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The MaiLLbag: Round Two

In which we try to get inside the mind of a JERRY DIPOTO.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners
A bromance for the ages.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The single question that tells the most about the LL staff is the very last one. Because of course, the question about calzones gets more responses than any other question. Sorry in advance.

As always, these are our readers.

  • ZZHop, LL: How much do we think this is just dumping JZ’s guys versus Jerry just trying to find parts that work in his machine?

Grant: I mean, it’s both, right? Obviously Jerry doesn’t care as much about the guys acquired during JZ’s time, since he has no previous bias or blinders on. But it’s worth noting that JZ’s amateur scouting director, Tom MacNamara, is still around in the JDP administration - he’s ostensibly been promoted to “special assistant to the GM” but I’m not so sure it’s a promotion. That said, it’s clear Jerry wants to maximize value when possible, and the last few trades, and others, have shown that: Alex Jackson and Taijuan Walker could easily be at the peak of their value right now. I think it’s just a sign he’s more willing to riskily trade those guys away than JZ would’ve been.

Anders: It’s gotta be partially both. It’s probably not in the way you might think, though. The most important thing on the mind of any GM should be getting their team to win the World Series. It shouldn’t matter whether that’s done with the old regime’s guys or your own guys, since it happened under your watch regardless. However, it’s clear that Jack Z and Dipoto had vastly different visions and values. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Dipoto isn’t in love with some players the way Jack Z was. But you do see Dipoto becoming enamored with some players Jack Z drafted such as Andrew Moore, Nick Neidert, and Edwin Diaz. I wouldn’t make too much of it.

  • Chris (from Bothell), LL: How insufferable will Cubs fans, or announcers referencing the Cubs, or the Cubs' general victory lap this year, be? And follow-on: has baseball as we know it changed fundamentally now?

Anders: With everything, it really depends. Every team has its annoying fans. But it’s kind of funny to think that Cubs fans might go from being pitied by many to being hated, after a century of mediocrity for the team. I assume by the change fundamentally you’re referring to baseball teams relying on youthful stars to make runs (Cubs in 2016) rather than being propelled by established veteran studs (Yankees 2009/Giants in 2010 kind of but those guys were OLD). I think in that sense, baseball has certainly changed. Free agent pools are getting thinner every year, which is forcing teams to dig deep into the minors to find gems. That leads to younger teams and more sustainable winning.

Scott: I have been in the minority thinking Cubs fans have been insufferable long before they won a World Series. This obviously takes them over the top. I hated the “plucky underdog” narrative given that they won 103 games in 2016 and they also happen to be in the 3rd largest market in the United States. The only cool moment from their win in the first place was seeing a genuinely happy Bill Murray.

  • Chris (from Bothell), LL: Which starting pitcher (if any) do you think Jerry will get at the winter meetings? And if not in winter meetings, by Spring Training? Bonus round: Assuming the rest of the 40-man roster is as it looks right now, which of this year’s available starting pitchers do you think Jack Z or Bill B would have gotten and for what price in trade/free agency?

Grant: I think Jason Hammel makes a lot of sense. My guess is the M’s get someone of that ilk - a comfortable #4 or #5 starter who can eat innings at a respectable level, for a two-year deal at roughly $15-20 million. Hammel fits that mold, or even perhaps a tad more expensive, and the Northwest ties could make the M’s that much more appealing to him.

Anders: The beat reporters are saying the M’s are likely to go for second-tier starters, which would take guys like Hammel, Ivan Nova, and Rich Hill out of the mix. That leads to less appealing options like Doug Fister, Derek Holland, and Brett Anderson. But I’m not sure where else they’d spend money in free agency at this point if not on a starter. I think Holland is a real possibility, as Greg Johns recently alluded to. Servais has ties to him and he’s in that second-tier market. That gives the M’s three left-handed starters though (with Ariel Miranda and James Paxton), so I’m not sure how they’d feel about that.

  • Chris (from Bothell), LL: If the M's make the postseason in 2017, but a Nightmare Scenario(tm) this winter or next year meant Felix wasn't on the roster at the time, how much would you be able to enjoy the playoff trip anyway?

Anders: This is a good question. I’m honestly not sure how much of my Mariners fandom is tied to Felix’s existence on the team. More importantly, the dude really deserves a chance to pitch in a big game before his arm falls off. I’d still be thrilled as could be, because it’s the Mariners. But I think it would make me significantly bummed out that Felix wouldn’t be a part of the fun.

  • sunlightgraham, LL: Can we quantify "raising the floor?" Does raising the floor and increasing depth mean that instead of the combined -2.0 WAR of Lind, Marte, and Sardinas, we should expect the back end of our roster to produce closer to 0 WAR? Is raising the floor this simple: a 2 win gain?

Grant: Think about it this way. Improving your ace from a 4-win player to a 6-win player should have the same impact, theoretically, as improving your depth from -2 wins to replacement-level. It’s obviously not quite that simple, but yes, that vision has clearly been in Jerry’s mind since Day One, and recent moves illustrate that. Depth is his goal wherever possible. Raising the floor certainly means getting as close to 0 WAR from those end-of-the-bench guys, but it also means having enough rotation depth to avoid Joe Wieland, Major League Starting Pitcher.

  • Sweet Lou, LL: Between Haniger, Heredia, and Gamel, who would most elicit your confidence to cover centerfield in lieu of Leonys?

Kate: First, I’m assuming you mean spot starts and not a long-term replacement, because I don’t think any of them are equal to Leonys in CF. [knocking wood] I don’t think Gamel has an above-average arm, although he makes up for that with good routes and speed. It’s hard to find defensive highlights of Haniger because so many of them focus on his bat, but he does appear to have a cannon. Heredia I’ve seen more of, which means I’ve seen him make more miscues, but he has great closing speed and a track record of playing the position. He’d probably be my first choice if I had to make that choice tomorrow, just for comfort. I’ll be looking for one of the three to really separate himself at Spring Training.

  • Hawksea, LL: If the current plan flops, how do we look to the future?

Kate: As we saw last year, a GM can make good, informed decisions and attempt to build depth and plug all glaring holes and still have everything fall apart like a taco in the rain. What we also got to see, though, was Jerry’s ability to react to adversity, like flipping Miley for Miranda, duct taping Cody Martin to the rotation, or flipping around the batting order searching for a leadoff hitter. One thing Jerry Dipoto will not do is be caught flat-footed. Also good news: the farm is not the wasteland we have been told it is. Tacoma is going to be downright entertaining next year. So even if it sucks, we grit our teeth and wait for the O’Neill/Moore/Yarbrough/Vieira/Neidert reinforcements to get here--and yeah, that’s basically all pitching, and yeah, that’s okay.

  • mumoda, LL: So it's soundly like there won't be an international draft. With that said, should the Ms join in on those teams spending a bunch of money in international signings? And do you ever see them actually doing it anytime soon?

Isabelle: Oh how I wish they would but, regrettably, I don’t actually see this happening any time in the future. There seems to be a big focus on fixing things up throughout all levels of the org and perhaps, once the farm system appears to be more solid, they’ll be more willing to bring more international players in? That’s me just blindly hypothesizing, but otherwise I don’t have a good answer as to why their international prospect/player market involvement has been so relatively minimal.

  • JJ Keller, LL: If nothing changes (pretty big if with Quick Draw McGraw as the GM), what is the outfield situation right now? Which of the three young guys plays everyday? Who is Seth’s platoon partner?

Kate: Jerry keeps saying Ben Gamel’s name, and I keep ignoring that and believing Heredia is going to be the everyday left fielder, with Smith/Haniger platooning right. Prove me wrong, Ben.

  • kennerdoloman, LL: What Smash Bros. character would each Mariner be?

Ethan: Ben Gamel and Zac Curtis are Link and Pit. Nelson Cruz is Bowser. Jean Segura is the “NEW CHALLENGER APPROACHING” sign. That’s all I got.

Kate: I don’t know what a Smash Brother is, but Jesus Sucre is Princess Peach.

  • goyo70, LL: What move would make you confident the Mariners as constructed are realistic World Series contenders? Is there any move that suffices? I appreciate that for any team, many things have to break right. And I’m aware that Mariner fans are a dour breed. But if you could, please outline one or two paths to a strong(er) roster, maybe Plan A "Fanciful" and Plan B "Pragmatic". Raise the floor so your chair will reach the roof, then raise the roof.

Ethan: It would take the acquisition of a front-end starter and a decent back-end. I am comfortable with just about every aspect of the roster except for the rotation. The rotation terrifies me. We were discussing this in the LL Slack the other day and Andrew brought up how scary it is to have so many hopes and dreams tied into James Paxton, who cleared the 100 IP mark in his MLB career for the first time last year. Give me a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2 and a guy who can survive just fine at the back-end of the rotation and I would be ecstatic about their chances. Is it likely to happen? No, but that’s what it would take.

Isabelle: There’s no one move that would suffice, in my mind. Honestly the biggest thing I can think of them doing is building up competent depth (key point- Joe Wieland starting/Daniel Robertson leading off is not competent depth), which is what Jerry seems to be focused on. Do I agree with/understand all his moves? No, but I support the strategy he is working with. That’s my Plan B, I guess. Plan A is developing some sort of invisible cloak of bubble wrap and bandaids to wrap around all the starters, so that they may remain healthy throughout the season.

  • SmoakOnTheWater, LL: Is Seth Smith a mariner on opening day?

Isabelle: YES HE ABSOLUTELY IS. And for daring to question him you are now in time out for the rest of the day, mister.

Grant: After his rough end of the season, he doesn’t really have much surplus value, and I think it’s a reasonable bet to keep him and hope he bounces back. So my guess is yes.

  • FlannelBacon, LL: What will become of DJ Peterson? Will he get traded away like the other Jack Z castoffs? Will he make an impact in the big leagues this season? Will he give up the life of a baseball player to become an actual DJ?

Grant: The presence of Dan Vogelbach on the roster makes me think DJP gets traded this offseason. I’d be pretty surprised if DJP ever becomes a regular MLB starter - heck, even imagining him as a regular benchwarmer might be stretching it.

Ethan: Having Vogelbach and Valencia on the roster gives him a pretty massive block for 2017. Logan Davis mentioned on Twitter that he’d be shocked if D.J. is still on the roster come Spring Training and I agree. Peterson turned into one of my favorite prospects to root for last year, but with Vogelbach being the guy of the future and the outfield full of nifty prospects, I could easily see Dipoto sending him away while he still has prospect value.

  • sanford_and_son, LL: Will Taijuan Walker be playing baseball professionally in 5 years? 10 years?

SG: Yes. Yes. I think Walker’s stuff is unreal and he proved it last season when he wasn’t being rushed back from injury. There is some rumblings about him mentally, but he’s not by any means Ian Snell. I don’t think he’ll be with Arizona in 5-10 years, but he’s going to stick somewhere and is going to have a lot of success.

  • Mfancubfan, LL: Maybe I missed it, but have we had a big discussion about the implications of a 26-man roster?

Kate: A 26-man roster would be great for the Mariners, which is of course why it’s not happening.

  • Paul Swydan, Twitter: Who had more of a rocket arm: Buhner, Ichiro, or Seth Smith?

Grant: This one is easy. Buhner’s arm looked much stronger given his lack of hair (aerodynamics and all), and Ichiro was totally helped by Safeco Field and the marine layer. But Dad has honed his skill from using the remote on his Honda Odyssey (you kinda have to throw your arm a bit to get it to work, it’s one of those things you just accept and deal with when you have kids and a mortgage and all that). So it’s Seth in a landslide.

SG: Mike Blowers.

  • Nick Scott, Facebook: How do you feel about calzones? You know, those pizza-burrito type things?

Grant: As a fervent pizza lover AND burrito lover (though obviously pizza is better. FIGHT ME), calzones are delicious.

Isabelle: Planning on it (especially since many of you goobers seemed to have interesting responses to that previously).

SG: First, thank you for utilizing our Facebook page. Second, I can’t help but think of a calzone as some sort of glorified Hot Pocket. If you’re going to a pizza place, get pizza, you heathen.

Isabelle: Calzones were made because pizza shops felt bad their food was inferior, so they tried to make it better by making it burrito-esque but they only succeeded in bastardizing the mighty burrito

Kate: I make awesome calzones. They are warm little pockets of happiness. They’re even shaped like a smile! But really, as I keep trying to tell you guys, pizza and burritos are architecturally the same food.