Jerry Dipoto: The One-Upper Vs. Stevil
By Stevil, November 25th, 2016
|Jerry Dipoto with his classic smirk after calling him out for one-upping me in 2015. Photo by Joe Nicolson, USA Today.|
Before the start of the 2015-2016 offseason, I composed a draft of an offseason plan suggesting a number of acquisitions to improve the Mariners roster. Shortly afterwards, Seattle hired Jerry Dipoto to assume the General Manager position and I, believing we had a new friendly neighbor in town, generously shared my plan publicly at that time, as a kind of welcoming for Jerry. Think he was grateful? From that point on, the competition was clearly on. Jerry all but mocked my ideas, like the arrogant rich-kid in the neighborhood we all grew up with that was blessed with everything but manners and always let you know it. What a Jerk. Here's what went down...
The Mariners clearly needed a catcher, as Zunino was reworking his swing and approach (and confidence) in Tacoma. My suggestion was signing Geovany Soto, a catcher who wasn't expected to cost more than 2-3 million.
Dipoto signed Chris Iannetta, a better defensive catcher, for 4.25 million, essentially one-upping me.
A top-end starting pitcher was also needed in addition to re-signing Iwakuma. I suggested Mike Leake at 4/40. And how did Dipoto respond?
He traded a reliever for Wade Miley at a fraction of that cost, and though Miley didn't work out, he was eventually swapped for Ariel Miranda, who has proven useful at an even cheaper cost. Leake finished the season with a 9-12 record and a 4.69 ERA for the Cardinals.
Another suggestion I made was a trade for Brandon Guyer to address Center Field, even if in a platoon role. Dipoto countered with a trade for Leonys Martin at the expense of Patrick Kivlehan (whom I also had departing Seattle in a different deal), Tom Wilhelmsen, and James Jones. Kivlehan and Wilhelmsen would later return to Seattle as both proved about as useful as landmines in the Rangers organization. It was as if Jerry had inflicted a gaping wound in my pride himself with a dull knife and rubbed a handful of polluted salt directly into the painfully exposed flesh. He was quickly establishing himself as a condescending bully and tyrant in one package. I'm sure Jeff Kingston would back me up on this, though only under the condition of anonymity.
There was a pattern quickly emerging: I suggest someone good, he finds someone better--at a better cost. I explain a strategy and detail the ins and outs, he explains essentially the same strategy, but in more detail and with more character. He's a character alright. A real character.
But this chess match was just beginning and I was not to be outwitted.
With all the pitching injuries the Mariners endured over the course of the season, I took pity upon Jerry and felt it would be honorable of me to lay down my arms until the hemorrhaging had ceased. And as soon as I did so, he struck again with no remorse, no compassion. He plucked Mike Freeman off waivers from Arizona and cut an August deadline-deal for Ben Gamel, both of which were players I had identified, but had not shared the reasoning in exquisite detail. So once again, he one-upped me; took full-credit.
Touché, Jerry. But I wouldn't be letting my guard down again.
The hopes for a post-season birth officially ended at game 161. By that point, I had already composed the bulk of my 2016-2017 offseason plan, but rather than wait 'til the end of the World Series, I struck. I struck early, hard, and strategically.
My plan, which can be found right here at Hardball via Hardcore, identified the key needs for the Mariners in 2017 (and beyond). We all knew Zack Cozart was still on the radar (he was the lone SS last season that offered defense and a decent bat whom was readily available via trade), so putting him in my plan was an easy call. Steve Pearce is one of the hardest-hitting right-handed bats in MLB, so he was in the cards for 1st base, as was a particular young Arizona outfield prospect and a catcher from Boston, Christian Vazquez. Multiple other names, such as C.J. Wilson and Brett Cecil, were also in the plan. But rehab projects for starting pitching depth and a southpawed-setup for Diaz, though important, would be pawns. Cozart, Pearce, and that outfielder were to serve as something more important.
Dipoto took the bait.
Almost immediately, he traded for Carlos Ruiz--undisputedly a better option to back-up Zunino behind the plate than Vazquez. At 4.5 million, he cost more, and Dipoto had to send a reliever to acquire him, but this was yet another classic one-up.
Jerry struck again shortly after. Feeling the heat from my slew of suggestions and trash-talk, his overwhelming, natural arrogance fueled him into another inconceivable deal. Knowing that I've been vocal regarding the uncommon occurrence of inner-division trades--even after his deal for Martin last offseason--he made it a point to snag Danny Valencia from Oakland. Indeed, another one-up, as Valencia came at the mere cost of a AA pitcher, Paul Blackburn, with no single, clear, dominant pitch, though interesting enough to warrant the move. Valencia scratched Pearce from my plan, and he'll likely prove to be cheaper than Pearce will be for his to-be-determined, respective club.
Parabéns, Jerry. Subtracted from a rival to improve our roster for the second straight year. Did the gloating really make you feel better? You took another puny pawn. Dipoto's next moves have a little less shine, though. Perhaps running on fumes, he insisted on a flurry of more trades to quickly thicken the fielding depth. While the deal for Richie Shaffer and Tyler Motter seemed fair enough (and necessary), I would argue he got a little sloppy--even desperate--with his next move.
Shortly beforehand, I had addressed a question about left handed relievers who might be available via trade. One of the names I cited was Josh Osich of the San Francisco Giants, noting that he's among the hardest throwing lefties in the game. What was Jerry's response you ask? He traded Zack Littell to the Yankees for James Pazos.
Now, Pazos was in my notes as well, and there's a reason for that: he's a left handed relief pitcher who throws extremely hard. There's not a lot of those, but this particular flame-thrower still has some command issues. Littell was arguably a high-price to pay for Pazos. Perhaps Jerry was aware of this possible, putrid overpay after putting down his stale breath inducing coffee and having taken a moment to reflect on what had just happened. Now seemingly calm, cool, and collective, he would regather himself and go for the knock-out with the transaction to follow. What he didn't know, was that his royalty pieces were becoming vulnerable.
At this stage, it's important I mention that he was simultaneously executing my strategy of pruning, which I had detailed as the taking of a single starting pitcher from each level to address the Mariners' needs, as the depth appeared to support this detailed-undertaking. With Thompson, Littell, and Blackburn having been moved, there was one last level to prune from: the major league level.
Dipoto rolled up the sleeves of his ill-suited plaid blazer and got on the phone with Arizona's newly-appointed GM, Mike Hazen. It was Thanksgiving eve, a non-important date suggested as something sentimental by various media figures looking for excuses not to work. But that didn't phase Dipoto, nor Hazen, as they quickly laid wreck to the previous swaps we had seen to that point, with Dipoto demanding Mitch Haniger--the outfielder mentioned earlier--in an antagonizing effort to show me up, and JEAN SEGURA(!), as the blow to the chin that would undoubtedly send me to floor--hard. Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte were the return pieces for Arizona. The Mariners also received Zac Curtis, an interesting-enough LHRP in a (poor) attempt to make me forget about the Zack he had traded to New York as I lay on the mat.
But this is where I had turned the tables on Jerry. I was not to feel the canvas, oh no. All of this had been intentional. "Dumbfounded" isn't nearly strong enough to describe the look on his face as the reality of what I had pulled set-in.
Little did he know, I had already recognized his talent and ability for finding the same types of players that fit the profile of what was needed, but with better names--if not the same names--and at a better value. I had set him up in an effort to induce him into using his own skills and arrogance against himself and satisfy my own selfish desires.
You see, I knew he would do better than Christian Vazquez. I knew he would somehow do at least a little better than Steve Pearce. But most importantly, I knew he would zero-in on Mitch Haniger--and do better than Zack Cozart. We also needed a leadoff hitter (Segura's a leadoff hitter), which he himself subtly admitted in an interview with Shannon Drayer.
The damage had been done; monarchy exposed. He had tipped his cards, and his determination to one-up me that one last time had bit him in the ass! This was what I wanted and had planned for all along! Ha! I hope the sting swells and irritates him for the remainder of the offseason. Vengeance is now mine.
The one-upper finally got one-upped. Checkmate, Jerry. Thanks for doing your part to hand-deliver my wishes to me in self-humiliating fashion. And to rub salt in the wound, you've been pronouncing Thyago Vieira's name wrong.