Hours before the Orioles’ 8-7 win over the M’s on Wednesday, Seattle acquired starting pitcher Mike Leake from St. Louis. Will it pay off for the M’s? Well, based on the trades Dipoto has made since he got here, the answer is as simple as heads or tails.
He trades incessantly, relentlessly — perhaps even obsessively.
In the past 23 months, he has made more deals than anyone in Major League Baseball.
Nearly two years after becoming the Mariners’ general manager, Jerry Dipoto remains the game’s most entertaining executive.
One question, though: Has he actually made this team better?
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It’s a fair query given how the M’s just lost their fifth consecutive game and sit at 66-68 for the season. And it’s especially fair given how that defeat came on the same day as another Dipoto trade.
Hours before the Orioles’ 8-7 win over the M’s on Wednesday, Seattle acquired right-handed starting pitcher Mike Leake, $17 million and international bonus-pool money from St. Louis for minor-league infielder Rayder Ascanio. Lots of moving parts on that deal — but the needle wasn’t one of them.
In Leake — who will be under club control through 2021 — Seattle gets a starter that epitomizes average. The 29-year-old has a 4.02 career ERA and was at 4.21 this season before the Cardinals shipped him and his $55 million contract out.
So will it pay off for the M’s? Well, based on the trades Dipoto has made since he got here, the answer is as simple as heads or tails.
Take a move such as dealing pitcher Nate Karns for Jarrod Dyson, and it’s hard to think Seattle didn’t win. Injuries have limited Karns to just eight starts this season, and Dyson has dominated the outfield and base paths for Seattle, racking up a 2.2 WAR in the process.
But then you look at how the Mariners got Karns in the first place — trading Logan Morrison, Brad Miller and Danny Farquahar for him, C.J. Riefenhauser and Boog Powell last year — and it doesn’t look so productive.
Morrison has 32 home runs for the Rays this year. Miller had 30 for them last year (although his numbers are way down this season). Riefenhauser, Powell and Karns haven’t done much of anything.
We can play this game for a while.
Ben Gamel? Great pick-up by Dipoto. He was leading the AL in batting average at one point this year and was acquired for a pair of low-end pitching prospects.
Chris Taylor? Terrible give-away by Dipoto. The infielder has a 4.4 WAR for the Dodgers this year — second-best on the team — and was traded for pitcher Zach Lee, whom the Mariners waived in December.
Acquiring first baseman Yonder Alonso for Powell was a buy-low move that has paid dividends for the Mariners. Trading away pitcher Mike Montgomery for Daniel Vogelbach — who has a minus-0.4 WAR in his seven games this season — has not.
As far as Dipoto’s most significant trade to date? The one that moved Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to the Diamondbacks for Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger? Even that one is up for debate.
Segura, who gave Seattle a shortstop and leadoff man in one fell swoop, is hitting .299 this season — good for 10th in the American League. But Walker has logged more than 126 innings and has a 3.55 ERA.
Haniger exploded out of the gate but has struggled since returning from injury. Marte has played well since returning from the disabled list.
The combined WAR for Segura and Haniger this season is 3.3. The combined WAR for Walker and Marte is 3.6.
Of course, evaluating trades based on one season isn’t fair. Dipoto has made a concerted effort to acquire players he can control for years to come. But are those players going to produce?
Plenty of Dipoto’s decisions are worthy of praise. He never traded the ageless Nelson Cruz. He has gotten solid production from Guillermo Heredia. And his team (barely) remains in the wild-card picture despite a slew of injuries.
But he also has made a series of deals (Seth Smith for Yovanni Gallardo, Tyler O’Neill for Marco Gonzales) that seemed to serve quantity more than quality.
Just before the trade deadline, former Fox Sports baseball writer Ken Rosenthal quoted an anonymous executive, who said of Dipoto: “I’ve never gotten it. It feels like he has made 348 trades to turn a .500 team into a .500 team.”
Given that the Mariners finished 10 games better in 2016 than they did in 2015, this seemed unfair at the time. Now? I don’t know.
Given its injury-prone rotation, Seattle’s starting pitching doesn’t necessarily stand to get much better next year.
And with Cruz and Robinson Cano getting a little more banged up each season, the offense might take a dip as well.
An endless list of transactions can tell us exactly what Dipoto has done. But do we know what he has accomplished?