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Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto
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Moore: Rebuild or not, Mariners’ play isn’t instilling confidence in Dipoto

Jerry Dipoto's Mariners lead the MLB in strikeouts and were no-hit Saturday for the second time this year. (Getty)

Can I tell you what I’m tired of hearing? The Mariners saying they will be competitive in 2021, or words to that effect, when it appears that 2022 or 2023 are much more likely if ever.

Dipoto: A wave of Mariners prospects is about to arrive in the big leagues

Then what kills me is the Mariners’ philosophy about controlling the zone. That was what we heard from general manager Jerry Dipoto when he was hired. After striking out 15 more times Sunday, the Mariners lead the major leagues in whiffs with 1,115 in 115 games. I don’t think that’s anything close to the definition of controlling the zone.

Plus they’ve given up 10 or more runs in 20 games. And even though they’ve been better defensively of late, they still lead MLB with 106 errors, 23 more than the second-place Dodgers.

I know we’re supposed to focus on the prospects who will be with the Mariners in the 2020s because they represent better days ahead. But when I watch what’s going on at the major-league level, it makes me wonder about the decisions and evaluations being made with future talent acquisitions.

I guess I reached my breaking point Saturday night when the Mariners were no-hit by four Astros pitchers, none of whom should be good enough to no-hit anyone. Aaron Sanchez threw the first six innings of no-hit ball, and I can’t emphasize this enough – he’s a guy who was 0-13 in his last 17 starts. Come on, seriously, just because he was traded from the Blue Jays to the Astros, he all of a sudden has unhittable stuff?

I keep thinking that what’s happening at the major-league level this year doesn’t matter in the bigger picture. Jim, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, I tell myself that all the time. Brent Stecker of 710Sports.com wrote a more rational post than this one over the weekend, reminding everyone that this is what a complete rebuild looks like. Complete rebuilds in the early stages are never pretty at the major-league level.

I love Brent, but I keep coming back to thinking that what we’ve been watching at T-Mobile Park and on ROOT Sports DOES matter.

Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi and Mitch Haniger make me wonder the most. They are all expected to be key pieces for a competitive team in the 2020s. But from what they’ve done this year, it’s hard to have that kind of faith. Gonzales has been so-so at best, Kikuchi has been mostly terrible and Haniger, before he ruptured his testicle, was not having a great year.

It’s also the second year in a row that Dipoto has brought in a center fielder who is not a major-league center fielder. Last year Dee Gordon, a second baseman, got a tryout in center field and said after the experiment was over that he hated it. Gordon is proof that just because a player is fast, it doesn’t mean he can be a good center fielder. This year Mallex Smith was acquired from Tampa Bay to play center field, and he was so marginal that he’s now in right field as the recently-acquired Keon Broxton has taken over in center.

Maybe in time most of these players will figure it out and we’ll see why Dipoto had such a high assessment of them. Case in point: Daniel Vogelbach, who has hit 26 home runs this year.

Some of the prospects will pan out, others will not. As much as we like to think that Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn will be part of a productive major-league rotation, chances are that one will be and the other won’t, or one will suffer an injury along the way. Remember when we thought The Big Three – James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen – would all be in the Mariners’ rotation someday? Paxton made it, and so did Walker for a little while before being dealt to the Diamondbacks and getting hurt. Hultzen never made it because of injuries.

Shortstop J.P. Crawford is the brightest hope for the future, and as much as I like Vogelbach, he still has to show he can hit lefties to secure a full-time DH role in the 2020s.

We are also told that the Mariners will be set up to bypass the Astros in the 2020s when Houston will be aging and/or unable to keep its stars due to financial reasons. Call me skeptical if you want, but I have a hard time buying that one too. I don’t see the Astros just suddenly falling off the face of the Earth while the Mariners become AL West juggernauts.

Even at that, this rebuild is the right approach. I just have questions about the man in charge of remodeling the house.

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