The Mariners' GM discusses a variety of topics in his recent podcast and says that "heavy lifting" of putting together the projected roster is done.

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After a one-week hiatus, general manager Jerry Dipoto’s podcast “The Wheelhouse” is back with a new episode. Dipoto spent the holidays in Hawaii with his family. But he’s back in Seattle and talking baseball and his team with broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith. It wasn’t a particularly eventful episode in terms of news. But here’s a few notes.

*** Dipoto hinted that the Mariners’ roster is largely set with a just over 40 days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

“For the most part, the heavy lifting in putting together your roster is done — most years. And this year is not any different. The heavy lifting in putting our roster together is about done. We are putting together our invitation list for spring training and starting to line up who is going to meet us down in Peoria. We are trying to look at the survivors of the minor league free agent market and who you might be able to add on the periphery and gives you a chance to create more depth.”

Does that mean he’s playing coy and still shopping for a starting pitcher? No. At least, it sure doesn’t seem that way.  And this seems to follow past comments about not desperately searching for starting pitching.  Unless the market suddenly shifted and starting pitching became unexpectedly cheap, it seems like he’s sort of set with his rotation of James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, Erasmo Ramirez and probably Marco Gonzales.

Speaking of the free agent market, Dipoto discussed a little of why it’s been so slow developing with so many bigger names still out there.

“There have been fewer free agents out there than in the past. You are seeing on social media that there have been a couple offers. Some of the things you’ve seen in the early months or at the midway point of this offseason market is that what Major League clubs have valued going in was the bullpen. And the bullpen guys were flying off the shelves. In a pecking order, teams went in with a series of wants and most of their wants existed in the bullpen. Those guys flew off the shelves at very high rates of pay and for longer contracts than is typically seen with the bullpen. And the rest of market is moving a little slower.

I also think what you are seeing is an element of — I hesitate to use the word ‘tanking’ but I will. If you’re intent is to rebuild through intentionally not winning games or not effectively trying to put the best team that you can on the field that generally shrinks the number of teams surfing through the free agent market. With a numbers of teams who have taken at least one, if not two or three steps back in their roster, I don’t think you are going to see a whole lot of aggression in the free agent market from those teams. Generally there are more and more of those teams with each passing year which leads to another series of points or discussions that we can have in terms of rebuilding. In this particular instance, I do think there is going to be a natural drag on the market on certain types of players. And what you did see, that the premium was paid for relievers because that’s what everyone has their eye on.”

Mariners top prospect Kyle Lewis won’t get an invite to big league spring training. The Mariners want him to focus on being healthy this spring and getting through a full season after dealing with knee issues in 2017. The hope is that he finishes the season at Class AA Arkansas. But he could still begin the season at Class A Modesto.

“Kyle is right now projected to be healthy, which is first and foremost the key. he’s been dynamic when he’s been on the field and we’ve seen it happen. We will not be bringing him to Major League camp. We’ll prefer to let him come along a little slower because he’s trying to bounce back from this injury. He’ll either start at Modesto or in Little Rock. We’ll let his health determine his pace of progression. We hope that he finishes the season at the upper levels and probably limit that to Double A for this year and that he puts himself in position in 2019 and beyond to be a big player for us in Seattle.”

Some people have asked about increased number of night games this spring, here’s his part of his reasoning.

“It is by design. We actually did that on purpose. One of the few things that we can greatly affect is our spring training schedule. The regular season schedule as defined by Major League Baseball, we only have some input to move things around. In spring training, we are attempting to do a better job of rest and recovery, which will allows us to start a little later in the day. It’s a little more fan friendly. We aren’t asking fans to show up for 7:30 a.m. stretch and then work into workouts. We’ll probably see the players get out to the field a little more closer to 10 a.m. than 8 a.m. And we’ll put ourselves in position for game time at 1 p.m. but still get our work in.

Off the top of my head, I don’t know how many there are. But the night games allow us to let the players get a little bit more morning rest and get on the field closer to mid-day and get a lot of actual work done in the mornings whether it be in the cages with Edgar and Scott Brosius or out on the field with Manny (Acta) or etcetera. It allows not just to focus on baserunners only, but our pitchers. What we’ve not done the last handful of years, we have not really controlled the running game as pitchers. The only way you have time work on those things is if you have practice time and the only way you have practice time is if you create it.”

Here’s the outline of the podcast from the Mariners’ PR blog ….

  • 0:00 — Opening banter on the break, cell phone batteries and more.
  • 2:00 — Jerry’s go-to food-finding app.
  • 3:00 — Describing this portion of the offseason, as we now start to look ahead to Spring Training.
  • 4:50 — Why there will be more Spring Training night games.
  • 6:25 — On baserunning, and how you address it during the season.
  • 8:14 — Fangraphs’ BSR stat and how you measure baserunning analytically.
  • 12:50 — The coaching meetings taking place at Safeco Field right now.
  • 14:50 — How each day at Spring Training is coordinated.
  • 16:40 — How Edgar Martinez still has it in the batting cages.
  • 18:15 — The slow-moving free agent market.
  • 20:45 — The baseball-wide trend of targeting bullpen upgrades.
  • 22:20 — The 2018 roster, and a bullpen that could set up to be a big strength.
  • 23:30 — The 2017 additions and how those are big heading into 2018.
  • 24:20 — The status of Kyle Lewis.
  • 25:15 — What the Mariners do to combat the fatigue of all the travel.
  • 30:10—New Year’s resolutions.
  • 32:50—Aaron’s completely absurd voicemail inbox recording.