Drayer: Mariners’ quiet offseason has gone as planned with hopes of a louder one next year
Aside from one very large piece of bombshell injury news, the Mariners’ pre-spring training press conference reflected the team’s offseason. Yes, it was rather boring. Not a lot of news, which follows a winter of not a lot of action.
For those who have been following closely, perhaps today’s lack of news was anticipated. From the man who engineered a mostly quiet offseason heading into year two of the rebuild, it was a little bit of ‘told you so.’
“We’re doing something entirely different,” Jerry Dipoto pointed out. “We made one explosive offseason of trades that created the look of chaos (in 2019), but it was all by design. I said it then but I don’t know that anyone believed me, the trades will slow down.”
And slow down they did, as this offseason has seen one player – Omar Narváez – traded by Dipoto. As for the previous chaos? All necessary to get to where they are today, which is in position to let their young players play. Getting there took some work.
“2020 is about the development of the young players,” Dipoto stated. “At the end of 2018 we were the oldest team in the American League on the field, and we enter this year, such as it sits right now, we are the youngest team in the American League. We have really shifted the paradigm. We have created a great deal of roster and financial flexibility as we move forward.”
Dipoto acknowledged the pain of the Mariners’ 2019 season and its 68-94 record, and he said that while it wasn’t entirely a surprise with the roster challenges and churns they had, there was still disappointment. Now with such a young and inexperienced team, many believe we could see similar results or worse record-wise in 2020, but the Mariners are opting to give those players the opportunity to play and gain experience.
It very well could be another painful season, but rather than enduring that pain to get out from under contracts, the Mariners are hoping the 2020 pains will be more of the growing variety with a group of players the organization is committed to. It should have a different look than what we saw in the first half of 2019 in particular, according to manager Scott Servais.
“It’s baseball, you never know what can happen but we will get better throughout the year,” he said. “We will be better defensively this year. Our base running, because we are so athletic and young, will be a primary focal point of what we are trying to do. Take advantage of young legs and guys that want to prove themselves. That will be up to us and our coaching staff to make sure that happens.”
Dipoto has surrounded Servais with a mostly young coaching staff with considerable player development experience. With so many young players anticipated at the big league level in 2020, continued development will be an entire team focus and that starts in spring training.
“It’s about understanding what it is going to take to get ready and understanding that there are going to be bumps in the road,” said Servais. “We all have a real clear vision of what we want this to look like but to get there it’s not going to be a smooth line, not at all. There will be some dips and guys fighting through adversity and we understand that going in.”
What this looks like coming out of 2020, as opposed to going into 2020, is what is important.
“We don’t think we are likely to threaten for a playoff position this year,” Dipoto said. “We will measure our season based on the development of our young players.”
Servais will play a large role in that development and will have his eyes open for specific progress with individuals and the team as a whole.
“It may not show up in wins and losses all the time, but is the group of the players getting better?” said Servais. “Are they making better decisions? Is our production on the field getting better? Are they more consistent, are there consistent routines that lead to the outcome that we want because if those things are in line, we are doing our job because the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”
If all or most goes right for the Mariners in 2020 and enough progress is shown, the offseason quiet should be limited to 2019. Dipoto is hoping in a year he could be in a similar position to another American League team that started their rebuild after the 2016 season.
“Where we are in our development right now is not too dissimilar from where the Chicago White Sox were entering last season,” he said. “Similar to the White Sox we have created a war chest that’s going to allow us that when we feel the time is right – and it could be the trade deadline of 2020, it could be the offseason headed into ’21 – we feel like we have a combo of young talent and financial resources that are effectively saved to go out and do things that put the Mariners on the map and allow us to stay there.”