After what has been the busiest off-season day for the Mariners that I can remember, Jerry Dipoto spoke with reporters on a 15-minute conference call. Here are the highlights.
What prompted him to trade Mark Trumbo for a second time
“I actually told Mark Trumbo when I talked to him today, ‘Please do not take this the wrong way.’ I like Mark Trumbo, he’s a wonderful guy and I think he has a lot of skill that he brings to the table. There’s a reason for everything.
“The first time I moved him, in 2013 when we were in Anaheim, we simply needed pitching. I would do that deal over again 100 times. In today’s case, the opportunity (was) to bring in a left-handed hitting backup catcher and create enough payroll and roster relief flexibility to be able to do some other things as we head into the hot stove point of the offseason. He’s going to a good environment, it was not an ideal fit on our roster and this gave us an opportunity to create some flexibility.”
On what they get in Steve Clevenger
“Clevenger can swing the bat. He has been an excellent offensive player and can hit. During his minor league career he has always been an on-base guy. Last year he finally appears to have turned the corner in the Major League level. He gives us a catcher/first base/DH type. We do intend to give him an opportunity to contribute at each of those three during the course of the season.”
What does this move mean for Mike Zunino?
“This does allow us the ability to send Mike back to Tacoma to start the season if that’s what we choose to do. He still has the opportunity to come in and win playing time because Steve Clevenger is versatile enough to go play first base if need be. The possibility also exists that we carry all three, provided Mike warrants that type of situation. Our preference would be to give him the opportunity to start in Triple-A unless he forces an issue as a Major League roster player in the spring. Which is very possible, (he’s) a very talented guy. We still count him as a very large part of what we are doing in the future, but clearly we needed to make some adjustment off of last season and I believe it was a nice restart for Mike when he went back to Tacoma and we will react now as his performance requires. He is not going to be forced on the Major League roster until until he is ready to be there.”
Where will they find another first baseman?
“We’ve discussed trade candidates with teams around the league and surveyed free agents but not engaged in that market. It is still TBD.”
Is Jesus Montero a possibility at first base?
“Jesus Montero, he’s done enough at the Triple-A level to warrant a full-time look. Now it’s up to us to figure out how to pair someone with him or upgrade the position. There’s not much more he can do in the minor leagues. It’s his time to show what he can do as a big leaguer, whether it is here or elsewhere.
“Picking up Andy Wilkins – he has proven his ability in Triple-A and gives us a nice two-optioned player who has upper-level experience who could pair with Jesus if the season started today. Our goal between today and Opening Day is to add to that and create a situation where those guys become part of a solution instead of a singular situation.”
Related: Mariners to add OF Nori Aoki
What he sees in Justin De Fratus
“Two plus pitches: fastball, slider. He’s been a performer. We felt like there was maybe some usability issues last year. We are not looking for him to be a long- or multi-inning reliever but rather a short-burst reliever and just let his stuff play. He’s a guy that will throw 91-95; he’s a guy that has always had swing-and-miss capability. He’s coming off a down year, there’s no getting around that. That’s what made him available at 28 years old. We like the fact he’s 28, we like the fact he has a pretty good performance history prior to last year and we like the fact that we pick up three years of control on him. And if we can get him back to where he was in 2014, that should be a pretty significant asset for us as we move forward.”
How does he assess the Mariners offseason so far?
“It’s starting to come together. We need to work at first base, we need to continue to add in our bullpen and adding a starting pitcher – at least one starting pitcher is a priority for us. I’m quite happy with what we have done with the ability to create roster flexibility and depth this early in the offseason.”