Dipoto: Mariners showing they’re ready for ‘next step,’ could add at trade deadline
Entering Friday night’s game against the Texas Rangers, the Mariners are four games over .500 and are just 4.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot in the American League.
When talking about his team’s recent play as well as the future of the club on Thursday, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant that he expects Seattle to be active this offseason in free agency and potentially trades in order to gear up for 2022 and beyond.
On Friday, Dipoto again joined 710 ESPN Seattle, this time talking to Jake and Stacy about his club’s play and what the team could do to add pieces going forward.
First, Dipoto made it clear he’s thrilled with how his team has played this year, especially of late. That’s largely because the Mariners have had a tough schedule and have played very well against some of the best teams in baseball.
“Are we a contender? I don’t know,” Dipoto said. “But we are a highly competitive team no matter who’s on the field opposite us and it’s happening while we are one of the youngest teams in baseball … The guys who are contributing are 24-26 years old … All of these guys who are contributing, they project to be a part of what we’re doing going forward.”
The team’s great play is happening at an interesting time because we’re only a few weeks from the July 30 MLB trade deadline. Dipoto didn’t commit to making a big addition or trading away a big-name player at this year’s deadline, but he did share some very interesting insight into what could potentially happen with the Mariners.
“When I started this 10 years ago as a general manager, you approached the trade deadline as a buyer or a seller,” he said. “Now you approach the trade deadline and the more modern feel for it is you are willing to listen in both of those areas. And if you can do something that makes sense to improve your present day team while you’re also addressing the future, or if you can improve your present day team without detracting from your future. It’s a very sensitive line that you’re walking, but it can be done.”
That sort of thinking is how Dipoto plans to approach the July 30 deadline.
“If we have the ability to improve in the short term without taking away from our future, we want to do that,” he said. “In addition, if we have the ability to add something that’s here not just now, but moving ahead or (add) multiple players, then we want to focus on that.”
Where the Mariners stand both in terms of record and because of the team’s roster doesn’t add up to being a seller at the trade deadline..
“We’re so young and we don’t have a lot of expiring contracts or players that would naturally be targets for other teams at the deadline,” Dipoto said. “We’re young and developing which makes us fun, and could make the deadline very boring or really exciting. We don’t know which will be which yet.”
Regardless of if it’s at the 2021 trade deadline or it’s this offseason, it appears clear that Dipoto will be looking to add to Seattle’s roster in hopes of making a big step towards playoff contention. That contention may even happen this season.
“That’s the most important thing we’ll do right now, secondary to winning as many games as we can because if we can find our way into the postseason in 2021, we’d like to do that,” Dipoto said of evaluating young talent to see who fits the team’s long-term plans. “But the most important thing for us in the second half of this season is to determine where those holes are and to isolate on the (available) players who can help us. And we’re willing to do that at this trade deadline if that player is accessible. That can happen through free agency, but it can also happen via the trade, and we’re willing to do that in either order.”
During his Thursday interview with Danny and Gallant, Dipoto said the team was a year behind the Toronto Blue Jays, who spent big this past offseason, especially on All-Star outfielder George Springer. Dipoto would like to see his team be able to acquire a player of Springer’s magnitude either in trade or in free agency.
“You can focus on the quality of the player as opposed to the size of the paycheck. Because once you get into a discussion about the George Springer-like contracts … we’re not dead set that we need to go spend $150 million on a player, we just want to find a George Springer,” Dipoto said. “If we do that via trade or free agency, that is something of a focus for us. And if that George Springer happens to play a position that fits better on our club, then that’s going to be what we’re focused on. And we feel like there are those players out there in both of those markets.”
What helps the Mariners as they look to eventually add key pieces to the roster is that many of the team’s players offer defensive flexibility. One player who Dipoto didn’t seem willing to have change positions, though, is shortstop J.P. Crawford, which could be important to note given the upcoming free-agent shortstop class is loaded with big names.
“We do have that versatility and we are willing to move (players) around. I think with the exception of our catchers and maybe the fixed piece of J.P. Crawford being our shortstop, the rest (of our players) are hypermobile,” Dipoto said. “But even then, there’s so much possibility when you look at our team because we are young and athletic. And the fun of being able to move players around on the field, we’ve done it through (the minors) and we continue to do it with them on the major league scene.”
The defensive flexibility of the Mariners’ roster along with a low payroll allows the Mariners to “mix and match” going forward, Dipoto said. And now, Dipoto’s team has shown they’re worthy of being seen as a team that should go out and add high-level pieces to the roster.
“The one thing we’re convinced of and this team is showing it to us right now is we’re ready to take that next step and walk out into the water and really put a contending club on the field both from a free agent/trade and development standpoint,” he said. “It’s time to go for this team once we get into the end of this season and we’ve evaluated what those players do. And they might take us there themselves.”
Listen to Dipoto’s interview with Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.