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Dipoto: Trade market, Mariners’ DH plan, promising reports on young hitters

Jan 5, 2023, 1:49 PM
Mariners Taylor Trammell Jarred Kelenic...
Taylor Trammell and Jarred Kelenic of the Mariners react after beating the Tigers 5-4 on Oct. 5, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

After a pretty fast start to the offseason in terms of moves, the Mariners have been relatively quiet of late.

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Team president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto hit the Seattle Sports 710 AM airwaves on Thursday for the first time in 2023 and discussed the trade market and much more regarding the Mariners. We break down what he said below, and for a look at more pitching-specific things Dipoto discussed, click the link above this paragraph.

‘Perplexing’ how slow trade market has been

Something that’s been clear since Dipoto and his staff came to the Mariners after the 2015 season is that they’re not afraid to make a trade.

We’ve seen that already this offseason, with Seattle acquiring All-Star outfielder Teoscar Hernández from the Toronto Blue Jays and Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong from the Milwaukee Brewers while also trading 2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis to Arizona for catcher/outfielder Cooper Hummel.

But trades have crept to a halt for not just the Mariners, but for all of MLB.

A Closer Look: The good and bad of Mariners’ offseason so far

“Maybe the most perplexing part of this offseason to me is how slow the trade market has generally been,” Dipoto said. “And this is typically a time when you’ll see that open up. Typically you’ll see a rush of trades in November and early December as you head into the Winter Meetings and it’ll pick back up after the free-agent market has has, I guess, run its course.”

The free-agent market is largely as Dipoto described it, with nearly all the big names now off the board.

“So this is when the remainder of the free-agent market typically opens up and then trades start to happen again,” Dipoto said. “But while the remainder of the free-agent market is still running steady – and we’re involved there – we really haven’t had a whole lot of activity on the trade front, and that’s a little surprising.”

Why is that the case?

Dipoto said there are “a variety of reasons,” but he thinks a big one is that a lot of teams that had been rebuilding are now “moving north” and are adding impact MLB talent rather than looking for “future value.”

“There’s more parity in baseball right now than there’s been in quite some time, especially in the middle of the pack,” he said. “You still have the teams that have historically dominated offseason markets like the New York clubs, the LA’s, etc., but right now you have a group in the middle and they’re very competitive clubs and they’re having very active offseasons. And as a result, I don’t think you’re seeing as many players switch teams outside of free agency just yet. And I don’t know if that’s going to remain the case, but it’s certainly different. It’s a little bit different than it has been in years past.”

The Mariners’ DH plan

As things currently stand, the Mariners are without a clear everyday option at designated hitter. So what’s the team’s plan at that spot?

“If you have a player, like, let’s say a Nelson Cruz during the years where Nellie was here, and you have a dynamic offensive player who is capable versus both right- and left-handed pitching and can play every day, then having a full-time DH makes a lot of sense,” Dipoto said. “We have, in our history as an organization, had dynamic players in that role, particularly Edgar (Martinez) and Nellie. But it’s more and more uncommon.”

Instead, the Mariners “prefer to cycle the DH at-bats” through their everyday players, Dipoto explained.

“And then try to create handedness or matchup advantages when it’s possible,” he said. “So if we do happen upon an everyday player that can handle that role, then great, but more likely we would prefer to take, let’s call it 650 or so plate appearances that would go to a designated hitter and divvy that up among Teoscar Hernández and one of our young left-handed hitters that we’ve talked about.”

Dipoto then pointed to one of the less-heralded players they’ve acquired this offseason: Cooper Hummell, a 28-year-old switch-hitter picked up in a trade with Arizona who can play multiple positions, including catcher.

“One of the advantages of acquiring Cooper Hummel in the Kyle Lewis trade is the potential for having three catchers on our roster, which would then allow us to run one of our catchers into a DH day in an advantageous way,” he said. “That’s the way we’re looking at DH.”

Dipoto hasn’t closed the door on changing direction if the right opportunity comes along, though.

“I say that and if over the next few weeks we’re able to tap into a player we think changes our offense by playing DH regularly, then that’s something we’ll consider as well.”

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Promising reports on young hitters

With spring training right around the corner, players across the league are preparing for big league camp.

Dipoto said the Mariners have a hard-working group and that he’s gotten very promising reports about two young outfielders.

“We’ve gotten great feedback on Taylor Trammell and his hitting programs through the offseason,” Dipoto said. “He’s spent a lot of time working – I don’t want to say revamping his swing but assessing the things that he can do to improve. It’s been a very positive offseason for him.”

Trammell, 25, is a former first-round pick who came to the Mariners via trade in 2020. He made his MLB debut on opening day 2021 but has largely struggled offensively at the big league level. In 94 MLB games over the last two seasons, Trammell has slashed .174/.267/.402 with 12 home runs.

The other young bat? Another former first-round pick and top prospect: Jarred Kelenic.

“We’ve gotten fantastic feedback on Jarred Kelenic, who’s been working with a hitting group down in southern California this winter, and it’s gone very well for him,” Dipoto said.

Kelenic, 23, was also traded to the Mariners while in the minor leagues and made his MLB debut in 2021. Like Trammell, Kelenic has struggled mightily at the MLB level, slashing .168/.251/.338 with 21 home runs in 147 games.

Listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show, which airs live at 8:30 a.m. on Thursdays during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, at this link or in the player below.

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Dipoto: Trade market, Mariners’ DH plan, promising reports on young hitters