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Mariners Takeaways: Digging into what Jerry Dipoto said about 2B and 3B, offseason needs

How Ty France performs in 2021 will likely decide the Mariners' future of Kyle Seager. (Getty)

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on Thursday morning to wrap up the 2020 season with one last edition of the Jerry Dipoto Show, and as you might expect, he was optimistic when it came to talking about next year.

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Dipoto touched on his hopes for 2021, how offensively-capable utility players Dylan Moore and Ty France fit into the plans for the future, and the surprising success of the starting rotation this season.

You can listen to the full interview with Seattle’s GM in the podcast at this link or below beginning at about the 27:30 mark. Let’s break down three takeaways from the interview.

France and Moore making things interesting on the roster

Ty France, a midseason acquisition from the Padres, and Dylan Moore, a 2020 breakout player who has played every position but catcher since 2019 for Seattle, both are really men without a position. And there’s a couple things worth unpacking from what Dipoto said about where they fit in going forward.

Here’s what Dipoto said about France: “We’re still learning a lot about Ty having had him just a month, but we know he can hit and we believe that his future position is likely best suited to be third base, but he can play a little second, he can play a little first, he is versatile enough to move around the field, and we’re comfortable doing that with him because the bat really plays. It’s a major league bat, as we saw. He’s a run producer who can reside in the middle of a lineup, and he does a lot of really interesting things – just a low-anxiety, good hitter.”

And Moore: “He (showed versatility in the field) while busting out in 2020 with a really strong offensive season and he’s got all the tools to sustain that. I would anticipate continuing to tap into his versatility but I think you will see him more and more at second base as we get into ’21 and beyond with the expectation that we have a wave of outfielders that we think that are coming soon that generally speaking will take those reps on a daily basis, up to and including the return of Mitch Haniger. At the end of the day we feel fortunate to have Dylan’s versatility but I think you’ll see him stabilize more as a second baseman moving forward than moving around that much.”

Here’s what jumps out. If Moore is going to get plenty of opportunity at second base, that’s a change in philosophy compared to entering 2020 when Shed Long Jr. was given the reins. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise because Long struggled (.171 average, .533 OPS, three homers and five doubles in 34 games) and is now recovering from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his shin, while Moore thrived (.850 OPS, eight homers, nine doubles and 12 stolen bases in 38 games) this year. But if Moore is playing second base, that means less of France there. And oh, right, Dipoto pointed out that France profiles better at third, which we already knew, but that’s where Kyle Seager plays, and he’s only under contract for another year.

For the immediate future, the Mariners may just be factoring that France, Moore and Seager will rotate in and out of the designated hitter spot in most games, though the outfield could get crowded next season as well and may need to use some DH at-bats as well.

Long-term future? Sounds like France is getting an audition next year for the job that Seager currently holds, which could be an indication of whether or not Seattle tries to retain Seager past 2021.

I guess the ultimate point is… the Mariners have depth? Why yes, I think they do. Which brings us to the next takeaway.

What to expect in 2021

Good things, that’s what. At least based on what Dipoto said after his team maintained a spot in the playoff race into the final week of the 2020 season.

“We do think that we have the ability to go out there and play .500-plus ball with the group of players we have…,” Dipoto said in regards to next year.

OK, I cut off the quote for dramatic effect. Here’s the whole thing:

“We do think that we have the ability to go out there and play .500-plus ball with the group of players we have provided we go out and answer some questions in our bullpen.”

Ah, there it is. A slice of reality.

Dipoto’s 100% right about that. Out of all of the pieces that make up Seattle’s team – the lineup, the starting rotation, the defense –it’s the bullpen that is running behind schedule. To be fair, that’s kind of how it works when you’re going through a rebuild. Even if you’re on schedule, the bullpen probably isn’t. And so with the Mariners expecting to be a winning team next year, that’s where Dipoto’s roster-building focus will be this offseason.

“While we did play well over the last 30 or 40 games of this season, we realized that we have deficiencies in our bullpen that do need to be solved if we’re going to be successful long-term,” he said.

There’s one other to expect in 2021: a whole ‘nother wave of prospects. Dipoto specifically named pitcher Logan Gilbert, outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Taylor Trammel, and catcher Cal Raleigh as players he anticipates will make MLB debuts.

Mariners’ rotation in good shape

Finally, let’s take a look back at the two-month whirlwind of a season the Mariners just finished up.

Dipoto had glowing remarks about the rotation, the success of which may have surprised even him.

“I thought they were awesome. They exceeded expectations,” he said of Seattle’s starting pitchers.

• On Marco Gonzales: “I thought (he) had just a fabulous year from beginning to end, the consistency and quality what he did.”

• Justus Sheffield: “A huge step forward and established himself a legitimate top-half of the rotation major league starter. His last seven or eight starts were on par with what Marco was doing, really. Just terrific.”

• Yusei Kikuchi: “We saw just a great jump forward in his physical stuff. You know, we need to see some consistency in applying that physical stuff day after day, but in the moments where Yusei’s clicking, he’s physically as good as anybody. As good a left-hand starting pitcher’s stuff as you’re gonna see in the league, and still has some adjustments to make.”

• The rest: “And the other guys were learning as they went. Justin Dunn and Ljay Newsome and Nick Margevicius did an excellent job as first-year pitchers and rolling with the ups and downs that go with plying your craft in the big leagues and I think in the end they can all look back on the season and think it’s a positive one.”

There were a few really positive developments that came out of the Mariners’ season that were unexpected, but I think the biggest one in the long run will be what the rotation did. Because for how amazing Gonzales was and how promising Sheffield’s future looks now, the really important thing is that Seattle’s starting pitching is in great shape and hasn’t even begun to reach its potential. After all, the farm system is loaded with recent high-round arms – the trio of first-round picks Gilbert, George Kirby and Emerson Hancock, plus Brandon Williamson, Isaiah Campbell and Sam Carlson.

Like I said before, the Mariners have depth. And things are about to get interesting.

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