This much can be expected from general manager Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners at the upcoming Major League Baseball winter meetings – he won’t be making trades from a hospital bed like last year.
He might not make any trades at this year’s winter meetings.
With all of baseball gathering in downtown San Diego for the annual event that brings everyone in the game together for four days of meetings, networking, gossiping, tweeting and late-night imbibing, the expectation for the Mariners and their always-active GM to be “relatively quiet.”
“I really don’t see us being very active at the meetings,” he said.
Yes, Dipoto, the man of many transactions – approximately 200 players traded or acquired since he became the Mariners’ GM – doesn’t expect to be too active in terms of trades or player acquisitions.
“We will engage, like we always do, with teams in discussions about potential trades,” Dipoto said. “We do have some ongoing conversations with potential free-agent additions.”
And those free agents aren’t Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg.
“It’s very much more of the same,” he said. “What you’ve seen us do to this point, which is bring in guys like Kendall Graveman, like C.J. Edwards, who have had success at the major-league level and needed an opportunity to bounce back from struggles like CJ in 2019 or injury like Kendall. We want to be that team.”
With the recent trade of Omar Narvaez to the Brewers for a pitching prospect and a compensatory draft pick and the decision to non-tender Domingo Santana, Dipoto believes that his projected position player group is largely set going into spring training.
“We have very likely the position player club you are looking at right now, barring the potential for a trade, which is always possible,” Dipoto said. “That’s our team. We will line up around the field the way you would expect, based on the competition in camp for certain positions.”
While he didn’t mention it specifically, the organization has one looming position-player move it would like to make – trading second baseman Dee Gordon.
With the Mariners in rebuild mode and wanting to play their young core of players to gain valuable experience at the MLB level, Gordon’s presence on the roster is inhibiting that plan. They would prefer to play Shed Long at second base instead of bouncing him from position to position, finding ways to get his bat into the lineup. If Seattle could move Gordon, they could put Long at second on a full-time basis so he could continue to build and grow with shortstop J.P. Crawford.
Gordon is one of the few players on the roster with a MLB contract. He is in the final year of his five-year, $50 million contract he signed with the Marlins in 2016. His $13.5 million salary for 2020 and his decreased production because of injuries the past few season doesn’t make him coveted by many teams.
The Mariners would have to eat almost all of the money owed to move Gordon. Second base also isn’t a position where teams tend to invest major dollars, unless the player has premium power. Gordon’s .275/.304/.359 doesn’t fit that profile. But when healthy, he’s still viewed a useful player by opposing scouts. Sources indicate that the Mariners will shop Gordon all offseason.
A quick projection of the position players expected to be on the opening-day roster:
- Outfield: Mitch Haniger, Kyle Lewis, Mallex Smith and Braden Bishop or Jake Fraley
- Infield: Gordon, Long, Crawford, Kyle Seager, Evan White and Dylan Moore
- Designated hitter: Daniel Vogelbach
- Catchers: Tom Murphy and Austin Nola
- Other possible bench players: Tim Lopes and Patrick Wisdom
The pitching staff is less certain. The Mariners recently signed Graveman to join Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi and Justus Sheffield in the starting rotation. The Mariners will likely add another experienced starting pitcher to compete with talented prospect Justin Dunn for the fifth spot.
“We’d like to add a starter, but don’t feel it’s critical,” Dipoto said. “If we can find one more guy to plug in to give us more certainty innings-wise, that would be ideal for us. And with the fifth spot we want to provide some stability. We also want to provide the potential for Justin Dunn to walk out of spring training taking a start every fifth day.”
A level of versatility from that pitching candidate would be necessary. With only a few free-agent pitchers having signed contracts and the addition of some non-tendered pitchers, the market is still evolving, and the Mariners aren’t likely to secure that starting pitcher in San Diego.
“Finding the right guy who can step into what might be a little bit more of a nebulous role, and be built that way is kind of what we’re eye-balling,” he said. “As you might expect, that’s not something that is likely to happen early December. It’s probably more likely to happen sometime in January, or even as we head toward spring training.”
Recent non-tendered starting pitchers such as Taijuan Walker, Jimmy Nelson and Kevin Gausman could draw interest as well as relievers Blake Treinen, Ryan Buchter and Yimi Garcia.
“I can’t say anything was entirely shocking to us, but it is an awfully talented group,” Dipoto said of the non-tendered players. “There are a lot of good players available that weren’t available last week.”
There is a profile that they are looking from in that group.
“Bounce-back type of players, guys coming off injury, and especially players who are in their 20s,” Dipoto said. “Players we feel appropriately line up with what we are trying to do with our roster.”
The Mariners need at least one more experienced reliever to join recently signed Carl Edwards Jr. in the bullpen. It will be another bounce-back candidate and low-cost signing.
The Mariners will almost certainly take another relief pitcher in the Rule 5 draft after having some success with Brandon Brennan last season. It’s a way to add bullpen depth which is always needed.
It’s impossible to believe that Dipoto won’t be highly active. It’s his nature to never be satisfied with the status quo. He’s always exploring possibilities and potential moves with teams. And yet, there is a good chance he doesn’t make a single trade or signing, which by his standards, would be unusual.