Grading 2015 Trades: Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto

Not A Game Played Under Dipoto, But He’s Done Lots

It was the end of September, barely two months ago, when Jerry Dipoto took over for the Seattle Mariners as their new General Manager.  In his earliest interviews as chief M’s navigator, Dipoto was very direct about where the Mariners roster currently stood.  He liked the core group of players like Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager and even went as far as to say that he didn’t believe the M’s roster needed a “major overhaul”.

Two months later, Dipoto’s dizzying number of trades, releases, signings, and other roster decisions is staggering.  It’s enough to make one wonder what a “major overhaul” would look like if this is merely a “minor” one, in his eyes.

So, what do all of these moves mean for Dipoto?  Are they good?  Are they bad?  Maybe there are some good and some bad?  Let’s review Dipoto’s transactions and see how they grade out in the earliest of early reviews.

M’s Trade Brad Miller, Logan Morrison and Danny Farquhar for Nathan Karns, CJ Riefenhauser, and Boog Powell

I'll miss the high socks but not the defensive lapses Miller is known for.

I’ll miss the high socks but not the defensive lapses Miller is known for.

Dipoto’s first move was a big trade with Tampa Bay Rays.  He sent Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, and Danny Farquhar packing.  Miller hadn’t been consistent at the plate, had not adapted well to the outfield, and had too many defensive miscues at short.

Morrison, like Miller, was streaky at the plate.  Defensively, he was the M’s best option at first base but overall was just an average defender.

Farquhar, after being lights out in ’14 was a disaster for the M’s in their bullpen in ’15.  Repeated trips to AAA Tacoma didn’t solve his issues either.

In return, the M’s get a young, but inexperienced starter in Nathan Karns, a flamethrower lefty reliever in CJ Riefenhauser that will need to improve his control, and a minor league outfielder in Boog Powell who has the coolest baseball name since Bucky Jacobsen.

I like this move.  Karns should be a regular in the rotation.  Riefenhauser can be situation lefty in the pen provided his control comes around, and Powell has a chance to develop into a special outfielder, in time.

Grade:  A-

M’s Claim Daniel Robertson From Angels, Outright JC Ramirez

In a move that cost the Mariners absolutely nothing, and really snuck underneath the radar of a lot of folks, is Dipoto’s move to claim Daniel Robertson from the Angels waiver list.  Robertson is a veteran outfielder that can play all outfield positions if necessary.

Robertson slashed .274/.324/.325 last year with the Halos and the Rangers.  Dipoto keeps a very close eye on that middle slash line number, which for the uninitiated, is the player’s OB%.  He likes guys that can do that at a rate approaching .350 or better.

To get Robertson the M’s outrighted JC Ramirez to Tacoma.  In other words, it was a cheap, easy, no brainer move.

Grade:  B
Franklin Gutierrez

I love Guti’s strong comeback and that Dipoto saw fit to keep him another year. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

M’s Sign Free Agent Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez

A name that was more familiar to M’s names when it was announced was that of Franklin Gutierrez when the news broke that Dipoto had re-signed the free agent outfielder.  Gutierrez had a career renaissance in 2015.

After missing most of the past several seasons, Gutierrez posted amazing numbers in his comeback season.  He slashed .292/.354/.620 in 59 games, all of which were career highs for the aging outfielder.

Gutierrez might not be the player he was 7-8 years ago in the outfield but, again, that .354 OB% is a number Dipoto saw, liked, and had to keep.  I like the move.  Franklin is a fan favorite and if the production is still there, he’s worth taking another chance on.

Grade:  A-

M’s Trade Enyel De Los Santos and Nelson Ward for Joaquin Benoit

After Fernando Rodney imploded in 2015, following a stellar 2014, the Mariners had to do something to come up with a closer.  Dipoto’s solution was to trade Santos and Ward for the Padres closer, Joaquin Benoit.

Chances are you haven’t heard of the young shortstop, Ward, or the outfielder, Santos.  Ward was not really a huge chip to lose.  Santos, on the other hand, was one of several top outfielder prospects that the M’s had in their system.  I guess Jerry figured he could spare one.

The return for the M’s in Benoit is a bit questionable.  Benoit had a great 2015 for the Padres as a setup man.  He’ll be asked to close now for the M’s and he’s going to turn 39 years old before the 2016 season is over.  The good news here is that he’s only under contract for the 2016 season.

Benoit could easily have another stellar year, this time as a closer for the M’s.  He could also just as easily, at 39 years old, lose it, just as Rodney did.  It’s really a crap shoot.

Grade:  C+

M’s Trade Tom Wilhelmsen, James Jones, and Pat Kivlehan for Leonys Martin and Anthony Bass

Jerry sold several familiar M’s names to get the kind of outfielder the Mariners have not had in a very long time.  Wilhelmsen, Jones, and Kivlehan were the price to get Leonys Martin away from the Rangers.

Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners

Someone else will have to serve the drinks in Seattle now.

Martin is a true centerfielder.  The M’s haven’t had a guy like this since Mike Cameron.  He’ll be the everyday guy in center for the M’s for quite a while.

Wilhelmsen really wasn’t happy in Seattle.  He fought them on his contract in arbitration and lost.  Jones was a good outfielder but while he’s a good athlete and can play center, he’s not on the same level as Martin.

Jerry made no bones about the fact that he wanted a highly gifted outfielder and he went and got it.  All it cost him was a disgruntled, average reliever, an average outfield defender, and a minor league utility guy in Kivlehan.  Oh, and he got a pretty good reliever back in the deal Anthony Bass.  I think it’s a great move for the Mariners.

Grade:  A+

M’s Trade Ramon Flores for Luis Sardinas

In another, cheap, under the radar, subtle move Dipoto traded Ramon Flores for Luis Sardinas, a pretty interesting second baseman prospect.  Flores was a pretty solid corner outfielder prospect but again, the M’s are just stacked with outfielders in their minor league system.

Sardinas is extremely unrefined at the plate at this point in his career but he’s a very good defender at second base.  You really have to think longer term if you want to see the real hidden value for the M’s in this deal.

Robinson Cano is not going to play second base for the remaining eight years of his contract.  In fact, it wouldn’t shock me to know that 2016 is his last at that position.  He’s going to move to first base.  It’s just a matter of time.

Jerry will want a savvy defender to take Cano’s place eventually.  Sardinas could very well be that guy, eventually.  I like the move, despite the fact that it’s difficult to see just yet.

Grade:  B
Mike Zunino needs an opportunity at AAA to regain his confidence.

Mike Zunino needs an opportunity at AAA to regain his confidence.

M’s Sign Free Agent Chris Iannetta

Everyone who knows me knows I love Mike Zunino.  The simple fact of the matter with Z is that he was rushed to the bigs because the M’s lost 3 major league catchers in 3 months.  Frankly, that is a shame, and not just for the injured players, but for Zunino as well because it has damaged his confidence.

I still have faith that Zunino will be a great major league catcher in the years to come but the man needs some at-bats and time to figure out his swing at AAA, something he has never had.  Seriously!  The man has 41 career ABs at AAA.  It’s ludicrous.

Dipoto solves this problem by bringing in Iannetta, a veteran catcher, coming off a down year.  Here comes that number again – but Iannetta does boast a career OB% of .351.  No one should find it shocking that Dipoto would go after a guy with those kind of numbers.

Grade:  B+

M’s Sign Free Agent Justin De Fratus

Speaking of guys coming off a down year, here comes Justin De Fratus to the M’s bullpen as an affordable free agent.  De Fratus is still young (28), throws hard (92-93), and despite a relatively high ERA in 2015 (5.51) still had a WHIP of 0.92.

In looking at De Fratus’s numbers, it seems to me that the Phillies simply overused the right hander to the point where he ran out of gas.  De Fratus threw 80, innings which is almost 30 more than he’s ever thrown in a season as a reliever in five seasons.

There’s really nothing to not like here.  The move is so low risk for Dipoto he can’t really go wrong here.

Grade:  B
I actually really like Trumbo but Lind will fit Dipoto's system better and is a cheaper option.

I actually really like Trumbo but Lind will fit Dipoto’s system better and is a cheaper option.

M’s Trade Mark Trumbo for Steve Clevenger

There’s a couple of layers to the move Dipoto made when he sent Mark Trumbo to the Orioles for Steve Clevenger.  The first is one I have already mentioned – Zunino needs to be the regular at AAA.  He can’t do that if he still backing up Iannetta on the M’s roster.  Obviously you need a backup catcher to make that happen and Clevenger is the guy.

Why would it be Clevenger and not someone else?  Well, look at Clevenger’s OB% for the Orioles in 2015.  It will be .314 if you do.  Are you sensing the pattern by Dipoto yet?  .314, albeit in limited ABs as a backup, is Brian McCann territory.

The cost was sending Trumbo, a legit 30 homer guy, out of town, along with his $9,000,000 price tag, which is the other layer of the trade.  Dipoto didn’t want to pay that much for a guy who is an average defender and whose career OB% is only .300, even if it means that Jesus Montero is now the only first baseman on the roster. (Scroll down for the Lind trade)

This is an interesting move.  I like Montero but I think yet another move will be needed to help cover first.

Grade:  A-

M’s Trade Trey Cochran-Gill for Reliever Evan Scribner

In a clear effort to replace some of the bullpen arms he dealt away earlier, Dipoto sent minor leaguer Trey Cochran-Gill to the A’s for semi-experienced reliever Evan Scribner.

This move is a a do or die move for Dipoto, and for Scribner, who is coming off an injury.  Scribner is out of minor leage options so if he fails to perform during the spring, Dipoto will have no choice but to put him on waivers and pray no one picks him up.  If no one does, then the M’s can outright Scribner to AAA in that scenario.

Scribner was having an excellent season in 2015 before he tore his lat muscle and had to be shutdown in June.  If he can return to form, he can be a highly effective reliever for the M’s.  Given that, and the fact that the M’s only had to surrender their 17th best prospect to acquire Scribner, I like the move.

Grade:  B

M’s Trade Carlos Herrera, Daniel Missaki and Freddy Peralta for Adam Lind

I think just about everyone knew something would happen at first base for the M’s after they sent Morrison and Trumbo away.  I like Jesus Montero but he isn’t ready to be an everyday first baseman.  He’ll make an excellent platoon partner with Adam Lind, however.

Dipoto acquired Lind by sending three teenager pitchers to the Brewers in exchange in Herrera, Missaki and Peralta, none of whom have ever pitched above Low-A Clinton.

Lind fits Dipoto’s OB% desire perfectly with a career .360 OB%.  Last year against right handed pitching Lind slashed his way to an impressive .291/.380/.503 mark.  Giving him the day off against lefties would seem to make sense as Lind’s numbers drop to .221/.277/.298 against south paws.

Losing Iwakuma could be a major error for Dipoto. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

Losing Iwakuma could be a major error for Dipoto. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

The other notable on Lind is that he’s a much better defender than either Morrison or Trumbo at first, plus, he’ll make only $8 million compared to Trumbo’s $9 million in 2015.

Grade:  A-

M’s Trade Carson Smith and Roenis Elias for Jonathan Aro and Wade Miley

Dipoto lost out on re-signing Hisashi Iwakuma when he refused to give him a third year in the deal.  I kind of understand that line of thinking.  Iwakuma is going to be 35 for the bulk of the 2016 season.  Then again, the M’s are going to have a closer pushing 40.  Isn’t that a double standard?

Regardless, losing Iwakuma, right or wrong, meant the M’s needed another proven starter.  Roenis Elias is a young, interesting starter but he’s no Iwakuma.  The solution was for Jerry to go get Wade Miley, a veteran lefty.

Miley’s numbers aren’t flashy.  He’s a career .500 pitcher, but he is a durable, innings eater and given that the M’s are going with Taijuan Walker and James Paxton in the rotation, they needed a guy who they could rely on to eat innings.

The real cost of getting Miley though is Carson Smith.  He was the M’s best reliever in 2015 and was someone I thought might challenge Benoit for the closers role.  It’s Benoit’s job to lose now, I’d say.

Of all the moves Dipoto has made, this is my least favorite.  He cleared the payroll by dumping Trumbo so that he could afford Iwakuma but then failed to get him to sign.  Now he’s still got the money because he traded for Miley to solve his error.

So what does he do with the 12 million or so that the M’s have to spend?  Time will tell and this much I guarantee you – more moves are coming, rapidly.

Grade:  D-
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About Brian Scott

Husband, Philosopher, Animal Rights Advocate, and Author Brian is a Spokane native and Gonzaga University grad. Seahawks, Mariners, GU Hoops and Cougar football are the teams that drive his passion for sports. You can catch him on twitter too! Connect with Brian today!
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