Mariners’ president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto spoke to reporters during this week’s GM meetings, offering a lot of insight into how the team plans to operate this offseason. While Dipoto delivered coy equivocations like “It’s incumbent on us to go add where we can add and improve where we can improve,” he did draw some lines in the sand that may dictate the Mariners’ involvement in certain markets this winter.
One such line in the sand, per Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, was Dipoto’s proclamation that J.P. Crawford will remain the team’s starting shortstop going into next season. Dipoto had already gone on record about the team’s desire to supplement their core with versatile free agents, which notably meant surrounding building blocks like Crawford with talent instead of outright replacing them.
While it won’t register as much of a surprise that a team wants to keep its Gold Glove-capable shortstop entrenched at the position, it is notable at this point to mention which contenders may turn their nose up at the star shortstops on this year’s market. Even if the Mariners dabble in the shortstop market this summer however, Dipoto made it clear that any free agent will be asked to move off the position in deference to Crawford.
There was another line Seattle’s top decision maker has indicated his team is unwilling to cross: no trades of top prospects. “There’s no scenario where we will move the top prospects in our system, the guys who are prominent in our system” stated Dipoto, per Corey Brock of the Athletic. Seattle has been in prospect accumulation mode for a few seasons now, launching their farm system into the number two spot on MLB Pipeline’s most recent league wide ranking. It’s hard to fault the famously trade-happy Dipoto for taking a more measured approach with his prospect capital this offseason— after all, top prospects like Julio Rodriguez and George Kirby can save the team millions of dollars if they prove Major League-ready next year.
As far as free agents are concerned, Dipoto expects to be more engaged in that part of the player-accumulation process than he has in the past. Brock recites some previously speculated free agent targets that fit the versatile player mold Seattle is aiming for, like Kris Bryant and Marcus Semien, while also throwing less heralded utility man Leury Garcia’s name into the mix. Additionally, the team will look to add multiple starters to the rotation this winter, with Brock speculating Jon Gray, Marcus Stroman, and Anthony DeSclafani as potential fits.
Divish, meanwhile, reported some updates on the existing roster, which will help inform the team (and its fans) which free agents are worth pursuing. Notably, Ty France has been told he will be the team’s starting first baseman next season. Recovering first baseman and previous Gold Glove winner Evan White has been tasked with getting some reps in left field to increase his positional versatility, though the team will continue to view him as a first base-first option. Dipoto all but confirmed that the current catching triumvirate Tom Murphy, Cal Raleigh, and Luis Torrens (plus Jose Godoy) will stick into next season as well.
To top it all off, Dipoto also offered some news on a few of the team’s most foundational pieces. Kyle Lewis, for instance, continues to recover from knee surgery and is questionable for Spring Training. Fellow outfielder Jarred Kelenic is healthy, but can perhaps attribute some of his debut season underperformance to playing center field. Dipoto acknowledged that the 22-year-old Kelenic is not an optimal fit in center field but will likely continue to see playing time there next season due to market scarcity at the position and existing organizational depth. In one last piece of positive health news, Justin Dunn has also been cleared for a normal offseason and is expected to be ready for Spring Training.