BROCK AND SALK

Dipoto: What’s next for Mariners after losing Robbie Ray for ’23

Apr 27, 2023, 10:35 AM | Updated: 10:47 am

Seattle Mariners Robbie Ray...

Mariners LHP Robbie Ray looks on before a game against the Cardinals on April 21, 2023. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners were delivered tough news Wednesday with starting pitcher and 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray being ruled out for a return this season.

Ray, a 31-year-old left-hander in his second season with Seattle, will have surgery to repair a flexor tendon injury that he suffered in his first and only start of the year on March 31.

Full story: Seattle Mariners LHP Robbie Ray to miss rest of 2023

During the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show, which airs live at 8:30 a.m. every Thursday on Seattle Sports, the Mariners president of baseball operations talked to Mike Salk about what’s next for the team following the loss of Ray. Let’s break down what Dipoto covered.

What’s the situation with Robbie Ray?

Dipoto told Salk that the Mariners and Ray made the choice that gives the veteran southpaw the “best chance” to contribute to the team over the final three years of his five-year, $115 million contract.

“Obviously, the situation escalated upon his followup visit with Dr. (Keith) Meister down in Dallas,” Dipoto said. “Not great news, and I spoke to Robbie yesterday afternoon and he had a chance to contemplate what it was that he wanted to do. We think this is the conservative option that gives Robbie the best chance to return to the mound completely healthy and help the Mariners.”

Though losing Ray is a blow, the Mariners remain hopeful about what they can accomplish without him this year and with him upon his expected return in 2024.

“Obviously, in the short term, we are not as good a team without Robbie Ray as we are with him, so it does hurt us for the balance of this season,” Dipoto said. “We do feel like we have the flexibility and the personnel to be able to manage it along the way. We’ll likely do something a little more creative in how we want to solve it, but it’s a shame because no one worked harder this offseason and put themselves in a position to deliver (than Ray). You saw Robbie in the spring, he looked phenomenal, and it’s a shame that we won’t get to see that version of him this year but hopefully this allows us to see it for years to come.”

What can the M’s do now with their pitching staff?

Following Ray’s injury, the Mariners moved Chris Flexen from a long relief role in the bullpen into Ray’s spot in the rotation. For now, the plan is to maintain that despite Flexen (8.86 ERA) mostly struggling in his four starts to date.

“We can tap into what we’re doing right now – the five guys that are running out there and the bullpen we have, and continue to run traditionally like that,” Dipoto said.

Seattle will assess as the season goes on and will keep its options open, however.

“There are some creative ways we might be able to resolve it that we’ve not really completely talked through yet, or we could tap into the next wave of young talent that we have in our system, which is a possibility for us,” Dipoto said. “And it could be some combination of all or any of those those things. It’s all still so new and fresh, and so much of it is going to depend on what the matchups are and what we feel like the right thing to do is for the individual players, because at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing you’ll do in setting up a team.”

Dipoto added that the Mariners are still examining all of their options.

“We had the first of what I would imagine to be multiple iterations of a ‘What are we doing with our pitching moving forward?’ phone call or meeting yesterday with our major league staff, our pitching people at the minor league and analytics levels, so we’re collaborating on what the right solution is here. And my guess is by the time we go to bed tonight or wake up tomorrow morning, we’ll have something in place that we think makes sense.”

Can the Seattle Mariners swing a trade?

The problem with injuries this early in the season is that it’s a tough time to made additions through the trade market, as Dipoto explained.

“This is not really the time of year,” he said. “… You make your decisions headed into spring training, you give your players opportunity, and then those first six weeks of the season tend to be, you know, you’re running from within. There might be an opportunity with a waiver claim, but you’re not going to make a significant addition to your major league club at this stage in the game, and it’s probably going to be the case for another at least a month or so before you see or even start to engage with other teams in that category. Otherwise you’re just paying premiums that shouldn’t exist – if you can even get anybody to pick up the phone – so you have to rely on your own depth.”

Dipoto also touched on options in the Seattle Mariners farm system, which you can hear about in the podcast (and we will cover in a followup article). Listen to Thursday’s full Jerry Dipoto Show in the player below.

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Dipoto: What’s next for Mariners after losing Robbie Ray for ’23