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Drayer: M’s trade deadline activity shines light on rebuild progress

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto made three trades in the past week. (Getty)

The story sounded familiar.

“We have been pursuing those players for years,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said of Taylor Trammell and Ty France, who were acquired in Sunday’s seven-player deal with the Padres.

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto’s take on trade acquisitions from Padres

Trammell they had followed as a high schooler and had him at T-Mobile Park (then still called Safeco Field) for a pre-draft workout in 2016, as according to Dipoto they had considered him a possibility for one of their first two picks that year. As it was, they went with Kyle Lewis in the first round and Trammell was taken before Seattle’s next pick, but Trammell stayed on their radar much like Jarred Kelenic, who Dipoto also brought in for a pre-draft workout in 2018.

Both are now Mariners – though to be clear they are very different players with Kelenic a top prospect in baseball and Trammell falling more in the middle of the top 100 depending on which ranking you want to go with.

On the morning Kelenic had his workout with the Mariners, I happened to run into manager Scott Servais. The Mariners were scheduled for a night game and I had to pick up a piece of equipment, so I made a quick run to the park and was shocked to see Servais in the tunnel hours before he would normally be there. I asked him what was up and and he couldn’t suppress a smile.

“I just saw the best pre-draft workout I have ever seen,” he answered.

Kelenic, of course, was not around when the Mariners selected Logan Gilbert with the 14th pick of the draft, but he remained on the minds of all that saw him that day. If it was fortuitous that Dipoto was able to later access Kelenic in a trade, it was downright shocking that two years later he would be able to pick up a second highly-ranked prospect he had continued to keep tabs on after an impressive pre-draft workout.

“Really surprised, actually,” Dipoto answered when asked if he would have ever thought that at this point he could pick up Trammell.

Perhaps this is a new chapter in the Jerry Dipoto trade manual: Keep your eyes open for the ones who got away in the draft.

It’s been a good week for Dipoto and not just because he landed the Padres’ No. 5 prospect. In three deals, Dipoto was able to add to all levels of the organization. There’s young talent heading to the big league team to get a look, near-ready talent going to the alternate site in Tacoma, and we found out Tuesday who is the first of a couple young players to be named later that will be assigned to the low minors when minor league play resumes.

All of this comes after a very quiet 2019-20 offseason where some speculated that the success of the farm system would take a dive once the more noted players graduated to the big leagues. Between June’s MLB Draft and what we saw at the trade deadline, however, we have gotten a good lesson in organization building and keeping “waves of talent,” as Dipoto likes to call it, moving through the farm system.

What is happening once those acquisitions are in the farm system should be noted as well. It isn’t a matter of just acquiring talent and letting it play – talent is being developed. Through programs, work with specialists, analysts, organizational philosophies and coaching, players are improving in the minors. One such player, Austin Nola, just netted the Mariners a haul.

“Ultimately the return just became too big for us to pass up,” Dipoto said of Nola, whose offense took off while he was at Triple-A last year.

“It’s (Mariners director of player development) Andy McKay, it’s our hitting and pitching specialists that do a great job. This was a strength of ours. We don’t believe that player development ends when the player reaches Seattle, we just continue. It’s a living, breathing effort by everybody.”

It is a key part of the rebuild which was never just about the major league team. Sustaining winning at the big league level will require sustaining development in the lower levels, and Dipoto will take on all talent. Too many outfielders? No such thing. Look no further than the team that just sent four players to the Mariners while making significant, go-for-it moves at the deadline.

“There’s a lot of ways and reasons why you build depth in your farm system and the Padres are now showing you one of those outcomes,” Dipoto pointed out. “To be able to do what they have just done and still have a really good upper-level minor league farm system and a playoff quality major league team that is loaded with young players and primetime stars, guys like (Fernando Tatís Jr.) and (Manny) Machado. We think we are building along those lines.”

Time will tell as the young players continue to develop, but this week, mission accomplished in adding to that depth.

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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