Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto discussed the next steps for his organization with reporters, including Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. Seattle trailed off late in the year and missed the postseason for the 16th-straight season, but it doesn’t sound as if a major roster shakeup is in order.
To the contrary, Dipoto stressed that he’s not anticipating anything approaching the kind of player turnover he oversaw during his first two years in charge of Seattle’s baseball operations. While he acknowledged there are “holes to fill,” he also said that he doesn’t expect “frantic movement” in the offseason to come.
Most broadly, the club’s top baseball ops official noted that his front office’s prior efforts have resulted in a more youthful slate of MLB talent that should provide a solid base moving forward. “I feel like we’ve made a significant move forward,” said Dipoto. “You just don’t really see it in the standings quite as much as we might see it in future planning.”
He also acknowledged that it remains a tall order to put together a team that’s truly competitive with the division-leading Astros. “That’s going to take some time and frankly a little bit of luck,” he said.
It’s unclear what kind of payroll space will be available for what moves the team does make. Seattle finished 2016 with over $170MM on the books and opened the 2017 campaign at over $150MM. Even if the team spends at that level again, there likely wouldn’t be much room to work with, since the Mariners already have $110MM on the books for 2018 before accounting for some significant arbitration salaries.
Looking more particularly at the roster, Dipoto suggested that he doesn’t see the M’s as being particularly in need of adding starting pitching. While he acknowledged that adding a quality starter would be nice, he indicated that the team is no more needy in that area than are most others around the league.
Dipoto sees both “depth” and “quality” in the existing staff. Notably, he also suggested that Seattle is prepared to utilize its staff in a more flexible manner going forward. “We’re going to see a different style of pitching staff and how it’s set up,” said Dipoto. “… We are adjusting toward what the world looks like now for starting pitchers, which is a 15-to-18-out starter (rather) than the complete-game starter.”
Of course, like most teams, the Mariners have interest in young Japanese star Shohei Otani, who is poised to represent a unique bargain given his unique circumstances. He’d represent a potentially game-changing addition to the pitching staff and Dutton says the club is going to do everything it can to land him, perhaps hoping its history with Japanese players will provide an edge. Dipoto did not comment on the two-way performer, but did note that he thinks it’s possible a player could see significant action as both a pitcher and hitter — though he added it’s unlikely that both could be done on a full-time basis.
Elsewhere, the club needs to add an outfielder and consider its options at first base. Dipoto said that the Mariners won’t necessarily need to add a center-field-capable player to cover for the loss of Jarrod Dyson to free agency, citing the potential to utilize Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia up the middle. (Notably, though, manager Scott Servais did mention the need to improve on the bases, as Dutton reports. Dyson was easily the team’s best performer in that department.) That stance ought to help with flexibility as the Mariners sort through the options on the open market (and, perhaps, the trade market).
At first base, the GM suggested there’s a real possibility of bringing back Yonder Alonso, though he also emphasized that there will likely be “a lot of different options” to be considered. Certainly, the free-agent market has a variety of possibilities, perhaps representing opportunity to target a given player or to achieve some value through patience. Though he indicated that the team still believes in Dan Vogelbach and Evan White, Dipoto noted that it “remains to be seen” whether either will be a major part of the solution for the season to come.