Does Jerry Dipoto Want to Lose This Year?
we'll see whether there is method in his madness


First, a PSA.  Remember what we do here.  :- )   We don't attempt to be Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus or even USSM.  This is by no means an attempt to codify Baseball Truth as it unravels through history.

It's much more an attempt to simulate a Seattle-area Bill James Online, the attempts of an old fogey (who has seen 1,000,000 pitches +, as many of you have) to offer a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down on what seems to be happening this week.  This BEGINS a conversation which helps us enjoy a team that is most of the time (but not all of the time!) hard to enjoy.

Gordon's conception of a Slack Chat will enhance this experience nicely in 2018.  This week in 2018 -- CLICK THIS SLACK CHAT LINK -- the question emerged, "Does Jerry Dipoto intend to win in 2018?  What player, other than Dee Gordon, has been brought in that looks like an attempt to win in 2018?"


So an old Bill James-type wannabe offers his thoughts to begin this conversation:

(1) Transactions:

Tyler Pike, our best lefty minors starter, and Alex Jackson, an org top-10, for two ML-ready SP's Dipoto really liked, Povse and Whalen.

Traded Danny Farquhar, Brad Miller and Logan Morrison for Nathan KKKarns and scraps.  At the moment he viewed KKKarns, with his 10+ K rate, as a promising young potential TOR.

Shortly after, dealt Nathan KKKarns to the Royals for a few months of Jarrod Dyson in order to boost the M's chances of plucking a 2017 wild card spot.

Dealt (in effect) our most-prized minors pitcher, Luis Gohara, along with Yarborough and Vargas for Drew Smyly, a very good but fragile ML starting pitcher with 3 years of arbitration left.

Traded Patrick Kivlehan, along with Wilhelmsen and Jones, to the Rangers for King Leonydas, who was of course a starting major league player.

Traded Roenis Elias and Carson Smith (??) for Wade Miley (and Jonathan Aro).

Accepted Mike Leake's contract, with adjustments, from the St. Louis Cardinals.


From these trades and others you can almost see Dipoto taking the box that WAS the M's minor-league system, holding it above his head upside-down, and shaking it empty in an almost-frantic attempt to better his current 25-man roster.


(2) Don't forget that Dipoto is capable of huge surprises -- almost every one of his moves caught us all completely off guard -- for example his Nick Vincent trade was simply a PTBNL/$$$ that occurred on March 30th.

This is particularly a year in which it is easy to envision transactions that occur shortly before the season starts.  Let's hope one of them is for a Mike Leake type.  Or a Jake Arrieta type.


(3) It's hard for me to envision a place in the Mariners' starting 9 at which they can make an improvement.  It sounds funny but it's true.  Unless they're going for a blockbuster in LF, what do you suggest?


(4) SSI has long accused Dipoto of terminal self-confidence.  Dr. D thinks he can simply outsmart his fellow GM's into dealing himself into a championship roster, FA resources be blasted.

So far, no dice.  The M's hold pro sports' longest playoff-free streak, and what's worse, they are 12-for-14 in losing seasons since 2002.

I think an Arrieta move, or a blockbuster for an Archer type, is what Dipoto needs to legitimize his method.  But that's just me.  You?


Dr D




But at the same time, winning with the pitchers he already got would legitimize it more.  The additions late last year of Leake, Ramirez and Gonzales, while not done during the off-season, were clearly done with future years in mind.  Including this one.  Healy, Ford and Nicasio were also varying degrees of win now.  Nicasio is the free agent many are recently saying wasn't signed if I'm reading the complaints right.  And LL put together a pretty good case for Ichiro being the best win now option available to the M's for the situation.  People don't like that he didn't get the #2-3 type they would have.  Some people don't like the Ichiro signing and in both cases they apply what they think it means and often assert it as fact.  While it is possible that unknown motivations could be as bad as some suggest, the known facts show that it might not be the case.  Or certainly not, in my assessment of the assertion that Dipoto, Stanton, etc. don't want to win.

For me, the Twins picking up Lynn changed the landscape of the AL playoff race.  It seems to me at least that in order to minimize the M's playoff chances at this point, Arrietta just needs to sign with Minn or Anah...Snapping him up here would also avoid what almost seems inevitable otherwise. 


Surprising to me that we wind up shooting around so many corners together Wish.

Does seem to me that Dipoto is, reasonably, rolling the dice on his starting 9, and trying to ensure that his bullpen is foolproof.  ... or not ...


Obviously DiPoto wants to win. At least with regard to wanting to win, the issue is not DiPoto but those who run the organization above him. And we need to define what we mean by wanting to win. If it's merely a desire, then of course DP and The Org want to win. If it's putting a plan in place that has a conceivable chance to win if everything falls into place, then yes, DP and The Org want to win. But The Org sets the parameters within DiPoto must work. If you define wanting to win the way successful franchises want to win, you take whatever steps are necessary to make the playoffs more than zero times in sixteen years. This Org wants to win "comfortably." This was true in 2001, when they needed one more bat, it was true before that, and it's been true ever since. Do the M's want to win? Yes. Do they want to win badly enough to do what it takes to put themselves in the best possible position to do so, the way orgs do that will not accept season after season out of the playoffs? No. So the question is, where on the spectrum of definition of wanting to win do the M's fall? The record clearly shows they fall way, WAY over to the side of winning being aspirational rather than intentional.

A team that intended to win in 2018, given the Mariners' roster, would have strengthened the starting rotation significantly.


As you indicate DaddyO, every franchise in pro sports can be put on a continuum from "pull out all the stops, win this year" on the R over to a "be responsible, keep the powder dry, if we get a few breaks our way we'll contend" over on the L.

Chuck Armstrong and Howard Lincoln were an example of a far-L situation:  we're going to be "responsible," and if we win that's great.  Result:  a soul-sucking top-down message that winning doesn't matter that much, and 12 losing seasons in 14 years (with the other two only just over .500).

Nick62970's picture

He probably deserves the guff he receives (questionable trades, questionable farm-building ability, maybe inflexible on FA SPs), but! In 3 years he’s built most of a new lineup save the previous regime’s still-producing core to the point where we are discussing the challenges of finding places for all our new, interesting bats. Healy/Ford/Vog is three draws at the 1B/DH deck with potential for long term answers from all three. We all know what he’s done in the OF, with Haniger being his crowning achievement in addition to Gamel/Heredia, likely very good role players, and then the magic Dee conversion.  Jerry really does seem to have a unique eye for other teams’ talented but for some reason undervalued players. He’s also built what looks like a lockdown bullpen. 

To me the big unanswered question is whether he has an eye for SP or not. I’d say the jury is out. I think it will be answered this year, though, as we see how Gonzales finally gets healthy and settles into who he’s going to be, and whether Erasmo’s new cutter really gave him a mini plateau leap or not. To me it’s his rotation spot that Jerry is ignoring Arrieta/Cobb/Lynn for, so I hope he and Mel see more than I see. It just might be the difference between being the 2017 Bills and another year of “nice nights at the ballpark”.


In large part Dipoto's SP eye is hanging on his assessment of Gonzales, Leake, and Erasmo, or coming up with a Povse type from someplace or another.

Again, GM's don't get to search through 100 pitchers and rank them 1-100 and get graded on that.  They've got a limited number of moves they're going to be judged on.  Those that win are going to be celebrated disprortionately, and vice-versa.

tjm's picture

Everybody wants to win. And Dipoto as an elite athlete who reached the highest league in the world almost certainly wants to win more than just about anybody we normal folks ever met.  The question, as Daddy puts it, is whether the organization will go the extra mile. From this bleacher it sure doesn't look like it.

On the other hand, as Doc points out, DiPo's self-confidence is over the top. And he probably thinks, as Wish says, that this team can largely because of moves he has made. Given good health (huh!) the everyday lineup and bullpen could be superb. DiPo deserves big credit for that. Which leaves the rotation. Seems like every year or two there is an MLB rotation that comes out of nowhere to be really good. The A's do this over and over. The Cardinals. Even Texas has patched together rotations good enough to get an offensive powerhouse into the World Series.

My guess is DiPo sees exactly this scenario with this group - two proven winners up top, a great Number 3 and then the spaghetti wall out of which some really happy surprises could emerge. Would anybody be shocked to see Marco win 15 games? I wouldn't. I mean if Paul Abbott can do it .. . .

There are lots of ifs on this roster - Felix, Healy, LF the bottom of the rotation. If say they hit on half they'll contend. If they hit em all, they'll be something. My concern all off-season has been what happens at the other end of the dice roll. A team like the Astros needs a couple of really bad things to hapopen to NOT contend. We need a couple of really great things to crawl up the ladder.


Is not in your desire vs. Jerry's.  It's in your assessment of the SP on hand vs Jerry's.  It's in your understanding of payroll plans (including arbitration, raises or extensions, cap space, July targets, off-season targets, etc.) vs Jerry's.   It's in your understanding of what players agents are telling teams vs. Jerry's.  It's in your knowledge of other teams assessments of Mariners in trade discussions vs. Jerry's.  It's in your knowledge of costs and availability of other teams players vs Jerry's. 

But if you're psychic enough to know Jerry's thoughts and emotions please give me a call.  You'll know the number.

tjm's picture

. . . .at least to me. I acknowledged that Dipoto was betting on his assement. That's a non sequitur. Of course he is. Nobody here is saying he isn't.

And nobody is saying we have better information of any sort. He's the GM.  Of course he has better information. To say so smugly that we, or in this case, I,  think otherwise is insulting. Have fun with that.


As I said in response to docs comment, it was not aimed at anyone in particular, rather the general thoughts that have been kicked around of sports figures desires for many years.  Desire to win is just unknowable.  I'm sorry its become a hot button for me as well.

Your comment was well thought out and I don't actually see anything there that mine could have been a response to.


Just have gotten worn down by "desire" discussions in recent decades.  Others desires and emotions can only be guessed at unless they're shared.  That and I wanted to point out that there are many more details we take for granted that go into roster decisions. 

Nick62970's picture

re relevant at the ownership level than the GM level, where W-L record determines job security. Let us hope and pray this year delivers what we think it could and we can talk playoff matchups instead of psychoanalyzing Stanton’s desire to win or not :)



A little late to this, but Dipoto seems to be as rigid in avoiding extensions as he has been in avoiding large FA contracts, extending only Segura since taking over as GM. So why saddle the 2020/21 team with a big contract after protecting that budget all these years just to make the 2018 a stronger wild card contender? Given that the Mariner’s contract load drops from near $160m this year to ~$90m in 2020 after the Felix and Cruz contracts expire, there should be a growing budget surplus developing.

Clearly Dipoto is determined to navigate the middle way between the two conventional ways of team-building, that being spend big money for big stars, or spend years rebuilding the farm system. His desire to win could be devoted to building a perennial contender first while still competing in the short term rather than the other way around.

That still leaves the option of taking advantage of the slow FA market to get a pitcher on short term deal. But does Seattle have the leverage to make that deal or are they forced to overpay to get a quality arm? If you’re Lance Lynn after being kicked around all winter like a ball at 8-year old soccer game do you sign with Minnesota, an AL Central title contender and consensus wild card lock or Seattle? In other word, Dipoto may be out there pitching one-year deals but is anyone listening?


there's a Lewis, White, Carlson and Bishop above many interesting low level guys.  The draft this year could provide something around then. 


mild segue:

It's obvious Dipoto's goal is to eek out a wildcard. As he has argued, one could say there are more racing to the bottom than the top. On one hand, that suggests our chances are better. Unfortunately, with a lack of parity, strength of schedule plays a larger role than we are accustomed to seeing in MLB. A quick glance shows Cleveland and Minnesota have a the softest schedule in recent history, with the Tigers, Royals, and White Sox projected as 3 of the 4 worst teams in baseball (we see you, Marlins).

The Mariners, OTOH, have tough sledding week in and week out. According to Fangraphs (depth charts-WAR), we have the 7th best pitching staff and 9th best lineup in the AL (acknowledging the flaws in projections for some of our hitters). That's not quite enough to compete wins-wise with Minnesota getting 50 free wins in division (hyperbole, but not by much) right off the top. Every team in our division can at least hit a little bit. Here's to hoping TEX/ANA/OAK pitching staffs are as bad as they look to give us a fighting chance.


19 games against the planet-busting Astros are daunting enough right there....

OTOH we get to watch Pujols for 19 games ;- )

tjm's picture

This struck me as one of those things that I never thought of but is so obvious is retrospect:

"Because over the last decade, about 20% of defensive opportunities — as in batted balls in play — have evaporated. In this three-true-outcomes environment, it’s easier to hide a bat, to trade some glove for bat, when the ball is less of a threat to reach the field of play."

Combined with the idea from earlier discussions about 2B being devalued defensively by shifts, this makes DiPoto's move of Gordon look even more brilliant


Dee isn't that much of an offensive force to "hide" in CF.
He more or less seems like "stick the fast guy in CF" move than "move him up the defensive spectrum because stick".

Giving up glove for bat in CF is more like sticking Lance Berkman there.
Or Mitch Haniger.

I guess the M's want a leadoff hitter in the classic mold (fast, contact, BA depended OBP) than anything...?


How many times do you hear announcers say the winning team won because they wanted it more.  But "wanting it more" often just becomes synonymous with weird bounces that come your way, giving the impression of extra-effort and more desire.

I always cringe at that comment. 

I think the only question really worth asking is, has Dipoto used his available resources (salary/prospects) to put together a team that can win on a consistent basis, over a series of years?   If we win 87 games, missing out on the WC on the final day of the season, only to win 76 games each of the next two seasons, then where are we?

Segura, Haniger, Gamel, Vogelbach, Ford, Gordon, Marco, Healy were all short, mid and long-term acquisitions, or ideally so.  Some of those guys cost use S-M-LT guys to get them.  Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding:  Dipoto at least needs to deliver in the short and mid-term areas.  Did he pick the right talent, trading lesser players for more?

If not, he's gone in two years.

Everybody wants to win (even Derek Jeter "wants" to win this season), but if you're not making best use of your resources then you're relying a bit on more than a bit of luck. I can't find much overall fault with Dipoto's use of MiLB prospects, simply because the jury remains out (Tank vs. Marco, for example), but I can whine if I feel he hasn't grabbed impact players (that fit) off the FA list.  MLBT-R reported today or yesterday that we had made a 3-yr bid for Jon Jay, and only when he rejected it did we go out to grab Gordon.  If that is the case, then Dipoto was lucky, then good....all at the same time.


I'd be quite surprised to discover that player A won the beverage on the 19th hole because he was drooling over the victory more.  There's a Zen calm, a confidence, a RELAXED state of mind that slows the game down, that a player is searching for.  At least that's true in the sports I've played, including 18-handicap golf.

Even more so in scratch golf, no?


focusing on wanting can hurt your chances.  Someone said in a game recently "trying to impress can become pressing pretty easily".


That calm might actually be construed by some as "wanting it less" in a sport like football.  Getting out of your own way and "allowing" winning to happen is often way more successful than wanting that winning.

We "try" to focus in sport, but the funning thing is that we should relax to focus.  Isn't that was Yoda once told Luke?   Ever "try" to "relax?"

Dipoto certainly seems relaxed and Zenny.  I like that about him.  I will like it more if it carries him to some repeated success.

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