Mariners’ Dipoto: Focus is SP via trade; whether M’s may add another bat

Mar 17, 2022, 11:23 AM

Mariners Jerry Dipoto...

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto looks on before a 2021 game against the Angels at T-Mobile Park. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners made a major trade this week by acquiring All-Star sluggers Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez from the Cincinnati Reds to lengthen and boost the lineup.

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Comments by general manager Jerry Dipoto shortly after the deal made some fans uneasy, however, as he told reporters that the Mariners’ lineup is likely set heading into the 2022 season and that free agency didn’t go Seattle’s way post-lockout.

So are the Mariners done adding bats? And what’s the priority moving forward? Dipoto discussed that as well as the additions of Winker and Suárez during The Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports 710 AM Thursday morning in a conversation with Mike Salk (listen here or in the player below).

Additions of Winker and Suárez 

So why make the trade for Winker and Suárez?

“I mean, first we think they’re really good,” Dipoto told Salk. “They do knock the ball around as you’ve now seen in real time.”

Winker, 28, is seen as the centerpiece of the deal as he’s younger and coming off a very productive All-Star season. He’s slated to be the Mariners’ starting left fielder and a key part of the middle of the lineup.

“Jesse, he’s a prime-year, maybe one of the three or four best left-hand hitters versus right-hand pitching in baseball no matter how you sort it,” Dipoto said. “He hits the ball often, he hits the ball hard, he hits the ball to all fields, he has excellent strike zone judgment, he has good on-base skills. That’s always been a priority for us are guys that can manage the strike zone the way he does truly want. (Winker has) one of my favorite approaches in the league.”

As for the 30-year-old Suárez, he is coming off down years in 2020 and 2021 when he dealt with a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. That came after he was an All-Star third baseman in 2018 and slugged 49 home runs in 2019. That 49-homer campaign is a single-season National League record for home runs by a third baseman.

“I don’t want to sell short Eugenio, either,” Dipoto said. “This is a guy who has had multiple (4-WAR) seasons. He had 49 homers a couple of years ago.”

Aside from center field, which is likely to be anchored second-year player Jarred Kelenic and/or possibly rookie Julio Rodríguez, the addition of Suárez gives the Mariners 3-plus WAR players at every position, Dipoto said.

“That’s not common. To have that with all players who are still in what should be the prime of their career is exciting,” Dipoto said. “And we think we can tap back into the version of Eugenio Suárez that existed prior to last year where he was transitioning to shortstop (with the Reds), which we didn’t think was the appropriate position. We don’t want to play him at short. I think he’s a good third baseman who we can really help. That being said, we have always believed in the power, and maybe (being) a year and a half removed from shoulder surgery we can count on him being some form of what he was before (2020). And we’re confident that’ll happen.”

Adding another bat

Winker and Suárez should greatly help a Mariners lineup that struggled mightily in 2021 despite winning 90 games, but are they truly the last additions to the lineup? Dipoto was asked about his comments to the media earlier this week, where he insinuated as much.

“We look at it as if there is opportunity, an opportunity finds us or we find it, we’re not going to stop looking. We want to improve,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we would have to improve over a team that has a player at each position that that has roughly accounted for a 3-WAR season … and we do want to make sure that we continue to provide the opportunity for those players.”

Dipoto also discussed the long-term impact of adding more players, especially with multi-year deals.

“Every move that you make clogs that up, and now if we go out and we sign a contract that is extended and puts a high-priced player for an extended number of years in one of those spots, that displaces an already good player (and) you’ve also limited what you can do over time and extending the players that are already here,” he said.

Salk said he understands how finding at-bats for outfielders may be difficult given Seattle’s depth there, but could the Mariners add an infield bat without sacrificing playing time for those they currently have? That’s a particularly interesting question with All-Star slugger Trevor Story still unsigned.

“There are limited opportunities (in the infield) because in that mix, we have (first baseman) Ty France, who was arguably our most complete hitter a year ago along with Mitch (Haniger),” Dipoto said. “We have (second baseman) Adam Frazier, who was an All-Star who threw up a near 4-win season between Pittsburgh and the Padres (in 2021). (Shortstop) J.P. Crawford, who has been a leader is an elite defender and was last year a 3-plus WAR player. And Suárez, who we just talked about. What do you do with the player you displace? It’s not an easy question to answer.

“So as much as I appreciate the fact that we should spend money for the sake of spending money, you have to spend money wisely. And we feel like we still have payroll flexibility, we still have ways that we can get better and needs. But I don’t want to use opening day as an arbitrary date to do that. We feel like we have a good team and we will hold for the right players. And if we get the right players, we will spend the money.”

The focus? Starting pitching

The Mariners have four of their five starting pitchers for the start of the season set in Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen and Logan Gilbert. The Mariners also have a lot of high-end pitching prospects who are fairly close to making their MLB debuts.

That being said, if the Mariners are to make another impact addition, it likely would be with the rotation, Dipoto said.

“That’s where we’re most focused right now. We love the first four in our rotation. We love the young guys – Levi Stoudt, George Kirby, Matt Brash – the guys we feel like are on the doorstep,” Dipoto said. “But that’s an area where you can never have enough depth.”

Dipoto said Seattle will look to add depth through non-roster invites to camp who could either challenge for a starting rotation spot or be ready to contribute in Triple-A. But he’s also looking to add someone who would be a tremendous addition to the club’s rotation from the start.

“If we go out and do something, again, we want to focus on adding someone who pitches closer to the top of our rotation than the back end,” he said.

Would that come through trade or free agency?

“That’s more trade talk than free agent,” Dipoto said. “We don’t necessarily feel like that player is currently on the free-agent market. But we are active and discussing options with other clubs.”

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs on Seattle Sports 710 AM at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday.

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Mariners’ Dipoto: Focus is SP via trade; whether M’s may add another bat