Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto breaks down offseason trades thus far, if Edwin Díaz is available
Just minutes after sending his ace to the Big Apple, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto was on the air with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore – and he had plenty to talk about.
From trading James Paxton to the Yankees on Monday for a three-player return that includes top prospect Justus Sheffield, to his previous acquisition of speedster Mallex Smith, to what lays ahead in 2019 for Edwin Díaz and Dee Gordon, Dipoto provided answers in the nearly 15-minute interview.
You can listen to the full podcast of Dipoto’s interview embedded in this post, download it at this link, or read some highlights below:
• A look at Justus Sheffield: “Justus Sheffield is one of the more exciting young prospects in baseball, particularly among pitchers. (He has a) mid, upper-90s fastball, super athletic guy with an above- to well-above-average slider and a developing change.” (Read more on Sheffield in this post.)
• James Paxton as a player: “James, and I said this to him and I meant it sincerely, he is a true class act and one of my favorite people that I’ve met since I came here to the Mariners. He’s diligent in going about his business, I do think he loved being a Mariner, and he competes his tail off whenever he’s out there. He’s got Cy Young-type stuff and I suspect that when the year comes that he makes his 32 starts, there’s a real chance that he could be that guy. Right now this lined up better with our organization directive and I think he understood that.”
• Paxton’s reaction to the trade: “I think he was excited for the opportunity and I told him not to forget about us in a couple of years when his time as a free agent rolls around, because my hope is at that point that we’re on the verge of competing for a World Series and James Paxton Part 2 is possible. For now we’ll just let him move on to the Yankees and I’m sure he will make them a better club.”
• On the two less-heralded players aquired from the Yankees: “Erik Swanson is probably an under-the-radar guy in this one. He’s going to pitch at 25 years old next year, he’s dominated at every level in the minor leagues, throws a ton of strikes, he’ll touch into the upper 90s with his fastball, (has) two polished pitches with excellent command. Maybe a sneaky-upside guy in this deal is Dom Thompson-Williams, who is a five-tool athlete who does everything well on a field. Just had a tremendous year in A-ball and we see as being a potentially quick-mover in our system, so really excited to get this kind of return.”
• How soon Sheffield and Swanson could pitch for the Mariners: “Justus comes into spring training, and frankly so does Erik Swanson, with a chance to make our club. They’ll compete for the opening day roster, but we would anticipate both of those guys pitching here in Seattle before the summer’s through.”
• Where the Mariners’ rebuild stands as of today: “We have a nice group of prospects, guys like Kyle Lewis, Evan White, now Jake Fraley (acquired from the Rays along with Mallex Smith), Dom Thompson-Williams, Braden Bishop, who are all in that 22- to 25-year-old range, in addition to guys like (Mitch) Haniger and Marco Gonzales and now Justus Sheffield, with a group behind them like Logan Gilbert and Josh Stowers, that we feel like gives us a nice pocket of impact that should start showing up for us in 2020-21 here in Seattle. The more that we can add to that group, the better we’ll feel about our chances of being a real contender.”
• If Edwin Díaz is on the trading block: “Edwin’s exciting, he’s young, he’s coming off of truly one of the great seasons in the history of relief pitchers in our league. There’s really no reason why he can’t be part of the core of the next great Mariners team, but we’re going to be open-minded to anything we’re doing this offseason as we move forward. That being said, we would absolutely have to be blown away to move players like Edwin Díaz and Mitch Haniger and Marco Gonzales. These are the types of players we’re trying to acquire, but we do have to be open-minded to what happens across the board. We won’t shut our minds to anything.”
• What stands out about Mallex Smith: “Mostly electricity. He’s one of the fastest runners in Major League Baseball. Last year led the league in triples, 40 stolen bases, on the scale of Wins Above Replacement about a 3 1/2-win season, which would have made him roughly the second-most valuable Mariner among position players. … He’s just 25 years old, plays all three outfield positions, he does everything on the field well. … On a scale of 20 to 80, roughly an 80 runner who has top-of-the-order impact, who has a history of getting on base, and last year you started to see what he’s capable of if given some rope to work with at the major league level. … He’s a really energetic spark plug and stands to be here for at least the next four years if not longer.”
• Where Dee Gordon will play in the field in 2019: “We really had no intent of playing Dee Gordon in center field again, and I don’t think that was something that excited Dee. … I can’t tell you exactly where Dee Gordon will line up on opening day. Our roster will tell us what makes the most sense, but Dee will line up in the infield. … I feel like his athleticism and flexibility gives us alternative answers.”
• Dipoto also responded to former team Director of High Performance Dr. Lorena Martin’s accusations of racial and gender discrimination, which you can read about in this post.