Roster Churn as a Bullpen Negative?
of stars, scrubs and Andrew Albers, dept.


Super-NPB-fan IceX sez that USSM found an interesting philosophical question:


First material I've read from there in a while...

The [short summary] on it is... Is DiP's rostern churn causing more problems with the bullpen (and the long end of the roster) than actually fixing it?


Reading it over ... It's an interesting take indeed.  If you unpack the logic, USSM is arguing this:


1.  Teams that have any upper-minors pitching talent at all would not be doing what Dipoto does, which is also largely what the Dodgers did:  run a AAA shuttle bus, in an effort to at least provide matchup help for the major league team if they can't actually use the spots to protect any Rule 5 targets worth speaking of.

2a.  Theoretically a AAA carousel used this way (as a talent-depleted team uses it) could help, but what's annoying is that the M's carousel didn't actually help.

2b.  Proof:  the Mariners add players like Nick Rumbleow to the 40-man roster, at a considerable price in talent, but next thing you know, the player is gone anyway.

2c.  Exhibit A:  August's deal of Misiewic and Rengifo for Marjama and Garton.  ... at this point the argument rather inconsistently drifts into a statement that Ryan Garton looks, to USSM, stylistically like Nick Rumbelow.

Summary:  "But what have the M’s really gained in all of this churn? In order to kick the tires on a long list of pitchers, the M’s have essentially ceded the development role in AAA AND traded away a minor league team’s worth of low-minors pitchers. They’ve gotten essentially replacement-level production out of it, though of course guys like Simmons and Phelps are clearly better than that (when healthy). If Dipoto had some special eye for relief talent, that’d be one thing. ... So much of Dipoto’s “buy low” approach depends on a strong player development group that can help correct mechanical issues or improve strength/range of movement."


Making it real simple so the quick-scanners can understand USSM's complaint:

You need to stick with AAA relief pitchers for a while, to see if you can coach them up.

But!  The Mariners' constant churn costs them this opportunity to coach people up over the course of 1-2 years -- AND Dipoto has been giving away important pitching talent just he can give this guy and then that guy 6 innings' worth of "kicking the tires" on pitchers from outside the org.

So:  What would be better would be this ---- > with the #35-60 players in your org, point your fingers at who you believe in, and then stick with them, give them a chance to respond to your coaching.  Dipoto's process of rummaging through 29 other talent bins in order to try to find Andrew Albers, Erasmo Ramirez, Ariel Miranda, Max Povse, those kind of guys ... it's jittery, unproductive and is costing the M's any real chance to see if their Emilio Pagan types can turn into helpful pitchers.

That's USSM's charge, and it's an interesting one.



In the reductio ad absurdum, in the obviously most extreme scenario -- this "worry" has a lot of merit.  If that is all a team is doing?  Grabbing one guy and throwing him out there to see if he'll throw them a no-hitter, and then when he of course doesn't ... moving on to the next guy?  That's George Steinbrenner ca. 1990.  It's amateurish and incoherent, and nothing good can come of it.




Take the reductio ad absurdum in an easterly direction rather than a westerly .... we'd all agree that it's good for 30 teams to swap around their #35-60 roster players, the guys who are getting older and aren't finding it.  A "change of scenery" often IS what is needed by a Gil Meche, who became a star within a month of swapping over to the Royals, or Mark Thornton, who dropped his CG six inches and became a star in one week, or Carlos Guillen who became a real MVP candidate after being zero for us, and on and on.

Churning these scrub-scrubs is merely a chance to for these young players to find out whether somebody else sees their solution.  Knock yerselves out, guys.




  • All things carefully considered -- as it applies to the M's 2017 fringe pitchers -- what we have is a statement of self-confidence by Jerry Dipoto.  Dipoto thinks that he can out-GM the other GM's, so he's going to jump into the game and try to do so.  Dr. D encourages this attitude.
  • Andrew Albers got here and then threw like a man inspired.  
  • Marco Gonzalez has been argued up by several Denizens here, Bat and Zoom particularly seeing him as a #2 staff ace in the big leagues.
  • Max Povse, when I saw him, showed an awful lot.  
  • In other words I'll take Povse, and James Pazos, and Ariel Miranda, over a lot of guys who were here with Zduriencik.

But of course there are the false starts too, such as Gallardo :: shudder :: and frankly I have no idea how much worry there is over 1-2 years' 'development time' as it applies to high minors long relievers.  :: shrug ::


I don't have a good idea whether Jerry Dipoto has a better-than-average eye for fringe relief pitchers.  I mean, he used to BE one, meaning that as a compliment, so ...

As a general rule, when we're talking Stars & Scrubs, that is the POINT, that all of the cheap guys are fungible.  Pat Gillick was married to his Civics.  So in general, getting your top 15 roster guys figured out, and then madly rummaging through the bottom guys, it sits fine with Dr. D.  But, good question.






trading high-upside teens with fireballing arms for mediocre/uninspiring relief arms that are Ready To Go Right Now.  That's an inexcusable move, in principle, because it completely destroys your potential to find Stars on the farm in 1d4+1 years.  But when you're essentially swapping one type of reliever for another of CLOSE to equal value, it changes the landscape of the conversation to a much less concerning one.

I agree that JeDi has earned plenty of criticism for his results.  No problem from me on that front when it comes to the USSM and FanGraphs articles of late.  But PHILOSOPHICALLY I'm having a hard time getting worked up over his chosen approach.  Obviously if it worked nobody would be saying word one, and it SEEMs like it *should* have worked by now, given the volume, so that's a potential strike against JeDi on this front.

But if you're going to be active in the trade market, you're going to accrue several times as many head-scratching outcomes as the other guy precisely because you're trying to come up 7's as many times as possible.  Nature of the high volume game, I think.


i was not a big fan of the Tank for Gonzo swap, said so at the time.  I still remain slightly less than agnostic on it, pointing out that ’Neill has hit 87 HR’s over the past 3 seasons.  The worst he is going to be is a TTO platoon guy.  He’s BBed 100 pts vs LHP at both AA and AAA, and last season he ISOed .280-ish vs lefties.  Gonzo has grown on me some, I will admit.  That is tempered by the fact that he’s given up 98 hits/33 walks in 77 MLB innings.  He’s really never dominated at any level, but the best extended pitching stint of his professional life was this year in AAA for Memphis.  That’s what Dipoto was betting on.

So I get it.  Sort of.  But for a team short in high minors guys ready to play OF in the bigs, losing O’Neill’s power potential irks me.

4 incredibly cheap years of Gamel/Haniger/Heredia/O’Neill allows you to do a bunch of stuff elsewhere.  Will point out that Zunino’s 1st stab at AAA was not even close to Tanks’s ‘17.  Zunino just OPS’ed 123, I will remind you.  

Water under the bridge, I suppose.

Other than that swap, Dipoto’s revolving BP prospect merry-go-round has yet to hurt us.  Let’s hope it pays off.


Philosophically, I agree with the concept, but Dipoto's flavor feels pretty haphazard/frantic as well.

The M's back end of the bullpen is in pretty sad shape compared to even recent history.
Dipoto has in two years either plugged in some mediocre free agent or thrown a ginormous pile of spaghetti at the wall.

Relievers, as a whole, are volatile, so it makes sense to be just plugging in the hot hand.
But there are less-volatile pitchers as well.
Does it make sense to double down on the volatility by being even more volatile with roster choice?

In general, I think the interesting point is the combination of scooping up players, as described by USSM, and the fact that a lot of trades have ended up selling off control years (like Tank) too.

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