Audio: Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto, Scott Servais join the Hot Stove Show

Dec 12, 2015, 10:36 AM | Updated: Jan 15, 2016, 10:14 am
Jerry Dipoto spoke about the importance of strong starting pitchers to help out the bullpen in 2016...
Jerry Dipoto spoke about the importance of strong starting pitchers to help out the bullpen in 2016. (AP)
(AP)
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If you missed the Mariners Hot Stove Show that aired Friday night on 710 ESPN Seattle, never fear, we have a podcast. Rick Rizzs and Mike Blowers joined me for the two hour broadcast from the Mariners Team Store at Southcenter.

Jerry Dipoto sat in with us for the first hour and gave us the latest roster update – including an assurance that there would be a “strong addition” made to the bullpen which we have since seen happen with the signing of Steve Cishek and also reiterated that he was not willing to go over two years and looked back at a number of the moves he has made since taking over as general manager.

A hot topic has been trading for Wade Miley after losing free agent Hisashi Iwakuma to the Dodgers. Dipoto said he learned the news that Kuma would take the Dodgers’ three-year offer while on his way to the Winter Meetings last Sunday, and he reiterated that he was not willing to offer a contract of more than two years.

When Dipoto touched down in Nashville, it was time to get to work.

“We had not engaged with other free-agent starters while we were working through it with Kuma,” he said. “Our preference was trade. You are always better to get the guy in his 20s who has a little bit of a, let’s say, cost certainty.”

Dipoto pointed to the two years remaining on Miley’s contract, his track record in putting up innings and taking the ball every fifth day, and the fact that he had only pitched in parks that were not pitcher friendly as elements that made Miley appealing to them.

“To us he looked an awful lot like Mike Leake and Yovani Gallardo so roughly we are getting a market value that’s probably at 50 percent and allows us to refocus some payroll on first base, the bullpen,” he said.

He also pointed out that to get you have to give to get, and while he was not excited about giving up Carson Smith and Roenis Elias, he does like what he sees in reliever Jonathan Aro, the other player Seattle got back from Boston.

The rotation has been a bit of a concern for me. Like many I would have liked to have seen a No. 2 brought in, but at what cost? Dipoto is working with a budget and didn’t feel he could throw everything at one player. The belief is the rotation is better and it struck me about midway through the interview that perhaps I had not been putting a high enough value on the ability to take the ball every five days.

Now there are no guarantees and any pitcher can be lost at any time. But when you compare a 1-2-3 of Felix, Miley and Walker with the 1-2-3 of Felix, Paxton and Iwakuma that began 2015, I do actually feel better about the former because of the injury history and my belief that Walker has taken a step forward and should be much more than a young pitcher finding himself and his way like last year. Of course the latter had Walker at 4, but while the ceiling isn’t as high, Nate Karns could put up a similar season. That leaves Paxton at 5 versus J.A. Happ from last year. If Paxton can stay on the field that should be an upgrade. A big “if” with Paxton, but better to have that “if” at the back of the rotation rather than at 2.

Of course depth is another question altogether, and they don’t seem to have much, but we could see more options brought in. Just my thoughts.

As promised, I did ask Dipoto about the bullpen and along with pointing out that he was not done completing it he said that they were building depth in the pen, calling Joaquin Benoit a “strong addition” and Justin De Fratus, Evan Scribner and Anthony Bass depth in the middle of the bullpen.

“It is also relative to how good the starting rotation is,” he said. “The 2014 rotation was excellent. It depends who you are handing the ball to, if night after night you are handing the ball to the winning-game pitchers – seventh, eighth and ninth innings – if we can get a starter through six innings who can give us 18, 19, 20 outs in a night and he is handing it to those winning-game pitchers, you are going to have a good bullpen. If you can’t, you better have a very deep bullpen.”

Dipoto revealed some other thoughts and philosophies that give an idea of what we could see once the season begins. He does not believe in bullpen by committee; there will be roles. He really likes Vidal Nuno in left on left matchups. He likes diversity in his bullpen, different angles, strikeout guys, ground-ball guys, etc.

The second hour of the show featured interviews with Scott Servais and Rob Neyer.

Servias shared his thoughts on being a first-time manager and his history with Jerry Dipoto. He admitted that he would lean on his coaching staff and that their input would be important. He talked a little bit about getting the coaches together for two days of meetings in Seattle recently and told a funny story of how long it took to come to agreement on a bunt defense. He also talked quite a bit about culture and the importance of setting it in spring training.

“We will create an environment where players are comfortable and understanding that we are going to work with them,” he said. “We are going to give them the tools to be successful but creating an environment where they know they are going to be held accountable. They know what the expectations are. We are going to have a very clear plan in how we are going to achieve the goals that we have set out.

“It will be a different spring training. If you want different results you have got to go about it differently and that’s what we are going to do.”

Rob Neyer of FOX Sports was our final guest. He gave us his perspective of what he has seen from the Mariners past and present as well as took a look at what we have seen from the Cubs and Diamondbacks this off season.

The Hot Stove will return Jan. 5 and be heard on a weekly basis after that.

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Audio: Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto, Scott Servais join the Hot Stove Show