to the White Sox in exchange for international funds was “pretty much” done as a means of increasing his maximum offer to Ohtani. The Mariners also had a glut of pitchers on the roster, he notes (26 of the 39 players on the 40-man) and were in need of some maintenance before this week’s deadline to set the roster for the Rule 5 Draft, though that didn’t seem to be the primary motivation.
“We have made no bones about it in talking to other clubs,” Dipoto says of adding extra international money. “We’ve gathered as much as we can. … We are not going to leave a stone unturned in the efforts to do it again if the opportunity exists. We’ll be responsible in how we do it, but we understand that this is a one-time buying opportunity, and you have to be prepared. To me, the worst thing we can be is sitting on the sideline, being too conservative — sitting on our hands when an opportunity to change the history of your organization comes along, because that’s what this might be.”
The Mariners, Dipoto confirms, have just shy of $1.6MM to offer Ohtani at this point and have the capacity to acquire another roughly $2.3MM within the confines of MLB’s international bonus pool system. However, clubs are becoming less willing to part with international funding — hardly a surprise given not only Ohtani’s posting but also the new slate of prospects that are available to MLB clubs in the fallout from the Braves’ investigation (headlined, of course, by Kevin Maitan).
The Mariners have spent at least the past year working on their sales pitch to Ohtani, going so far as to prepare a “film on the merits of Seattle and the Mariners” as they seek different ways to pique his interest.
“This is maybe the most unique circumstance in baseball that I can recall,” Dipoto adds. “It is all about how you as a city, as an organization and as human beings appeal to an individual, rather than the final paycheck. In my lifetime, that’s really never been a thing.”
The Mariners, like most other clubs (presumably), view Ohtani as an immediately MLB-ready “plug-and-play difference maker” that doesn’t need a stop in the minors before pitching in a big league rotation. Dipoto notes that his team’s interest in signing Ohtani is so great that they’d be willing to play Nelson Cruz in the outfield a few times per week in order to free some DH at-bats for Ohtani on days he does not pitch.
With or without Ohtani, the Mariners’ lineup will have a different composition next season. The first major move of Seattle’s offseason was to flip Emilio Pagan and 17-year-old shortstop Alexander Campos to the Athletics in a trade for Ryon Healy, who will be the team’s new first baseman. Dipoto praises Healy’s lengthy track record of hitting, dating back to A-ball and even into his amateur days, noting that the Mariners have had interest in him since 2016. While Healy’s lack of walks doesn’t necessarily fit this front office’s typical blueprint for an offensive player, the GM expresses confidence that his new acquisition will be a positive contributor.
“Our ability to get on base may be a little more linked to the bat than we prefer, but he brings something that’s hard to find for us, and that’s cheap affordable power at a position that’s been difficult to fill,” says Dipoto. “…And that gives us one solution at an affordable rate with a player we hold for five more years — that allows us the ability to go focus our resources to fill needs in other areas.”
While Healy will be penciled in as the primary first baseman, his ability to play third base if needed held some appeal to the Mariners as well. Generally speaking, Dipoto voices a preference to avoid a necessity to rely heavily on strict platoons. The team still relishes the idea of acquiring versatile players that can handle multiple positions as a means of retaining roster flexibility, but taking up two roster spots to field one position is somewhat of an inefficiency that the M’s would prefer to move away from.
Seattle will also feature some changes in the bullpen, having traded Pagan and brought in right-hander Nick Rumbelow from the Yankees. Dipoto raves about Rumbelow’s performance in his return from Tommy John surgery this past season and praises him as a potential future setup man in the Seattle ’pen.
Rumbelow isn’t the first near-MLB ready player the Mariners have plucked from the Yankees, and Seattle will undoubtedly hope that he pans out similarly well. Both outfielder Ben Gamel and left-hander James Pazos have established themselves in Seattle, so much so that Dipoto notes that he gets asked about Pazos more than any other player in trade talks.
“You don’t find a lot of 26-year-old lefties who throw in the mid-90s, who are making close to league minimum, who have gone out and shown that they can be effective in the big leagues.”
Again, the entire interview is an excellent listen, with Dipoto sharing scouting stories on Ohtani, trade anecdotes, insight into the Mariners’ roster composition and some general insight into the various motivations behind his most recent set of trades. Fans of the Mariners and other clubs alike should find plenty of interest in the lengthy chat between Dipoto and Goldsmith.
Dipoto made crap moves with the Angels getting rid of good young starters and bringing in the likes of Hansen and Blanton.
He ruined their ability to sign latin players by putting all their money on Roberto Baldoquin who will never make the majors.
He got into constant riffs with the manager.
He WAS a bad gm.
The GM is usually more hands-on in free agent signings and trades than owners, who are often not even baseball minded people. GM is given a budget to work with and decides how to use that money.
Dipoto stinks, and his track record shows it. He fits right in with Seattle’s history of upper management who can’t effectively fill out a roster.. He must have a way with words in interviews or know the right people.. No idea how else he keeps getting hired.
Moreno was the exception to that rule. Not saying Dipoto is great, but I wouldn’t blame him for the crippling contracts.
Same thing happened in Boston with Carl Crawford
Funny he hasn’t given a big contract since he has been here. I like dipoto. He came into Seattle with a really bad farm system and a few huge bad contracts and added some nice players. Segura, haniger, gamel, heredia, leake, Healy are nice quality and I’m excited to see how they grow. The farm system he took over was crap and that’s still a major work in progress but it still needs addressing. Payroll is in a better situation and if they land a nice sp or two I would think they have a good shot at the playoffs. They almost made it with the most SP injuries I’ve ever seen a club go through. Paxton, leake and Felix are three sp. Miranda and Moore are ok but would like those two to fight for the 5th spot and smyly will be back midseason.
As a Mariner’s fan…I don’t think Ohtani fits here…there’s not a real spot for him. What? Put Cruz in the outfield and risk him getting injured? Weaken the outfield defense which you just spent 2 yrs building?
Get LoCain, get a inning eating starter. Focus funds on your relief since we lost most games last year in the 7-9 innings. And pray you can keep it together until iwakuma and Smyly can get healthy enough to make an impact
IMO we probably don’t have the payroll to acquire Cain, a guy like Lynn, Chatwood, or Cobb, and some relief depth, in case we want to go after a guy like Neshek.. We probably might when Cruz’s contract comes off the books, but that’s when the influx of FAs hit the market in 2018-2019, and those guys will undoubtedly be on teams by then . We need to compete aggressively with what we have now, and Otani would probably compliment that very well, as our rotation has Paxton, Felix, Leake, and then a smorgasbord of AAA guys. Add in a guy like Darvish as, and the rotation is boosted immensely, with some depth in guys like Ramirez, Albers, Miranda, and Smyly when he comes off the DL, in case Paxton and Felix need to go on the DL. As for outfield, we could land a cheap deal for Jon Jay, whose versatility in the outfield and offense are okay; but would still be a little bit concerning on defense, as the last two seasons have seen his defense spiral from average to below average. Dyson is probably the best option when it comes to cheap outfielders, but Dipoto probably isn’t going to resign him due to injury concerns.
Putting Cruz in the outfield is what Dipoto said would be the length they would go to make sure that Otani gets some playing time at DH if he asks for it, it’s not entirely sure what’s going to happen if he decides to sign with Seattle. Maybe he’ll agree to pitch until Cruz becomes a free agent at the end of the season, maybe they’ll find a way to split time, who knows?
SP is the biggest need. Not sure how you see them needing to add a outfielder when you say they worked so hard to improve it. I would trade Cruz honestly. An old dh with value to address other needs. Otani would cost them 1.5 million dollars. That’s a fit on any club especially when he has hype like ichiro. Finishing another ichiro is franchise changing as any Mariner’s fan would know and at that cost it’s worth any risk.
Seattle needs a LHH in the outfield, and Dipoto isn’t going to sacrifice a draft pick to sign Cain, who happens to be a RHH.
But congratulations, you’re one of very few who don’t seem to understand the significance of Ohtani. Even as an outfielder, he makes sense for the Mariners (and most teams).
Hey Stevil—no worries about your fear. Dipoto can frame the ‘Seattle thing” and wrap it in a big bow, how’ve Otani isn’t going to bite.
He’s giving up lots of money to sign in the MLB right now. He’s going to follow his heart with his childhood idol Babe Ruth. He’s going to listen to his brain and go to the team that he can play on that has the chance for winning and history.
No disrespect to the Mariners. And maybe Dipoto is reversing poor development; however their top players are old and declining.
No despair as you will be able to see him when the Yankees come to town.
I have hated a lot of Dipoto’s moves, but one thing I like is that he’s a very down to earth person, and he clearly cares. He acquired a garbage roster when he started that’s expensive aging declining core is all he has. He got absolutely no farm, our top prospect was Alex Jackson. How could he gut something that never existed? He has to make all of these moves in order to make up for the lack of farm, and the aging roster.
And do you notice how Jerry hasn’t signed any major free agents as a Mariner? Free agents that passed Mariner GMs would have overpaid for. Free agency isn’t his thing, he says it himself. Sure he had to have had some say in Pujols and Hamilton, but it’s mainly on Moreno. So you can’t fault him for that. He’s doing what he has to do to fix the garbage roster he acquired, I don’t think anyone can judge Dipoto until 2020, when we can really see how his moves have worked out.
Jerry’s Kids. Blanton, Burnett, Madson, Featherton, Giavotello, Ibanez, Hanson, Greinke, Freese, Joyce…do I need to continue? There is more.
There is a reason that the Angels had the weakest farm system in MLB, but are now rated higher than the M’s. Dipoto. Good Luck. You guys Suck as long as Dipoto is in charge.
You guys are not that much better stop trying to make you and your team feel that much better!
Well, it’s possible that they’re not that much better because of Dipoto. He only left them a couple years ago.
so? preller gutted the farm for the padres and in 2 years turned it into a top 3 farm between drafting and ifa spending. you can quickly rebuild a farm if you committ to it.
The Padres aren’t trying to win now,
neither were the dodgers, yankees, red sox, etc who have all gone big on ifa spending.
Where are they rated higher than the M’s? I’m curious, as I see no evidence showing me that they are.
Why don’t people say Joe Torre is a bad manager? I mean his teams weren’t good until he got with the Yankees. I don’t see how you can judge how someone is doing in their current job based off their old job.
Fregosi, this is the second inaccurate and insulting comment you’ve made in this thread. The Angels are ranked 27th-30th, depending on the list you’re looking at. Kieth Law’s was among the most flattering, if you could call it that.
Seattle’s system still sits comfortably above LA’s.
Any “it was really Artie’s fault” ends with the signing of Roberto Baldoquin. The signing blew through the Angels’ ability to sign international players (for more than $300k) for years.
Meanwhile, the fact that 2B of the future Baldoquin hasn’t made it to AA ball after 5 seasons says all that needs to be said. The staff Dipoto assembled in the front office were, by and large, poor evaluators of talent.
This one action crippled the Angels in a number of ways, and says much about Dipoto. He trades away players who were drafted under prior regimes, and drafts poorly to build a squad of “his” players.
I lived through that Angels farm system and let me tell you how it tanked. It’s because Moreno wanted to go for it all and blew picks to sign that Pujols/Hamilton/Wilson combo. One season there wasnt even a pick until the 3rd rd. They had a relationship with Cedar Rapids of over 20 years they shot to Hades because they completely lost focus on the system. I wouldn’t fault anything with DiPoto in Anaheim…because Arte and Mike run that show….and they demand subordinates. DiPoto tried to work with his manager and sciosca was having little of it. Anyone could see those signings were ridiculous before the ink dried. It aged the roster immediately and stole draft power.
You realize that it can take 3-4 years to see the fruits of drafting; which is about how long JD has been gone from LAA.
Yeah, but sometimes spending in free agency is better than giving up youth in trades. He traded 6 years of Carson Smith and Elias for two months of Wade Miley, and has already traded most of their top hitting prospects. Safeco will make any pitcher better. Keep the young position guys and hire someone that can actually successfully develop them.
He came into a team that had a weak farm system and had made it weaker by trading away prospects. What is his aversion to signing free agents? Is upper management telling him they can’t afford it, or is it on him?
Those two pitchers combined for 16 innings total Since the trade, it was a bad deal for both teams
I was blown away when Dipoto traded Tyler O’Neil to the Cardinals. The guy has hit almost 90 homers over the past 3 years in MiLB, one could only imagine what he’ll be able to do with the juiced balls in the MLB. If you’re gonna move a guy like, at least get something more than a mediocre relief pitcher with an injury history.
I feel for you Mariner’s fans. Hopefully Vogelbach will rake if he’s ever given some real MLB AB’s.
Otani will be placed in Yankee pinstripes under the Christmas tree…
Just wondering what number he will wear in a dodger uniform???
Is 11 retired?
Ohtani has said “As long as I have enough money to be able to play baseball and am enjoying baseball, that’s all I’m asking for right now.” While I take him at his word it’s hard to imagine him signing for the $300K the Dodgers have and getting very limited AB’s. In Japan he lives on the $1,000/month his parents send him (despite making $2mm/year) only because he lives in team dorms and uses the shuttle/car service provided by the team to all players. Needles to say those things are not available to him in the US.
I know he was in talks with them before signing with the Fighters but the main reason he did sign in Japan was…..“They (Nippon) approached me, ‘What do you think about doing both? I definitely wanted to try it. I still thought I had a chance to be a great hitter at a professional level.” I don’t see the Dodgers doing that since it would mean playing in the field when not pitching.
I wonder if we’ll see a surprise in the Ohtani signing. He appears to maybe operate on a different rationale than we’ve seen before. In some ways, and with limited knowledge on my part, he reminds me of an American small town kid who would perhaps buck the trend of going for the lights. Or maybe in music terms….Prince staying in Minneapolis.
“he reminds me of an American small town kid who would perhaps buck the trend”……he reminds me of the kids pulled from the farmlands in the 20’s and 30’s or some character from “Field of Dreams”
St. Louis Cardinals dominated by getting those players out of the countryside. I grew up in their “region” people don’t realize the historic cultural pull they have due to the old KMOX and being the western team. Even the Royals have struggled being in the region. It runs from midstate Illinois all the way down through the Ozarks and out across the plains. A person can make a case that no region in the country has produced finer players given the population pool.
It seems like so many teams now rely on the “year round” baseball regions…CA, FL, TX etc.
Look at Trout and how far down the draft board he fell and some felt (I would have to look up the exact quotes) that he fell because he played in Millville NJ (a stones throw from where I grew up).
Ohtani reminds me of Trout. Not as far as talent as that has yet to be proven, but in attitude. Low key and humble. Heck, Trout returns home to Millville in the off season. For those who don’t know Millville and south NJ are nothing like “Jersey Shore”. The Sothern part of the state is farmland and more rural.
I also believe Trout had some monetary demands that spooked some teams away. I had the pleasure of watching him play a couple A ball games with the special assistant to the Rockies GM…was interesting. We were scouting Royals A Ball players prior to the deadline. He told me some things about the Trout draft. Apparently, Jack Z had him I believe #2 for the Mariners but his scouts talked him out of it and they took Ackley..then he fell. Angels had two picks back to back around 20 or 21…cant recall…they took Grichuk first then Trout. Yankees were set to pounce with the next pick. He told me the Angels didnt even know what they had.
Oh, of course some areas go underscouted. Especially if players like Trout are playing football and not attending showcases. Trout raked in A ball…even then there were the Mantle comps. I thought he’d atleast be Andy VanSlyke. We’ll see how he ages…VanSlyke never had a season anywhere near Trout. Trout reminded me a little of Ryne Sandberg in how he handled an at bat. Sandberg could get fooled and look horrible one pitch….he’d adjust and next pitch put it in the seats. Rare rare in bat adjustment for any minor leaguer let alone a teen.
Thanks for the info. I am one Phils fan who has crossed fingers that Trout eventually makes his way “home” like Jamie Moyer. North Jersey belongs to the Yankees, south is Phillies country.
He’s going to an AL team, probably the damn Yankees or dumb Red Sox. Sigh.
According to fangraphs, Healy was 0.2 WAR last year and Pagan was 0.8. Even not looking at numbers, the Mariners subtracted one of their best relievers in a bad pen for a one dimensional dime-a-dozen type slugger they probably could have gotten for cheap in Chris Carter or Mark Reynolds. And on top of that, they gave up the Mariners 10th best prospect (according to BA’s midseason top 10 list).
No doubt in my mind DiPoto made the team worse with that trade. This guy isn’t doing a good job you guys. Trading is an extremely volatile and dangerous way to build a club. They’re necessary (like in Oakland’s case here, they might have held onto Healy if they didn’t have the exact same bat as him in Pinder, who unlike Healy, plays defense, making Healy irrelevant), but Trader Jerry is really going overboard and he’s been doing it every offseason. It’s not really working.
It’s all about the draft, as with most clubs. Lets see how his drafts start panning out. Dayton Moore had a HORRIBLE time building a major league roster….but they hit on developing relievers and had their high picks pan out. And, the reality is that plain old luck plays into it. DiPoto is like a kid with ADD playing Jenga.
You know his WAR was low because of his defense right? Which was largely in part due to the athletics playing him at 3B. As a hitter he is a good player to take a chance on, especially given the volatility inherent to relief pitchers. Pagan came out of nowhere last year. He could fade just as quickly, or the mariners could find another arm.
No, his WAR was low because he was also bad at hitting – he had 23 walks, 142 K’s and 16 GIDP’s last year. That’s an awful hitter no matter how many homers he hit. Healy is horrible.
Pagan did not “come from nowhere” he came from graduating from each level of the minors with flying colors. His minor league numbers are great and he continued being great in MLB last year. He’s really good. Mariners could have gotten a better player than Healy for that return.
I think the Mariners have an excellent shot at landing Ohtani. Seattle has a huge Asian population and that probably will make Ohtani more comfortable being that far away from home. No way he signs with a NL club with no DH.
Seattle very much does have an excellent Japanese cultural community, and the M’s have history to work from. It might come down to what he values. I’m getting a sense that DiPoto has some understanding of what is making Ohtani tick. I’d say Seattle believes it has a good shot…and if they truly do… Its a VERY GOOD shot. Seattle is an amazing region…regardless of where you are from.
I think the Yankees probably have the best shot at the moment. They have the second highest amount of money after Texas and a huge Asian population. Not as large a Japanese population as Seattle or Cali, but larger than most.
Most importantly, they’re a young team with a lot of talent and they have Masahiro Tanaka for the next 3 years to help Ohtani with his transition.
Steven St Croix
As an Astros fan, I hope they sign Dipoto to an lifetime contract.
Ellsbury to Sea and $1M in slot money.
Sea takes on just $9M of his salary.
NY gets 2 young prospects.
NY gets rid of J.E and saves some $.
Eat up Jacoby’s Salary and give up prospects? Yeah, no!