SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer: Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto encouraged by 2020 results, optimistic about their opportunity in 2021

Sep 24, 2020, 11:02 AM
Mariners dugout...
The Mariners ended their home schedule by beating the Astros in a three-game series. (Getty)
(Getty)

When the baseball season was shortened due to the COVID-19 crisis, a question that was heard from many Mariners fans was it impacts the Mariners’ timeline in their plan to return to contention.

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Common sense would lead to the conclusion that two-thirds fewer games and no minor league season would set the plan back a year, but the Mariners headed into the short season determined to get as much out of it in terms of development as they possibly could, with wins being sacrificed for opportunity and experience. Throughout that season the young players and the progress that they were making drew not just good but rave reviews from both general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais.

On the final weekly Jerry Dipoto Show of the season on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant, Dipoto echoed those sentiments, saying what he saw in the near-completed season has left him “really excited” for what is to follow.

“For about a month we played as good of baseball as anybody in the American League, which was not entirely expected,” Dipoto said. “That’s an incredible thing when you are assessing a young club and how you approach (2021) from a competitive, where we lie on the win curve type mentality.”

While the effects of losing a full year of development for those who were not on the big league roster or taxi squad remain to be seen, Dipoto is confident that enough has been learned about Seattle’s first wave of young talent to move forward in that “win curve type mentality.”

“We might be three or six months behind from where we initially thought we were, which was a chance to be highly competitive in ’21, but I don’t think we are that far behind,” he said. “We will know more by mid-season, mid-’21, but how competitive we were in the final 30-40 games of this season really gives me great encouragement.”

To that end, Dipoto said that he would look to add to the bullpen and address starting pitching depth in the offseason. He doesn’t see a ‘knock your socks off’ splashy-type move in the near future, saying that he is more inclined to make moves that do the things that they believe are going to help the team get better and perform more consistently over moves made to “wow” the fans.

“First and foremost is making sure we secure the wins we think we should have, and we think we can do that,” he said.

All part of a carefully scripted and calculated plan with one thing apparent coming out of the 2020 season. If the Mariners’ shortened season would have translated to a 71- to 73-win 162-game season, their play in the final 30 to 40 games that Dipoto pointed to earlier in the interview leave them believing that with additions and steps taken forward, they should win many more games next year.

Part of the plan for return to contention involves the path of the Houston Astros, whose trajectory Dipoto has long had an eye on. The Astros have a large number of key players up for free agency this winter and the next, and Dipoto sees great value in this Mariners team taking a final series win over Houston into their winter.

“I think what we just saw and the contrast of the first series we played against them how far we have come… and I think that gives the players the confidence that they can go play with the Astros,” said Dipoto. “For them to have the confidence going into spring training that they can go beat the big, bad boogeyman, it’s something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s very important.”

Perhaps more than just a cherry on top of what has been what Dipoto considers a very successful developmental season. Time will tell if the Mariners were able to get enough out of 60 games in 2020 to stay on track, but Dipoto remains optimistic.

“I like our team and I think we do have the opportunity to go out next year and compete for a playoff spot,” he said.

Listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show in the podcast at this link or in the player below beginning around the 25:45 mark.

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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