New Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto’s First Priorities

The Seattle Mariners wrapped up a disappointing season on a positive note, claiming a 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics. The attention now shifts to the offseason, where new general manager Jerry Dipoto will be tasked with turning the team around.

Dipoto has already made it clear that he’s keeping hold of, and building around, “core” players Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez.

Thankfully, none of those four players will be leaving the Emerald City any time soon. If the M’s finished 76-86 with that quartet, who knows how they’d fair without the foursome? Odds are it wouldn’t be pretty.

Dipoto has his work cut out for him, but if he can creatively fill some of the team’s needs without losing much either in a trade or in salary, the M’s have a chance to contend next season.

Among the most prominent needs is at catcher. Per Baseball Reference, Seattle catchers collectively finished last season with the worst wins above average by any backstop grouping in the league. Mike Zunino and company were worth -3.9 wins below average. No other catching group was worse than -2.6.

The problem with the situation is that Zunino is only 24-years-old. The Mariners aren’t going to bail on the former third-overall pick that quickly, but he has to start improving offensively. Zunino has a career .193 batting average in 1055 plate appearances. This simply isn’t going to cut it. Adding another catcher to the roster in the same vein as the Wellington Castillo transaction.

In addition to a catcher, Seattle needs a leadoff hitter. Ketel Marte performed atop the order, hitting .283 and stealing eight bases in 57 games. However, the team may find easier to find an outfielder who hits atop the order. Mariners’ center and left fielders both were below league-average in terms of wins above average. Seattle left fielders were worth -0.2 wins below average while centerfielders were worth -1.3 wins below average. Only four teams had worse production from their centerfield groupings, so perhaps someone like Denard Span, Dexter Fowler, or even Rajai Davis, could make sense.

(RELATEDAnalyzing Jerry Dipoto’s Top 14 Career Trades).

The M’s could use stand to score more runs. Only six teams scored fewer runs in the league. Another bat would certainly make sense. Mark Trumbo showed flashes of the talent he showed in Anaheim, but only managed to hit .248 against right-handed pitching. Logan Morrison was supposed to fill that role, but he hasn’t hit much either (.241 against righties, .190 against lefties). Justin Morneau could hit free agency and would be a fit. The former Minnesota Twin hit .316 with an .850 OPS in 184 games for the Rockies over the past two years. He’d be a great fit alongside Trumbo, especially considering he’s a career .297 hitter in over 4,000 (4,169) plate appearances against right handed pitching.

Last but not least, Dipoto must fix the bullpen. Generally a strength for Seattle, this year’s bullpen was often an eye soar.

Going back to the “Wins Above Average by Position” leaderboards, the M’s relievers finished fourth-worst in the league. The relievers were worth -3.4 wins below average. The group may get better simply by subtraction. Fernando Rodney has already departed while a number of ineffective relievers could, and should, be jettisoned.

A number of quality relievers (Tyler ClippardJoakim Soria and Darren O’Day, just to name a few) could hit the free agent market, so Seattle will have its pick should the team chose to spend. Additionally, effective relief pitchers are found on the waiver wire every month, so there’s plenty of options for Dipoto to fix the bullpen.

New M’s general manager Jerry Dipoto has his work cut out for him, but he’s shown he can make shrewd trades. Seattle has a number of issues, but if Dipoto can fix them, the team has a chance.


New Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto’s Major Trade History and Grades

Unlike his predecessor, new Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has previous experience as a top decision-maker (for lack of a better term) in a major leaguefront office.

Dipoto presided over the Arizona Diamondbacks for a short spell as the Snakes went through a transition period. The GM shipped off a number of key players.

Following his stint in the desert, Dipoto took over as the general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

However, before we get to the spending and all-in moves made by Dipoto in Anaheim, his tenure in Arizona must be properly gone over with a fine-tooth comb—at least in terms of his trades.

Dipoto made a few major trades in Arizona. The most prominent of which occurred on July 25th, 2010 when he dealt Dan Haren to the Angels for Tyler Skaggs, Rafael Rodriguez, Joe Saunders and Patrick Corbin.

Haren was generally pretty outstanding in a Diamondbacks’ jersey. He earned All-Star nods in 2008 and 2009 while finishing fifth in the Cy Young voting in ’09. Over the two seasons he went 30-18 with a sparkling 3.23 ERA and 429 strikeouts in 445.1 innings pitched. His FIP was an even more outstanding 3.12. Haren led the league in strikeout-to-walk ratio in both 2008 and 2009.

The 2010 season was different for Haren. He went 7-8 with a 4.60 ERA in 21 starts. His FIP was a still-respectable 3.88, but it was clear his numbers were nowhere near his usual best. So with the Diamondbacks struggling, Dipoto sent Haren packing to his future employers in Anaheim.

The Haren trade was actually sneaky-good, in retrospect, for the Diamondbacks. Despite the ace posting an impressive 13.2 WAR in two-and-a-half seasons in the desert, he was traded. Haren was essentially dealt for three starting pitcher (Rodriguez threw 2.2 innings for the D-Backs and hasn’t seen the Majors since).

The first pitcher, Skaggs, posted a 5.43 ERA in 13 career starts for the Diamondbacks. The young pitcher was never quite able to put it together in Arizona. Dipoto later acquired Skaggs during his tenure in Anaheim. Skaggs and Adam Eaton to the Angels and White Sox respectively for Mark Trumbo (who strangely enough, was just dealt to Seattle a few months ago).

Saunders was extremely dependable as a member of Arizona’s rotation. He posted a 3.96 ERA in 424.2 innings for the D-Backs, serving as an innings eater. He only won 21 games in three seasons with Arizona, but was worth a 2.1 WAR.

Last-but-not-least,Patrick Corbin is the centerpiece of the deal. The starting pitcher has won 26 games in his three seasons with Arizona. He made the All Star team in 2013 and posted a 14-8 record with a 3.41 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 208.1 innings pitched. He missed 2014, but came back to post a 3.60 ERA in 16 starts this season. The 26-year-old is clearly one to build around for the D-Backs.

Haren never posted the brilliant stats he did in Arizona after leaving the desert. The fact that Dipoto received three major league starters for Haren, including an All Star and frontline starter in Corbin, makes the trade a win for him. Dealing an ace is never easy, but when you acquire three big-league starters, it’s looked at as a win—especially when one of the three has the potential to be a front-line starter for the foreseeable future.

Trade Grade: A

Five days after that Dipoto sent Edwin Jackson to the Chicago White Sox for David Holmberg and Daniel Hudson. Continue reading

Kam Chancellor Returns to the Seahawks: What the Safety Brings Back to the Team

He’s back.

Kam Chancellor ended his holdout and reported to the Seahawks on Wednesday

The Seattle Seahawks were evidently missing one of their leaders, especially on the field where the team allowed over 700 yards of offense (713) and 61 points (!) during the first two games of the NFL season.

So just what does Chancellor (re) add to the team upon his return?

First and foremost is his role as the “muscle,” for-lack-of-a-better-term, of the secondary. Chancellor is very much the enforcer to Earl Thomas’ centerfielder/last line of defense. DeShawn Shead and Dion Bailey (Chancellor’s temporary replacements) show promise, but neither of them can deliver a hit the way Kam Chancellor can.

Here’s Exhibit A:

And Exhibit B:

…And Exhibit C:

Also Exhibit D:

You can see why his nickname is “Bam Bam” (and not just because it rhymes with this first name).

Chancellor’s physical style of play not only meshes with everything the Seahawks do, it also helps the team in terms of intimidating opposing offenses. In a recent story by Michael Silver that ran on, defensive end Cliff Avril said the follow about Chancellor, “’His presence, by itself, it puts a lot of fear in the receivers, and even the running backs.’”

It’s one thing to start a player who can make tackles and perform at a high level, it’s a completely different thing when a player actually inspires fear in opposing players. With that kind of a reputation, Chancellor could have a major impact on the game without making a single tackle. In other words, opposing players are fearful of going near Chancellor, they may avoid him for large chunks of the game. Not a bad card to have up your sleeve if you’re running a defense that strives to minimalize the number of big plays.

On top of all that, Chancellor is one of the leaders of the defense, not mention the team in general. Remember, during the Hawks’ offseason trip to Hawaii, it was largely thanks to Chancellor that some of the defensive players went in the first place.

Having all of those qualities in one player, and to have that player back is huge for the Seahawks. Chancellor will likely play on Sunday against the Bears, though how much remains to be seen. Regardless of his snap count on Sunday, expect him to play more, if not the whole game in Week Four.

Did I mention he can also do this?

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