With their annual pre-spring training luncheon and the Fan Fest celebrations unable to be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mariners replaced the lost events with a two-week online media barrage that they are labeling the “Virtual Baseball Bash,” which started on Tuesday.
The first, and probably most important, of the scheduled media sessions featured Jerry Dipoto, who enters his sixth season as the team’s general manager. Always verbose and explanatory in his answers, Dipoto took questions on a variety of subjects from the local media for roughly 50 minutes on a video Zoom conference.
Perhaps the most notable comments — at least the ones that generated buzz on social media — were his expectations for the 2021 season, the team’s offseason moves or lack thereof and whether financial constraints were the reasons and the status and timeline to success of the “stepback” rebuild.
Times beat writer Ryan Divish and columnist Larry Stone, who both wrote about those subjects, spend a good portion of their conversation on the podcast analyzing what was said. They discuss Dipoto’s seemingly tempered expectations and the logic of saying them publicly, the motives behind the minimal offseason acquisitions, the possibility of making more and what stage they believe the rebuild is in and when it might be successful.
For reference, the entire audio of Dipoto’s media session is on the podcast after the Divish and Stone’s conversation.
The topics addressed by Dipoto include:
- Expectations for the 2021 team
- Bullpen upgrades
- The slow pace of free agency and if they’ll continue to shop the market
- The effect of the shortened MLB season and no minor league season on player development
- The arrival of the next wave of prospects
- An under-the-radar prospect that will emerge
- The six-man rotation and innings limits
- Evaluation of young hitters
- Payroll being affected by lost revenues of the COVID season
- Injury updates — Mitch Haniger, Shed Long Jr. and Andres Munoz
- Spring training starting on time and possible rule changes
- Evan White
- Difficulty of scouting amateur players for the 2021 draft
- The next steps for JP Crawford
- The catching situation
- Encouraging signs from 2020
- The addition of Hisashi Iwakuma to the player development staff
- COVID-19 during the offseason and protocols for spring
- Vaccinations for players
- His relationship with manager Scott Servais