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.
Jackson wasn’t all at that successful with Arizona (5.16 ERA), and will perhaps be more remembered for who Arizona traded to acquire him. Max Scherzer was sent to Detroit in a three-team deal that netted the D-Backs Jackson.
In addition to his ERA, Jackson’s -0.1 WAR with the Diamondbacks wasn’t all that impressive either. Perhaps because of that, it’s a good thing that Dipoto received a strong haul for Jackson (at least relative to the former Tampa Bay pitchers’ struggles).
Dipoto acquired pitchers David Holmberg and Daniel Hudson for Jackson.
Holmberg made exactly one appearance with Arizona, allowing six hits, three runs and three walks in a 3.2 inning start. He struck out a grand total of zero batters. The real gem of the trade is Hudson.
After arriving with his new employers, Hudson went 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts down the stretch in 2010. He followed that up with 16 wins in 2011. During that season, he tossed three complete games and compiled a 3.49 ERA (3.28 FIP). He struck out 169 batters.
Partly thanks to struggles in 2012 and 2014 (7.69 ERA in 12 appearances during those seasons) he transitioned to the bullpen in 2015. This season, Hudson has a 3.76 ERA (3.48 FIP) in 63 appearances. He chipped in with four saves while pitching 67 innings.
This grade would have been higher if Hudson stayed in the rotation and continually succeeded there, but he’s done well so far as a reliever.
Trade Grade: B+
On the July 31st, non-waiver trade deadline, Dipoto flipped Chris Snyder, Pedro Ciriaco and cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for D.J. Carrasco, Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby.
This may be one of the more strange trades I’ve seen. Arizona owned the fifth-worst record in the National League and were clearly committed to selling. They were only five-and-a-half games back in the wild card, but after dealing Haren and Jackson, weren’t going to make much noise.
Snyder was a slugging catcher and regular contributor, while Ciriaco was only 25 at the time. It’s defendable to deal a contributor when your team is trying to rebuild, but it’s odd to see a young player dealt. What makes the deal even stranger is the return the D-Backs received.
Arizona acquired Carrasco, Church and Crosby. In other words, three veteran players who didn’t hold much long-term value for a rebuilding team.
Carrasco was the best of the bunch. He posted a 3.18 ERA in 22.2 innings out of the bullpen. However, he wasn’t with the team the following year. Neither, for that matter, were Church or Crosby.
Church hit .265 with two home runs and seven RBI in 37 games to go along with a 19/4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was actually worth a 0.4 WAR in such a short span, but hasn’t seen the big leagues since.
Like Church, Crosby hasn’t been with another major league team since leaving Arizona. He hit .167 in nine games, registering two RBI and was caught stealing on his only attempt.
This grade gets a “C” mainly because the only good it did was to open up more playing time for Miguel Montero behind the plate. Other than that it seemed an odd trade of players who didn’t make a massive impact.
Trade Grade: C
In Dipoto’s final trade with the D-Backs, he shipped Chad Qualls to the Tampa Bay Rays for Matt Gorgen.
Qualls was an extremely reliable reliever for Arizona after coming over in the Jose Valverde trade. The reliever posted a 3.15 ERA (2.92 FIP) in 125.2 innings, racking up 33 saves and appearing in 128 games while striking out 116 batters.
Then the calendar turned to 2010 and things started to go downhill. Qualls’ ERA in 43 appearances was 8.29 (!). Qualls has turned it around since the trade, but it was probably smart of Dipoto to ship him away. Gorgen made it to Triple-A Reno in 2013, but posted a 7.18 ERA in 31.1 innings there. He’s pitched in the Independent League and the Mexican Pacific Winter League since.
Just all-around forgettable for the D-Backs. Qualls struggled and was traded for a pitcher who failed to reach the majors.
Trade Grade: D+
Now we get to Dipoto’s time in Anaheim. Since this post is only covering trades, I should point out that the new M’s GM did sign Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson on the same day when he was in charge of the Halos. He also made another big money signing in Josh Hamilton. None of the three have quite worked out as planned with Hamilton having already been shipped off the team. Pujols hit .328 in 11 seasons in St. Louis, but has only managed a .265 batting average with the Angels. He’s entered the weekend hitting .242. Did I mention Anaheim is paying him at least $25 million per season through 2021?
Wilson is only signed through next season, but is owed $20 million next year alone. He had a strong season in 2013, winning 17 games and posting a 3.39 ERA, but outside of that he’s been good-but-not-great. Take away his 17-7 season in 2013 and his record sits at 34-28. Only once (2013) since joining the Angels has his FIP been under 4.00.
Hamilton hit .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBI in his last season with Texas before signing with Anaheim. In 240 games over two seasons with the Halos he only hit 31 home runs and drove in 123 runs. He managed a .255 batting average in southern California.
Purely from a free agency standpoint, Dipoto didn’t knock it out of the park. If anything, his signings are more akin to a trying to stretch a double into a triple and getting thrown out to end the inning than a home run.
But now to the trade, or at least the major ones.
Kendrys Morales for Jason Vargas
One of Dipoto’s more significant deals while in charge of the Angels is one that Mariners’ fans know well.
In a rare major trade between division rivals, Dipoto flipped Morales to the M’s for the starting pitching help he was seeking in Jason Vargas.
Morales was, and has never been the hitter he was in 2009 when he hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 RBI. He had a strong season this year for Kansas City, hitting .290 with 22 home runs and 106 RBI, but that’s been the closest he’s come to mirroring his ’09 numbers.
After hitting .273 and only driving in 73 runs in 2012, Dipoto flipped Morales in the offseason for Vargas, who only spent one season in southern California.
Vargas posted a 9-8 record with a 4.02 ERA and a nearly identical 4.09 FIP. He struck out 109 batters in 150 innings over the course of 24 starts.
Morales posted a 2.6 WAR in his first season in Seattle, while Vargas’ WAR in his only year in Anaheim was 1.8. So from a WAR standpoint, Dipoto lost the trade, but his team needed pitching. Plus, the Halos already had Mark Trumbo and Pujols, so Morales was expandable.
Trade Grade: B-
The Bourjos Debacle
Dipoto Traded Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk to the St. Louis Cardinals for David Freese and Fernando Salas
Here’s where things get dicey.
Dipoto dealt ace defensive-centerfielder Peter Bourjos (along with Grichuk) to the Cardinals for Freese and Salas. Freese filled a positon of need and Salas helped improve the bullpen, but the reason this trade didn’t pan out for Anaheim was because of the loss of Grichuk. Dipoto had a tendency to drain the Halos’ farm system—you know, mortgaging the future for the present—and did so with this trade.
The loss of Bourjos and his defense was excusable thanks some guy named Mike Trout, maybe you’ve heard of him? However, while Grichuk loss continues to sting, Freese has underperformed.
During his time in St. Louis, Freese never improved upon his 2012 All Star campaign when he hit .293 with 20 home runs and 79 RBI. After moving to Anaheim, he still didn’t improve on those numbers, or even come close to reaching them. The most home runs he’s hit in a season since ’12 has been 14. Those have come this season. Additionally, his RBI numbers have dipped (55 in 2014, 56 this year) while his strikeout numbers have generally stayed the same.
While Freese has struggled in his new surroundings, Grichuk has thrived with the Cardinals. The outfielder is hitting .276 with 17 home runs, 47 RBI, 23 doubles and seven triples in only 101 games. He’s also provided strong defense in both center and left field while posting a robust 3.3 WAR. Grichuk only just turned 24-years-old.
Salas has an ERA of 3.83 (3.05 FIP) with the Angels. While the reliever has been solid with his current employers, Freese’ inability coupled with Grichuk’s potential and performance make this an ugly deal for Dipoto.
Trade Grade: D+
Acquiring Skaggs (Again)
As part of a three-team trade, Dipoto sent Mark Trumbo and A.J. Schugel to the Diamondbacks. The Halos received Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago.
Dipoto must really value Skaggs as a pitcher, because he acquired the starter, along with Hector Santiago, to shore up the Angels’ rotation.
This may end being one of Dipoto’s best deals. He unloaded Trumbo and a minor-league pitcher for two young, affordable/controllable pitchers with upside.
The Mark Trumbo experiment didn’t really pan out in Arizona as the slugger managed a .243 batting average, 23 home runs and 84 RBI in 134 games spanning two seasons. Trumbo appears to be turning it around with the Mariners, but he hasn’t been the same player since leaving Anaheim.
Schugel only just reached the big leagues this season, allowing 17 hits, 13 runs and five walks in only nine innings pitched as a 26-year-old rookie.
Skaggs went 5-5 with a 4.30 ERA (3.55 FIP) in 18 starts. At only 24-years-old, he seems destined to stick in the Angels’ rotation for years to come.
Based on his early numbers, it seems like Santiago will also stick in the rotation for the foreseeable future. While he did struggle in the second half (5.75 ERA, 49 runs and 63 hits allowed in runs allowed in only 67.1 innings pitched), his first half numbers indicate a bright future.
Santiago went 11-8 with a sparkling 2.30 ERA in 113.1 innings pitched, striking out 108 batters over that span. Opponents only hit .220 off him. Those stats earned him an All-Star nod. The 27-year-old won’t hit free agency until 2018, and if he can continue to put up numbers similar to the first half of 2015, he could make his stay in Anaheim an extremely long one.
Trade Grade: A
A Minor Trade for a Change
In a smaller deal, Dipoto flipped utility infielder Andrew Romine to the Detroit Tigers for reliever Jose Alvarez
While adept at making bigger, more blockbuster-esque deals, Dipoto can also make the occasional smaller deal that pays dividends. In this move, he dealt a surplus infielder for a reliever in Alvarez who has blossomed into a dependable reliever in Anaheim.
Alvarez threw 67 innings, posting a 3.49 ERA as well as 59 strikeouts.
Romine also provided value with his new employers as a utility player, posting a 1.9 WAR and a 1.8 dWAR in two seasons with the Tigers.
Trade Grade: B
What’s important about this trade is that Dipoto was able to bring in a player that improved the team without giving up much. These kinds of trades could become commonplace in Seattle as Dipoto has already articulated in a piece in the Seattle Times that he believers Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez are the team’s “core players” and “The greater likelihood is, we’ll focus on those four guys, and Taijuan Walker, as the core we’re trying to build around. And we’ll have to be more creative in finding ways to augment that group…”
The Angels swap struggling closers with the Pittsburgh Pirates, trading Ernesto Frieri for Jason Grilli
Frieri pitched well for the Angels in his first two seasons with the club. The former San Diego Padre posted a 2.32 ERA and 23 saves in his first half season with the club, after being acquired from the Padres, in 2012. The next year he pitched to a 3.80 ERA and converted 37 saves.
Things were a little different in 2014. Frieri’s ERA skyrocketed to 6.309 and he only made 11 saves in 34 appearances. Dipoto flipped him to the Pirates for the also-struggling Jason Grilli.
While Frieri continued to struggle (10.13 ERA in 14 innings pitched) in Pittsburgh, Grilli was a massive hit in Anaheim.
The journeyman reliever posted a strong 3.48 ERA and an even better 2.15 FIP in 33.2 innings pitched.
Trade Grade: A-
In a similar vein to the Romine/Alvarez swap, this deal shows that Dipoto can trade excess, or in this case struggling, players for contributing players who have a positive impact on the team. Frieri’s WAR before the trade was -1.0 while Grilli’s WAR after joining the Angels was 0.1. Essentially, Dipoto acquired a win in a minor deal. Not a bad day at the office.
Anaheim acquired outfielder Tony Campana and reliever Joe Thatcher from the Diamondbacks for minor leaguers Zach Borenstein and Joey Krehbiel
Yet another minor trade that was made to reinforce the team, Dipoto sent two minor league players to his old employers for an outfield speedster in Campana and a dependable reliever in Thatcher.
Campana was once a well-regarded prospect, but failed to stick with the Angels despite a .333 batting average in an 18-game cup of coffee.
Thatcher failed to stick as well, as the reliever put up an ugly 8.53 ERA in 16 games for the Halos. His FIP is a much more aesthetically-pleasing 3.92, suggesting that he’s much better than his initial stats with the Angels would indicate. Still, it was a low-risk move to acquire two potentially impactful, complimentary players for a pair of minor leaguers who have yet to reach the majors.
Trade Grade: C-
Acquiring Huston Street
In another attempt to booster the team’s bullpen, Dipoto sent a bevy of prospects to the Padres for closer Huston Street and prospect Trevor Gott
Dipoto shipped out a number of his better prospects, sending out former first-round pick and second baseman Taylor Lindsey, former fourth-round pick, pitcher Elliot Morris, shortstop/third baseman Jose Rondon and pitcher R.J. Alvarez.
This trade has worked out well for the Angels. Street has stabilized the back of the bullpen by posting a 2.74 ERA and 57 saves in 88.2 innings for the Halos. The other player Anaheim received has helped the ‘pen as well. Trevor Gott posted a 3.02 ERA in 47.2 relief innings.
While the performances of Street and Gott have been helpful to the Halos’ bullpen, the trade could have gone disastrously thanks to all the talent surrendered. Dipoto has a tendency to leave his farm system bare and not develop it all that much. This is a key example of this. If Dipoto wants to build a consistent winner in the Pacific Northwest, he’ll need to build from within while also making successful trades and signings.
Adding a pitcher
The Halos sent catcher Hank Conger to the division-rival Houston Astros for fellow catcher Carlos Perez and starting pitcher Nick Tropeano.
Conger, a former top prospect, was never quite able to unseat Chris Iannetta as the Angels’ primary catcher. Dipoto essentially swapped backup catchers while adding a young arm in Tropeano.
In his last season in Anaheim, Conger posted a .618 OPS and a 0.7 WAR. Perez posted a slightly-better .652 OPS while contributing a 1.1 WAR while Tropeano went 3-2 with a 3.82 ERA (2.61 FIP) in eight appearances, seven of which were starts.
Essentially, Dipoto upgraded at backup catcher while adding a young, controllable arm with potential and somewhat of a track record. This kind of shrewd trade execution would be more than welcome to Mariners’ fans.
Trade Grade: A+
After eight illustrious years with the Angels, Howie Kendrick was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for top pitching-prospect Andrew Heaney
Perhaps Dipoto sought to make up for ravaging his farm system by acquiring one of the game’s best pitching prospects in Heaney. And while the young starter showed promise with a 3.49 ERA in 18 starts, the loss of Kendrick was a tough pill to swallow.
Anaheim struggled to replace the team’s longstanding second baseman. Angels’ second baseman, collectively, finished 25th in the league in Wins Above Average by Position with -1.5.
The addition of Heaney may pay massive dividends in the long haul, but the loss of Kendrick and his hitting acumen (.293 career hitter, .295 average with the Dodgers in 2015) stung.
Trade Grade: B
Trying to Fix Left Field
Dipoto continued to try and plug holes, adding left fielder Matt Joyce from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for reliever Kevin Jepsen
Based on pre-2015 production, this seems like a fair trade. A solid reliever for a corner outfield bat who can hit 20 home runs.
Based on post-2015 production, this seems like an awful trade. Joyce didn’t win any Gold Glove award based on his defensive statistics, nor did he hit particularly well either. The former Tiger managed a meager .174 batting average in 93 games. He hit five home runs and 21 RBI. With the exception of the 2009 season when he only played in 11 games, those numbers are all career lows.
Before arriving in Anaheim, Joyce’s career OPS was .783. His OPS with the Angels? .564. Yikes.
To add insult to injury, the Angels’ left fielders posted the third-worst number of wins above average in the league. In other words, Angels’ left fielders were the third worst group of left fielders in baseball while Joyce received the majority of the at-bats at that position.
Jepsen, however, did not struggle at all in 2015. In fact, he thrived.
The reliever posted a 2.33 ERA while appearing in a league-best 75 games between stops in Tampa and Minnesota (he was dealt at the trade deadline from the Rays to the Twins).
Jepsen especially thrived as a Twin. He registered a 1.61 ERA while racking up 25 strikeouts and 10 saves in only 28 innings of work.
Trade Grade: F
Dipoto has shown that he can make shrewd trades that cost his team very little, but net them a positive gain. He’s also shown that he can leave a farm system in shambles. Both Baseball America and Bleacher Report currently rank the Angels as the third-worst farm system in the league. It’s a tad bit scary to think of where those systems would be ranked without the likes of Heaney, Tropeano and Sean Newcomb.
In Seattle, Dipoto needs to add as much talent as he can to the already existing bunch of players. The Mariners will need all the help they can get if they want to catch the Rangers, Astros and Angels in the American League West. If Dipoto can add an influx of talent without spending heavily financially, or in players losses (via trade), he stands to be successful in Seattle.
It’s not the easiest job in the world, but someone has to do it. Hopefully Jerry Dipoto can bring his shrewd trading acumen to the M’s front office without sacrificing a number of the team’s bright, young talents.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.