Mariners GM Dipoto: Why Graveman trade had to happen when it did and was ‘too good to pass up’

Jul 29, 2021, 11:12 AM | Updated: 1:17 pm

Mariners Kendall Graveman...

The Mariners traded reliever Kendall Graveman to the AL West-leading Astros on Tuesday. (Getty)


This week’s Mariners trade with the Houston Astros has caused some backlash among fans and even reportedly with some players.

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In the Tuesday afternoon deal, Seattle sent closer Kendall Graveman and fellow reliever Rafael Montero, who was designated for assignment last week, to the AL West-leading Astros for veteran reliever Joe Smith and 24-year-old infielder Abraham Toro.

Toro and Graveman are the headliners for the two teams, as Toro can play across the diamond and is under team control through 2025. Graveman, meanwhile, had anchored a strong Mariners bullpen this year but will be a free agent after this season.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto discussed how and why the trade happened as well as the fallout from it with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on The Jerry Dipoto Show, which airs every Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

“I’m a little surprised that it took people by surprise,” Dipoto said. “We have been talking about this in just this way for quite some time on this show and most of our connections with the public. I don’t know that it should be a shocking move.”

As as example of what Dipoto was referring to, just a week ago on the show he said: “What we don’t think makes a great deal of sense is forfeiting any real significant part of our future for short-term, rental-type gains, so we are focused on players who would be part of the Mariners beyond just 2021, and until further notice that’s our only focus. And we’ll continue to check in with clubs on the players we feel like make sense for us that fit in that category.”

The intent behind the move, Dipoto said Thursday, was to find ways to make the 2021 club better while also addressing future needs. He added that with the MLB trade deadline still a day away, the hope is the team can make more moves, and that some of the bigger picture of the Mariners’ vision was filled in with a trade for Pittsburgh Pirates lefty starter Tyler Anderson on Tuesday night.

As far as Toro goes, he’s someone Dipoto and his staff are high on for both now and in the future. He’s done well in two games with the Mariners, hitting two home runs, stealing a base and playing sound defense in a start at second base Wednesday.

“We made that move because we had the opportunity to acquire a player we thought had everyday ability,” he said. “Abraham Toro is roughly what we do with the Mariners.”

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Dipoto pointed to outfielder Mitch Haniger, catcher Luis Torrens shortstop J.P. Crawford and first baseman Ty France as players the Mariners have acquired in the past who were in similar positions to Toro with their former teams.

“The 20-somethings that are blocked in their organizations whom we provide opportunity, and it’s been a really good recipe for us,” Dipoto said. “We felt Abraham fit in that model or mold and we took the chance, and we believe we’re going to be able to improve our team in other ways as we move forward. And we definitely feel like we’ve made a change in the way our future looks, which is a positive thing.”

As mentioned, some players on the team are reportedly unhappy with the move. That was made clear in a story by Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, who cited multiple unnamed players who shared their displeasure with Dipoto and the Mariners for trading Graveman.

Dipoto read the story and said he wasn’t “caught off guard” by some of his players’ reported comments.

“Part of how I feel or how I work is to give people room to feel the way they want to feel,” he said. “… Kendall’s a great guy and he’s a particularly emotional guy, so I’m not entirely shocked that there would be an emotional response to his departure.”

But, Dipoto said, the players are all pros and trades are part of the game, and they understand that. He also stressed that the Mariners are “doing the things we’re committed to doing.”

“I feel like it’s going very well and we don’t want to deviate from the plan we’ve laid out,” he said.

Dipoto said that when it comes to making moves, he and his staff are “walking a very sensitive line” with balancing needs for the present and future along with maintaining clubhouse chemistry, which he said is among the most important aspects of pro baseball.

“You’re not going to please everyone. I guess my general thought would be give them time to have whatever reaction they’re going to have,” Dipoto said. “And my guess is there’s not 26 players reacting in a negative way. Many might understand what we’re trying to achieve here.”

Dipoto said at this time last year many Mariners veterans were upset with a trade the team made, but they eventually understood the move.

“Last year’s trade deadline, we had a very similar reaction from a couple of the veteran players in the clubhouse when we traded Austin Nola to the San Diego Padres,” Dipoto said. “And at the time, we acquired some players who weren’t too dissimilar to Abraham Toro at the place in their career and who they were and how we thought they’d fit in, and it didn’t take very long for our players to warm up to the new guys and understand why we chose the route we did. I would go back and make that trade 100 times out of 100 and I feel like a year from now, we’re going to have the same feeling about this one.”

Unfortunate timing

Part of why the Graveman trade hasn’t been very well received was the timing of it.

On Monday, the Mariners won their fourth game in a row in dramatic fashion, coming back from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Astros 11-8 after Dylan Moore’s grand slam in the eighth inning. The very next day, Graveman was in the opposing clubhouse.

Dipoto said he “hated the timing” of the trade, but that in order to get the deal to happen it had to be done that day. That’s because Montero had been designated for assignment on July 23, and Seattle was on a clock if they wanted to trade him before he had to be either released or cleared through waivers, where another team other than Houston could claim the rights to exclusively negotiate a deal with the Mariners for him.

“The piece that gets lost in the wash and that many, including our players, just won’t understand is Rafael Montero was actually part of that trade, and not an insignificant part to the Houston Astros,” Dipoto said. “They wanted Montero and that was the conversation we were having that ultimately led to the Kendall Graveman/Montero combo and the return that we received. Rafael Montero had to be traded by (Tuesday), otherwise he had to go on waivers the following day.”

While the timing may have stung, Dipoto couldn’t pass on the chance to add Toro to the mix for the next few years.

“It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up for us and what it meant for the Mariners’ future,” he said. “And that’s my job. It’s to make sure we’re always in a healthy position now and as we move forward, and I’ll continue to do that as best as I can.”

Listen to the trade deadline edition of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below.

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Mariners GM Dipoto: Why Graveman trade had to happen when it did and was ‘too good to pass up’