Jerry Dipoto Declares Seattle's "Heavy Lifting" Is Done, Nobody Believes Him

By Stevil, January 18th, 2018

Jerry Dipoto using innovative technology at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to help identify starting pitchers with cell structures similar to that of Shohei Ohtani's. Photo by Robert Hood.
This offseason has been about as exciting as a mashed potato sandwich, and yet for Mariner fans, a mashed potato sandwich is easier to swallow than the belief that the current rotation is strong enough to carry the team into the postseason. Leaning on two injury-prone starting pitchers and another still attempting to find himself after Tommy John Surgery, the skepticism is certainly warranted. But it appears that a household name is unlikely to be added before the season gets underway. Most of the heavy lifting was apparently done during the 2017 season, with the addition of David Phelps, Mike Leake, and Erasmo Ramírez. Jerry may not be (intentionally) pulling anyone's leg.

This isn't a case of rolling the dice and just hoping for better luck, though. The Mariners have strengthened and extended the bullpen depth with the additions of Juan Nicasio, Nick Rumbelow and Shawn Armstrong, and they've created an entirely new department of high performance, headed by Dr. Lorena Martin, who has already made her presence known by raiding players' refrigerators and harassing their wives. Rest, nutrition, and physical routine are three crucial elements that are under her microscope to assist in the performance and durability of the players. The harassment was apparently voluntary.

Despite these efforts to get better, thicken the depth and prevent disaster, the rotation in particular remains an area of concern and fans won't likely be satisfied unless reinforcements are brought in. With the arbitration-eligible players all under contract now, we know that payroll is close to 160 million. Any optimism for landing Yu Darvish should be officially crushed, and to add insult to injury, the Astros have landed Gerrit Cole and the Angels appear to have the dough to buy more pitching. They didn't exactly break the bank with Ohtani.

The team Seattle starts with won't likely be the team they finish with, though. The same goes for every team, every season, and 2018 will be no exception. Teams league-wide will be trying to figure out what they have and where they can improve, improvising after a sufficient look. For the Mariners, it won't just be the rotation getting the attention, it will also be 1st base. What will the Mariners do if/when another starter is needed? What will they do if neither Ryon Healy or Mike Ford cut it? The answer is simple: react.

We know that the inner-organizational talent has been thinned out considerably, so expensive rentals seem unlikely. But there should still be some interesting, affordable and controllable talent available that could be brought in to help out, as teams like the Royals, Rays, Pirates, Orioles, etc., concede and settle in to more traditional rebuilds. There will likely be some cheap rentals available as well, such as Logan Morrison and Lucas Duda, who remain free agents as I write this and are unlikely to find new homes with contending teams. While Seattle fans probably cringed when they heard that the Astros landed Gerrit Cole (not trying to rub it in, I swear), the seemingly weak return offers some hope for more affordable pitching help at the deadline. Of course, that's assuming they're still in the hunt.

However, a complete tear-down is probably unlikely, regardless. Virtually every player on the field and behind the plate is under control through 2020 or beyond, and a number of key pitchers fit the same profile. Further, Seattle has Braden Bishop, Kyle Lewis, and Evan White, all due to make their debuts between 2019 and 2020, plus Sam Carlson in 2021 or 2022, and a number of promising relievers, such as Art Warren, Darin Gillies, and Matthew Festa, who appear to be 1-2 years away. Max Povse may prove to be a solid arm with a little more seasoning as well. That also more or less sums up their farm system.

With this young talent poised to integrate with the current squad, the outfield and bullpen could prove to be areas of strength, in which they could trade from to address other areas of need. Anything not covered could feasibly be addressed via free agency, as the contracts for Nelson Cruz and Félix Hernández will likely be off the books, which should free up considerable dollars. We could even see big(ger) signings as early as next offseason, as the 2019 free agent class looks promising—especially with starting pitching. It isn't a stretch to think that a contract or two could be back-loaded. It isn't a stretch to think the Mariners could land Gerrit Cole at a future point. Did I mention Gerrit Cole is now currently with the Astros?

So, what is likely in the event of a lopsided record with the number of losses heavily outweighing the wins by July this coming season?

A move to Portland or Vancouver. That, or maybe we would see players with expiring contracts moved, which would include Nelson Cruz if he hasn't been extended by then, as well as David Phelps and Marc Rzepczynski. The rest of the season would likely be committed to getting experience to some of the younger fielders and relievers with a strong dose of patience, then reload, and possibly realign, in the offseason. Heavy drinking would also seem likely. This is an area Seattle fans might give the team a run for their money--with Eric Filia excluded from any and all festivities, of course.

Again, if the Mariners are still in the hunt in July, I would imagine Jerry Dipoto would continue to tighten up with controllable talent. That's how he can buy time to restock the organization while threatening to contend, so I wouldn't anticipate any of the current top 4 prospects going anywhere. But if there's one thing we've come to learn from Jerry, it's to expect the unexpected. He's always looking to get better. That said, expect to see him stay the current course and try to continue to rebuild on the fly. The Mariners have gotten younger and likely better, even if it doesn't appear that way given the additions teams like the Angels and Astros have made this offseason. But they should continue to get younger and better beyond 2018 and that might be more important. It will be interesting to see if Houston can retain all or most of their stars due to hit free agency in a couple of years, and if LA can keep their pitching staff healthy. There are no guarantees in baseball, but that's part of the reason it's so much fun to watch unfold.

On that note, I think I'll take in a hockey game.


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