Mariners’ Dipoto explains how their future impacts approach to payroll

Dec 1, 2022, 3:24 PM | Updated: 3:24 pm
Mariners Dipoto Servais...
Mariners manager Scott Servais president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto on July 26, 2022. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto has begun to describe his organization as a “draft, develop and trade” team.

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Of course, something that doesn’t apply to that phrase is signing free agents to big contracts. So how does that, and the impact it would have on payroll, figure in?

During Thursday’s edition of the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports, he went in-depth to further shine a light on that Mariners’ philosophy. Being that we are in the middle of the hot stove season and many fans are hoping to see the Mariners make a splashy signing (or two) for a big-name free agent, Dipoto’s quotes grabbed some attention on social media following the show.

Dipoto’s answers to two questions regarding this topic by Mike Salk were rather lengthy, but the full context is important for this particular topic. You can listen to the podcast of The Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below, and after that, we have transcribed the full exchange. Dipoto’s quotes are in the gray quote boxes. Please note, the exchange has been edited some for the sake of clarity.

• Mike Salk (asking about Seattle’s “draft, develop and trade” philosophy): “Brock Huard and I were debating this a little bit earlier and hearing from some folks out there who hear that, and what they hear is, ‘So you’re not interested in spending more money?’ That the organization doesn’t want to spend. Can you just take us through it again in a little bit more depth? How does that blend with the organization’s payroll and ability to go out and bring in free agents?”

Well, some of it is about payroll. Like with each of the other 29 teams, we’re working on a payroll budget. Ours might be different than the Yankees’ or the Dodgers’, and that might be different than what some other smaller market teams deal with. We are generally a middle of the market franchise. We tend to land right in the middle in terms of revenue, oftentimes in payroll. At our top end, we have been able to work our way into top 10 payrolls pretty consistently during our most competitive years or with the big rosters. … One of the things that really gets lost in the wash right now with some of what we’ve done, with extensions for guys like J.P. Crawford and Julio Rodríguez and Luis Castillo, with some of the escalating player costs that we anticipate with the coming arbitration of guys like Logan Gilbert and George Kirby and Cal Raleigh, we are very aware of what our future payrolls look like. Because the decisions you make today – and this is more difficult for someone who’s not looking more broadly – don’t just affect your 2023 payroll, and you’re not going to go from $115 million to $215 million in a year, because what winds up happening is two years from that point, you’re at $315 million because the the escalating costs really do start to start to pile up. Right now, we have more future commitments 2024 and beyond then all but two teams in baseball. So we have spent our money, we have built larger payrolls, we’ve just done it in a different way than maybe… the basic 2023 roster look might suggest. And that’s where draft, develop and trade comes in – that we are sometimes looking for shorter-term fits (that) won’t affect the 2026 payroll when all of this (payroll) really starts to crest, and you’ve got multiple players making $25-plus million dollars, and you’re trying to figure out how to build a team. So it’s all really a jigsaw puzzle of making sure that all the pieces fit. And as a result, your preference sometimes is on a shorter contract with one- or two-year hits where you can fit players in and not grossly move your payroll three years down the road because we don’t want to be in a situation where what we think are foundational players, like the Raleighs and like the Logans and like the Kirbys – we don’t want to ever be in a situation where those guys are don’t fit for us. That’s our team.

• Salk: “I would think that the other advantage is you know your guys and who deserves to get paid and how they’re going to handle being paid better than a free agent that comes from the outside.”

I think that’s 100% true, and we talked about that a lot with Julio, and frankly it was one of the things that we felt just in a short period of time – even getting to know Luis Castillo over a couple of weeks, it’s just such a much more comfortable thing than sitting down at dinner with somebody and saying, ‘Alright, that’s our guy.’ It’s a commitment, it’s a marriage when you get to that level of investment in the player – on both ends. They’re investing in you and you’re investing in them, and speed dating is sometimes not the way to go. But that’s not to say, and I’ve said this throughout, if we find the right fit at the right price, and that guy walks through the door, we’re into that. It’s a matter of finding the right person. And I know it’s the offseason, I’ve been through this for many years and have been with the group that has won the offseason a number of times – it’s about building long-term, and we don’t want to tie off what happens for our organization. We think this is a sustainable, winning roster, and we don’t want to tie off what happens three and five years down the road by making decisions today based on emotion rather than just taking a step back and looking at what the future forecast looks like. I think we’re going to be good for a long time, and that’s our goal.

The Jerry Dipoto Show airs live on Thursdays at 8:30 a.m. during Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

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