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Notes from Jerry Dipoto’s first post-lockout press conference

Baseball is back, which means Jerry is back

Los Angeles Angels v Seattle Mariners
jerry dipoto, seen here being shown a plate of artisanal cheeses
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Back to baseball means back to hearing Jerry Dipoto on your radio at least once a week, although who are we kidding, who listens to the radio anymore. That’s why we here at LL have prepared this curated selection of Dipoto’s comments for you, much like the man himself might enjoy a curated selection of artisanal cheeses. We’ll also roll in here some things Dipoto said on his radio appearances today on Seattle’s two major sports radio stations, because again, #ServiceJournalism.

On the (supposedly) breakneck pace of post-lockout moves:

  • While noting that he’s sure free agents are anxious to get into camps, Dipoto seems to counteract the popular narrative on social media that there was going to be some kind of Purge-like post-lockout frenzy. According to Dipoto things are moving at “mostly a normal pace,” noting that most teams are in the same place, picking up where they left off, and “no one seems to be in a crazy rush.” I’m feeling like the Rangers spending roughly the GNP of a small country early on might have set everyone up with some unreasonable expectations for this off-season, y’all. Dipoto says “we’re ready to move at the pace the market moves,” making it seem like the Mariners will be more reactive than proactive, and I stand by my saying on the most recent podcast that it might be time to retire the Trader Jerry memes.
  • Despite his immediately memeworthy assertion that he “woke up this morning ready to transact” on 710 this morning, Dipoto also seemed to suggest there’s no moves imminent, so you can probably go ahead and release your stranglehold on the refresh button. Of course you know the second you step away will be the moment something major breaks, and yes I am mostly admonishing myself here. Fool me once, fool me twice, fool me deadly.

On potential acquisitions:

  • Dipoto says the Mariners have “adjusted” some of their trade targets based on “what we’ve seen this off-season” and specifically based on “what we’ve seen from our young players.” Not for the first time today, he calls out the young pitching specifically: George Kirby, Levi Stoudt, Matt Brash, all of whom will be name-checked multiple times through Dipoto’s various media sessions today, but most especially Kirby.
  • Regarding the starting rotation, Dipoto says that the step forward the young pitchers has taken—again, Kirby gets a shout-out here—means they are “not inclined to focus on adding a back-of-rotation starter.” The team wants to hold space at the back of the rotation for whichever of the young prospects are ready to come up whenever they’re ready (yup, George Kirby’s name comes up yet again), so the implication is they’ll be engaged at the top end of the pitching market if at all. My bet is on “if at all” more than them going out and acquiring another frontline starter, but for those who care, the Carlos Rodón dream remains alive, especially as Dipoto said they’d be interested in finding another lefty. But he also said they’d be interested in finding a “multi-functional” or swing pitcher who could move back and forth between the rotation and bullpen in order to manage the ascent of the young arms. Jerry, Roenis Elías is literally in your organization right now, no need to carry the left-handed-swingman coals to left-handed-swingman-Newcastle.
  • For bats: Dipoto reiterates they want to find at least one impact bat to play on the left side of the field, although he gives no indication as to whether the Mariners will be engaging the trade market or free agency to seek that. Ideally, says Dipoto, they’ll find two impact bats, including someone who can play center, although he notes Kyle Lewis’ improvement (more on that later) lessens the immediate need to find someone for center. Regarding that outfield bat, Dipoto indicates he’d strongly prefer a lefty bat so as to create an easier path for finding Julio at-bats.
  • However, towards the end of the call, when a Japanese media member asks about right-handed batter Seiya Suzuki in a roundabout fashion, Dipoto says, “some guys are good vs. everybody” and notes that certain players are available on this market who transcend platoon matchups, and those are players they’ll always be interested in, regardless of handedness. Dipoto never said Suzuki’s name, but the implication was pretty clear, so for those of you who are still dreaming the Seiya Suzuki dream, take heart!

JULIOOOOOOOOOO!

  • Unsurprisingly, Seattle’s rising star was a hot topic in all of Dipoto’s media appearances today. “It’s not a matter of if Julio impacts our team, it’s when.”
  • Okay, but when? And will fewer spring training reps impact his chance of making the team? No, says Dipoto, if anything it helps his case because it gives the team less time to “waffle”, because Julio is “intent on wowing us.”
  • The one thing that could hold Julio up from an Opening Day spot is the challenge of limited playing time, but as Dipoto notes, he has impressed in ever opportunity he’s been given, and every time the team has set a challenge before Julio, he has knocked it down with aplomb. “I think he is ready for the challenge on the big stage.”
  • No note here, I just feel like you might need a break after reading that last quote.
  • Dipoto also says the first thing he received after he got off the call informing him of the lockout ending was a video of Julio playing center field. We love our self-promoting son.

The Julio to Luís Torrens transition, as you all expected:

  • Someone asked about Luís Torrens, or “LT” as Dipoto referred to him, who has been a popular name in trade talks among the armchair GM crowd. Dipoto notes that Torrens is “going to have to catch some,” which is...not the strongest-worded endorsement, but goes on to heap praise upon Torrens’s bat, specifically his more mature approach in the box, and insists “there’s a spot for LT on our roster.” He admits it’s a challenge to find playing time for three catchers, but points out that Torrens can also get reps at 1B and DH. It sure doesn’t sound like he’s being shopped, but the lavish praise of Torrens’ bat could, of course, be an attempt to pump up his trade value. Ah, GM doublespeak, I have missed you the least.

On acquiring players via trade vs. free agency:

  • Dipoto reiterates the team has financial flexibility, but “it takes two to tango,” which feels like maybe mutual interest has been hard to come by? Maybe the pre-lockout prices were a little steep, or maybe the Mariners were attempting to send out some lowball offers. Regardless, it didn’t sound like anything was imminent in the pipeline, which is kind of a bummer considering this free agent bonanza the major media promised. I feel like I showed up expecting a lavish all-you-can-eat buffet and instead there’s some lukewarm meatballs in an ancient crockpot and and an anemic looking veggie tray.
  • When asked if he’s still reluctant to trade top prospects, Dipoto says “never say never” but it’s “hard to imagine the scenario where we move the guys at the top of the list.”
  • But then he kind of does say never:“I can’t imagine a scenario where we would move Julio or George.” Oh so Kirby is on first-name special basis now?
  • However, Dipoto acknowledges you have to give to get, so top-tier players require top-tier prospects, and doesn’t rule out any possibility. Because of course he doesn’t.

On injuries and the challenges of ramping up for the season:

  • Generally, Dipoto feels that being a younger and more athletic team means the lockout won’t have affected the Mariners as much as some other clubs, although he also points out that the current crop of players, with their year-round training and emphasis on physical fitness, typically walk into spring training looking “like Adonis.”
  • Dipoto also feels that the challenges of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and the odd beginning to the 2021 season has taught them some lessons about ramping up pitchers in a way that doesn’t create a higher threat of injury, and notes (accurately) that the Mariners’ cautious approach served them well in managing pitcher health. He admits, however, that some players will be missing innings heading into the 2022 season, and the team needs to be conscious of the bullpen carrying additional innings as starting pitchers round into form.
  • However, the lockout has made it challenging to stay abreast of how rehabbing players are coming along. Dipoto says the team doesn’t have a great sense for where Justin Dunn is at, but says they’ve gotten some encouraging things on Kyle Lewis, saying they’ve gotten some video and feedback from his trainer, “to the extent allowed” during the lockout.
  • There’s been some chatter about the potential of expanding rosters early, similar to what happened in the 2020 season; Dipoto says roster expansion is “on the table but not a certainty.”

On the new tweaks to the game:

  • Dipoto had some nice pro-player sentiments to share here, noting that while it’s good to have baseball back, and it’s good for the sport for it to be back, “we’ve gone a long way towards taking care of the young players,” and says he admires MLBPA for taking the stance they did.
  • Dipoto is intrigued by the rule changes coming to baseball that he hopes will make the game cleaner and more athletic. He loves the pitch clock, and—in sort of a surprising take from a GM who hasn’t been afraid to employ data-based fielding positioning—thinks the ban on the shift will make baseball “a more interesting game to watch” and have it “move quicker” (? what is quicker than a 5-3 groundout?). He also says “fingers crossed” the international draft will be implemented, although he notes that it is something for which time is needed to sort out the logistics, and he’s glad they didn’t just “stuff it in.”
  • While implementing a universal DH is a net good in that it creates an avenue for players to extend their careers, Dipoto admits it’s not particularly relevant to the Mariners, who will use the DH spot as they did last year in order to rest players while getting a mix of players on the field. He mentions the DH spot as a rotation between Haniger, France, Lewis, and Toro, curiously leaving Torrens’ name off that list, although I’m sure that was just an oversight. Some might say this means my dream of a Nelson Cruz homecoming is dead, but I choose to believe it’s just more GM doublespeak.