Sixteen months after the Mariners dealt him, the outfielder helped the Dodgers reach the World Series. While the trade stings, it’s something all general managers must deal with.
The doubles make him wince, the dingers make him cringe, the OPS makes him want to slap his forehead.
Any time Chris Taylor does something to make Dodger fans go “whoa!” the man who traded him thinks “why?!”
“It’s clearly the worst deal I’ve ever made,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “And it resonates every time he hits a home run.”
Ex-Mariners in World Series
SP: Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks, 2001; Derek Lowe, Red Sox, 2004; Cliff Lee, Phillies, 2009 and Rangers, 2010; Jamie Moyer, Phillies, 2008; Mike Moore, A’s, 1989 and 1990.
Relievers: Jeff Nelson, Yankees, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003; Mike Montgomery, Cubs, 2016; Brandon Morrow, Dodgers, 2017
DH: David Ortiz, Red Sox, 2004, 2007, 2013
C: Jason Varitek, Red Sox, 2004, 2007.
1B: Tino Martinez, Yankees, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001
2B: Bret Boone, Braves, 1999 (or Luis Sojo, Yankees, 1996, 1999, 2000).
SS: Carlos Guillen, Tigers, 2006 (or Omar Vizquel, Indians, 1995, 1997; or Spike Owens, Red Sox, 1986)
3B: Adrian Beltre, Rangers, 2011 (or Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, 2009).
OF: Raul Ibanez, Phillies, 2009; Chris Taylor, Dodgers, 2017; Dave Henderson, Red Sox, 1986 and A’s, 1988, 1989, 1990.
In June of 2016 — nine months into his stint as GM — Dipoto shipped Taylor in exchange for pitcher Zach Lee. The Mariners were trying to add depth to their pitching staff, and Taylor — who’d hit .240 with no home runs in 86 major league games — seemed like the epitome of expendable.
Sixteen months later, Taylor is batting lead off in the World Series after hitting .288 with 21 homers and 34 doubles this season. Lee, meanwhile, has pitched 12.2 innings over the past three years, none of which were for the Mariners.
These are the kinds of moves that tend to spike Zoloft sales in Seattle. Taylor going yard on the first pitch in L.A.’s Game 1 win hit Mariners fans like a George Foreman hook.
He could have been ours!!! folks surely screamed. He SHOULD have been ours!!!
Well, Jerry wants you to know — he’s right there with you.
“I whiffed. There’s no other way to categorize it,” Dipoto said. “He’s young, he was under club control — that was one I wish I could undo.”
OK, we’ll stop with the self-flagellating quotes. Hard as that trade may be on Dipoto, Taylor’s breakthrough was almost impossible to predict.
Despite his 109 doubles and 103 stolen bases in 432 minor league games, he wilted every time the Mariners called him up to the show. It wasn’t until Taylor began working with swing guru Craig Wallenbrock — who met Taylor after Dipoto dealt him — that he bloomed into an All-Star caliber outfielder.
Still, he did begin working with Wallenbrock, who made substantial mechanical changes to his swing. And he did start playing like an All-Star, as evidenced by his 4.7 WAR, good for 18th in the National League.
Nobody saw this coming, but everybody sees what Taylor is doing. And sometimes, that can interrupt a GM’s beauty rest.
For the most part, though, Dipoto takes the deal in stride. This is baseball, where No. 1 overall picks will miss the big leagues, and where 20th rounders become Hall of Famers.
The only way to avoid missing on trades is to avoid trading entirely. Dipoto understands that.
“It won’t be the last time I trade a player that flourishes somewhere else,” Dipoto said. “But we’ve also had guys that flourished after we acquired them.”
Mariners such as Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger fit this profile. So did Guillermo Heredia until about September. It’s the nature of what might be the most difficult sport to scout, but that doesn’t make the heart ache any less for the ones get away.
Dipoto noted how specialists have unlocked hidden talent across the league. He mentioned players such as Jose Bautista and Justin Turner, who went from journeymen to MVP candidates after finding the right swing coaches. Perhaps the next Chris Taylor is with the Mariners’ right now — just a leg kick or hand adjustment away from exploding.
And for what it’s worth, Taylor said he has no ill will toward the Mariners. He added that he met some of his best friends during his time with the organization and keeps in contact with them regularly.
Dipoto isn’t one of them, as they only knew each other for a few weeks. But that doesn’t mean Jerry isn’t proud of his former player’s success.
“Chris worked hard, put himself in that position, and took advantage of the opportunity,” Dipoto said. “I couldn’t be happier for him. Kudos.”
He sounded sincere when he said that. If Taylor hits another blast in Game 3 Friday, I think Dipoto will be mostly glad for him.
Key word being mostly.