Seattle’s new GM has a base firmly entrenched in statistical analysis. The Mariners under Jack Zduriencik simply did not keep pace with what, for lack of a better term, was the Moneyball revolution.
As soon as Kevin Mather reeled off his list of criteria for the next Mariners’ general manager after Jack Zduriencik’s firing — experienced, fluent in statistical analysis, willing to delegate — I figured it was Jerry Dipoto’s job to lose.
And he didn’t. Lose it, that is.
Dipoto will be introduced Tuesday as the next Mariners’ general manager, becoming the third man over the past decade-plus to try to bring the playoffs back to Seattle.
It’s not exactly a distinguished legacy, particularly in recent years. Dipoto checks off the right boxes, though there are certainly some red flags that I’ll be interested to hear him discuss at the news conference.
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Earlier, I expressed a preference for what Mather referred to (on the day he fired Zduriencik, one month ago to the day Dipoto was hired) as “a young, analytical, computer-nerd type.’’ Dipoto has bona fides in all those areas (he’s 47; I still consider that young), plus he has the bonus of being a former major-league pitcher, which gives him a leg up in the scouting realm as well.
It’s particularly heartening to see Dipoto’s background in statistical analysis. The Mariners under Jack Zduriencik simply did not keep pace with what, for lack of a better term, was the Moneyball revolution. Just check the list of playoff teams to see that the bulk of them have relied heavily on metrics and statistical analysis.
But as Dipoto found out quite profoundly during his general manager stint with the Angels, it can be hard to sell those methods to old-school baseball types. By all accounts, Dipoto’s abrupt resignation from the Angels in late June came about because he felt manager Mike Scioscia and his staff were not implementing the analytical data prepared for them by the front office.
Dipoto reportedly went to owner Arte Moreno with an ultimatum; not surprisingly, Scioscia won that power struggle. Scioscia still has three years left on a 10-year, $50-million contract and has numerous playoff appearances and one World Series title on his Angels resume. Dipoto and Scioscia already had clashed regarding the firing of Angels longtime hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, one of Scioscia’s closest friends, by Dipoto in 2012.
Dipoto gets points for not being a yes man, and not acceding to Moreno or Scioscia. But he also needs to make a case why he won’t run into future rifts with the Mariners. My instant judgment, by the way, is that Dipoto’s hiring doesn’t bode well for manager Lloyd McClendon, who would fall into the “old-school” category of baseball men. I suspect, having gone through a tense situation in Anaheim with a manager he inherited, Dipoto will want to start out with his own hire. Still, McClendon deserves consideration. I’m sure that will be one of the first questions at the news conference.
Looking at Dipoto’s transactions, there are triumphs and disappointments, just like every man who has held that position. I tend not to judge him too heavily, if at all, on big-ticket acquisitions of free agents Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson — $440 million in contracts for which Moreno was the driving force.
One of Dipoto’s better trades was sending current Mariner Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks for pitchers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. Santiago has put up a 3.59 ERA in 61 games (54 starts) the past two years. The promising Skaggs has been derailed by Tommy John surgery.
Dipoto also solidified the Angels’ bullpen last year by acquiring closer Huston Street in July, signing capable setup man Joe Smith to a three-year, $15-million deal before the 2014 season, and picking up developing starters Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney in separate deals (though the latter cost second baseman Howard Kendrick, a big loss).
On the down side, the signing of veteran starter Joe Blanton (two years, $15 million) was a big flop, as was the acquisition of starter Tommy Hanson from the Braves for reliever Jordan Walden. Dipoto’s deal with the M’s — Kendrys Morales heading to Seattle for lefty Jason Vargas, both in their final year before free agency — was mostly a wash.
Dipoto’s big swap with the Cardinals before the 2013 season, in which he sent outfielders Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk to the Cardinals for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas, has been mixed, but Grichuk was having a breakout season before getting an elbow injury in August.
Dipoto made an aggressive stretch-drive trade in 2012 by acquiring rental pitcher Zach Greinke from the Brewers on July 27. But the Angels fell short of the playoffs, Greinke signed with the Dodgers after the season, and one of the players sent to Milwaukee, shortstop Jean Segura, became an All-Star.
The Angels did have the best record in baseball last year (98-64) under Dipoto’s regime, before getting swept in the division series by the Royals. The Angels are fighting for another playoff berth with mostly his players (Mike Trout does not fall in that category; he was drafted while Dipoto’s predecessor, Tony Reagins, was in charge).
The Angels’ drafts under Dipoto have been hurt by free-agent signings that cost them picks in the first two rounds in 2012 (penalty for signing Pujols and Wilson) and cost them their first-rounder in 2013 (for Hamilton). In Dipoto’s first draft as Angels GM, in 2011, he selected C.J. Cron with the No. 17 overall choice – right before the A’s picked Cy Young candidate Sonny Gray.
The Angels’ farm system has been ranked 30th, 30th and 28th overall by Baseball America over the past three years. That’s partially to blame on the talent he inherited, partially on the lost draft picks. This past year’s Angels draft was generally well regarded.
Dipoto has legitimate credentials. He also has a daunting task that other seemingly qualified men have failed to conquer. Can’t wait to hear his plan.