Meet the man who’s revolutionizing baseball

Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto made headlines earlier this month with monster trades and a trip to the hospital for clots in his lungs.

MLB.com

Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto made headlines earlier this month with monster trades and a trip to the hospital for clots in his lungs.

Jackson Posey, Staff Writer

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Jerry Dipoto doesn’t care what you think. He really, really doesn’t.

Backlash, ridicule, insults – they all seem to bounce off of him. And he keeps on smiling, confident that his manic schemes will lead to a revolution that baseball hasn’t glimpsed since the glory days of Billy Beane and his “Moneyball” concept swept the nation. Dipoto is likely to be the next executive thrust into the limelight. And he’s ready for it.

Tick, tick, tick. Finally, the announcement – ace pitcher James Paxton was gone. Top pitching prospect LHP Justus Sheffield (along with a couple of minor prospects) were in. The deal sent shockwaves around the league, as the Mariners – who won 89 games and nearly reached the playoffs for the first time since 2001 – began to tear it all down.

But “Trader Jerry,” as he is lovingly known, looked further. With division rivals Houston and Oakland looking like perennial contenders and the AL East trio of Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay looking like contenders on the rise, Seattle would struggle to even qualify for a wild-card berth.

And Dipoto is not the type to let the his world rot around him. In fact, no one has done more than he to escape the doldrums.

The Paxton trade was one of many. Just over a week before that fateful day, high-leverage RHP Alex Colome was shipped off to the White Sox in exchange for backup C Omar Narvaez. What followed was a string of events that left the baseball world stunned and might be the biggest chain of events the league has seen since Barry Bonds left Pittsburgh.

Dipoto doesn’t shy away from trading icons. In fact, he seems to revel in it. Since he was introduced as general manager on Sept. 28, 2015, DiPoto has made 82 trades. If your jaw isn’t dropping yet, it should be. Here is an exhaustive list of players left from the 40-man roster Dipoto inherited:

  1. Kyle Seager
  2. Felix Hernandez
  3. That’s it.

Seager’s name has been all over the rumor mill since the offseason began and likely would have been among those disposed of in the flurry of trades if not for his cost-prohibitive contract (three years, with roughly $60 million remaining on his deal).

Hernandez – formerly known as “King Felix” – is another player whose contract may prove immovable, as the former Cy Young winner is slated to make $27.9 million next season despite finishing this one with a 5.55 ERA (5.18 when adjusting for fielding) and a grand total of -1.3 WAR. This may be the swan song in Seattle for Hernandez, who has played his entire career in the Emerald City.

Paxton and Colome alone would have been painful losses for Seattle. Paxton was a legitimate ace that, despite the injuries, carried the rotation to a still-dismal ERA rank of 21st. Even if you adjust for fielding, the ERA only improves by 0.21 points, still placing them behind hapless teams like Arizona, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

But then DiPoto decided to strip the rest of his 10th-ranked bullpen to the bone, trading closer RHP Edwin Diaz and setup men RHP Juan Nicasio and LHP James Pazos in separate deals. Both were bona fide blockbusters.

We’ll go in order, just to keep it relatively simple. Second baseman Robinson Cano (3.2 WAR), RHP Diaz (3.2), and cash in exchange for RF Jay Bruce(-0.4), RHP Anthony Swarzak (-0.4), RHP Gerson Bautista (-0.3), 2016 first-round pick RHP Justin Dunn, and 2018 sixth overall pick Jarred Kelenic. Wow. That’s… a lot to unpack.

Cano is still playing at a fairly high level, but the 36-year-old’s contract ($120 million remaining) was viewed as a big negative. To offset some of the cost, the Mariners sent New York $20 million in cash, as well as taking on the deals of ill-fated free agent signees Bruce ($28 million) and Swarzak ($8.5 million). Still, the money owed to the 36-year-old Cano likely put a damper on the potential prospect return for Diaz. Bautista is a flame-throwing righty who has major control issues (5 BB in 4.1 innings in the majors) but has middle-reliever potential. Dunn played well over High-A and Double-A this season, with an 8-8 record and 3.59 ERA over 24 starts. He’s seen as a flawed player (8.5 H/9), but his control (3.46 BB/9) gives him mid-rotation upside.

Kelenic, however,  is the real prize here – the 5-tool CF played the entire season in rookie ball as an 18-year-old, flashing All-Star potential with his bat (.286/.371/.468) is impressive for someone playing in leagues with a cumulative average age two years older than his own.

We felt he was the best player in that draft,” said Dipoto, who appeared enamored with he and Logan Gilbert, whom they ended up selecting at pick fourteen, eight slots after Kelenic.

Despite what would be enough excitement to last some teams 10 offseasons, Dipoto wasn’t finished.

Remember that trade for the backup catcher? Well, the team apparently believed in him enough to trade starting catcher Mike Zunino in a multi-player trade centered around Tampa Bay Rays CF Mallex Smith.

Fun fact: Dipoto once brokered a deal with Atlanta for the centerfielder (Thomas Burrows and Luiz Gohara for Shae Simmons and Smith), before shipping him off to Tampa in a deal centered around Rays LHP Drew Smyly – with press releases coming within just 77 minutes of one another.

Tough break, Mallex. Maybe this time you’ll be able to stay put a little while longer.

Speaking of flipping assets, let’s look to Carlos Santana for an example of how little Mr. Dipoto cares about perception. On Dec. 3, the same day as the Mets deal, Dipoto and Philadelphia GM Matt Klentak sent the league some paperwork. The deal was set – Seattle was parting ways with All-Star SS Jean Segura, setup man RHP Juan Nicasio and other setup man LHP James Pazos (there go the top four relievers) for 1B Carlos Santana and SS J.P. Crawford, whom the team views as their shortstop of the future. At one point, the 23-year-old was a member of MLBPipeline.com’s top 10 prospects, though he exhausted his rookie eligibility early this year. From the outside looking in, he appears to be a lock to be on Opening Day lineup cards for years to come. Santana, however, was not long for the Mariners, as he was traded as part of a three-team deal with Cleveland and Tampa Bay for Edwin Encarnacion. It appears to be purely a monetary move, with the team saving $14 million in the move.

Not only did he pull off this trade, but Dipoto is so intent on his goal of lighting the past on fire that he signed off on the deal from his hospital bed, plagued with blood clots in his lungs.

And still, our hero marches on, saving us from the sluggish reality that is the MLB offseason. And he’s far from done. Though most of his trade chips are gone, Seager seems like an obvious candidate to be moved. All-Star RF Mitch Haniger, despite Dipoto’s cries of affection, is likely on the chopping block. Sure, he said that he would like to build around his young All-Stars. But he already felt “blown away” by an offer for Diaz, and it seems like only a matter of time until Haniger is gone too. Young SP Marco Gonzales seems like a safe bet to stick around, if only because of his age and controllability. But, as Diaz proved, young pitchers are expendable.

Jerry Dipoto is changing the world. Trades in the NBA and NFL have become commonplace, with visionaries like Danny Ainge (Celtics) and Howie Roseman (Eagles) leading the charge. But even they fall short.

Like a cult leader who ensnares you before revealing their absurd beliefs, Ainge and Roseman only go halfway. But Dipoto is all-in. And he won’t stop for anyone. Not then, not now, not ever.

And for that, we should all be grateful.

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