Dipoto explains Mariners’ roster challenges due to injuries, struggles

May 12, 2022, 11:10 AM | Updated: 11:21 am
Mariners J.P. Crawford...
J.P. Crawford reacts after trying to dive into first base against the Rays. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

After an 11-6 start to the season for the Seattle Mariners, things have taken a sharp turn the other direction.

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Since then, the Mariners have lost 12 of 15 games to fall to 14-18, and while they’re trying to catch their breath with a day off Thursday, they’re set to begin one of the tougher road trips of the season Friday.

During the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM, the Mariners general manager and president of baseball operations was candid about what he’s seeing.

“Really, the last 15 games for us, it’d be harder to figure out what’s going on than what’s going wrong, which is roughly everything,” Dipoto told Mike Salk on Thursday morning. “We just haven’t played well. It’s that simple, and it’s been in all facets, truly. We’ve not pitched. We’ve really lost our our dominance of the strike zone, which is something that we’ve done quite well as a pitching staff. And from an offensive perspective, it’s just been really hard to get the big hit in the big moment.”

The offensive struggles have received most of the attention, and for good reason. The Mariners have scored more than three runs in a game just four times over the 15-game stretch, and while offense is down throughout the league, what the M’s are going through feels more pronounced for one reason, according to Dipoto.

“As much as it seems like we have no action or no traffic offensively, that’s a little bit more on par with what’s happening around the league. We’re just having a very difficult time getting the big hit to score the run, and that’s the part that’s that’s affecting us in a negative way.”

What’s making those problems even more frustrating is how Seattle’s injury situation is making it tougher to send players down to the minors and bring reinforcements up the big leagues.

The Mariners’ trouble with the 40-man roster

In order for the Mariners to add a player to their 26-man active roster, they also need to be on their 40-man roster. Players that are on the 10-day (position players) and 15-day (pitchers) injured lists, however, count as part of the 40-man, while those on the 60-man IL do not.

The Mariners have several players on the 10-day and 15-day ILs right now, including outfielders Mitch Haniger and Kyle Lewis, catcher Tom Murphy, and relievers Sergio Romo and Matt Festa. That’s presenting a hurdle in sending struggling players with minor league options down to Triple-A. And while Dipoto didn’t name anybody specifically, 22-year-old outfielder Jarred Kelenic (.140/.219/.291 slash line) and 25-year-old catcher Cal Raleigh (.065/.194/.161) seem the most in need of time away from the pressures of facing MLB competition.

“This week, as you might expect, has been a week of a lot of meetings, a lot of discussions on how we can can help,” Dipoto said. “And that goes for me, for the front office, for (manager) Scott (Servais) and staff – what can we do to help? Because the struggle has been so complete. The helpless feeling that we’ve had is we have a 40-man roster and you have to manage the 40-man roster. And right now 26 of those players are in the big leagues and eight of them are injured, and that doesn’t count those that are on the 60-day (IL) who are effectively not counted against your 40-man. So we only have five healthy players that aren’t currently playing for us in the big leagues that are eligible, and only one of them is eligible to return because you have to spend 10 days in the minor leagues after you’re demoted.

“We’re really strapped right now in trying to find creative solutions to provide respite for some of the guys that are struggling the most. It’s challenging, and we’re doing the best we can to come up with at least short-term solutions. Because long-term, we still believe in this team. This team is very talented, we do have a deep club, and unfortunately in these last 15 days if not the first month of the season we’ve been tested to the brink and and we’ve not handled it well, to be honest.”

The Mariners found a way to create one 40-man spot on Wednesday, trading utility player Donovan Walton to the San Francisco Giants for pitching prospect Prelander Berroa.

“There are ways to get around it and we think we’ve come up with a few, and one of them was yesterday just doing what we could,” Dipoto said. “Donnie Walton was blocked here, the Giants had some interest and we were able to trade Donnie to the Giants and get a nice, very talented, young 22-year-old pitcher who will report to (Single-A) Everett, but it also freed up a 40-man roster spot for us to try to navigate.”

A week prior on The Jerry Dipoto Show, the GM spoke about some players needing to be thrown a “life preserver” with a demotion to the minor leagues. So far, pitcher Matt Brash is the only player they were able to send to Triple-A, which was mainly possible because George Kirby, who replaced him in the starting rotation, was on the 40-man roster. Dipoto still hopes to find ways to send others down.

“Unfortunately, we have had such a rough stretch and such an inability to manage that roster because of some of the factors I just discussed that we haven’t had the opportunity, or even realistically the chance, to provide them with that breather or that reset,” he said. “We have to figure out how because we have a number of players that need it and we have to do the best we can to get them in a better place. And that goes really for everyone in our organization. It’s never something you want to view through the lens of being punitive; you want to help and find a way to get back to a good place where your process is good. We were able to do it a week ago with Matt Brash, and there are a few more guys that we would like to get into that situation and we have to find a way.”

Could those moves happen as soon as Thursday or before Friday’s series opener in New York against the red-hot Mets?

“Only if we’re able to resolve some of the roster challenges that we’re currently dealing with,” Dipoto answered. “It was a long night after the game last night trying to figure out how we might be able to navigate the roster as we head into New York. We also have the challenge of going to Canada on Monday so another layer of information to try to manage here. So there are some moving parts that may allow us to do something in the next day or so, but minimally we have to look at all the different, I guess, available options for us to to to reset and give our team a different look in the short-term, mostly so we can get players we believe in back on track.”

The Toronto trip

As alluded to in that last quote from Dipoto, the Mariners will head to Canada on Monday for a series many have anticipated would come with some roster shuffling. The reason for that is Canada has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate and doesn’t allow unvaccinated players into the country to play.

Dipoto confirmed to Salk that the Mariners will be impacted by that.

“We’ll have a few,” Dipoto responded when asked by Salk if any Mariners won’t make the trip over the border, “and that’s something that we will and have been working on managing our way through. … We’ll have to adapt just like other teams, and everybody’s going to have to deal with the same rules and and we’ll make it work.”

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs live at 8:30 a.m. each Thursday on Seattle Sports Station 710 AM. You can listen to this week’s edition at this link or in the player below.

Scott Servais Sow: Crawford’s Mariners return, Kirby’s debut, Kelenic’s approach

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Dipoto explains Mariners’ roster challenges due to injuries, struggles