Jerry Dipoto’s 2016 Seattle Mariners

Sep 30, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto conducts an interview in the dugout before a game against the Houston Astros at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto conducts an interview in the dugout before a game against the Houston Astros at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

At the end of the 2015 season, the Seattle Mariners began a new era with general manager Jerry Dipoto. He got right to work.

When Jerry Dipoto was hired as the new general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in October of 2011, Angels owner Arte Moreno cited Dipoto’s approach to statistical analytics as the primary reason for his hiring. Despite Moreno’s kind words, Angels manager Mike Scioscia did not share the same sentiments about Dipoto’s statistical knowledge. A rift quickly formed between the two when it came to light that Scioscia and his staff were not properly relaying statistical analysis compiled by Dipoto and his staff to the players. On July 1, 2015 Jerry Dipoto resigned as the general manager of the Angels.

On September 28, 2015 exactly one month after firing their own general manager Jack Zduriencik, the Seattle Mariners hired Jerry Dipoto as the ninth general manager in the club’s history. Expected by many to be the best team in the American League entering 2015, the 76-86 Seattle Mariners yet again let down a fan-base that has been thirsting for a playoff appearance since 2001. Inheriting a roster highlighted by an appalling bullpen, one-dimensional sluggers like Mark Trumbo, and a non-existent centerfielder, Jerry Dipoto had a lot of work to do this past off-season. And boy, did he get busy.

The good news for Dipoto was that despite the disheveled state of the 2015 Seattle Mariners roster, the core of Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz gave the new GM something to work with. Almost immediately, Dipoto created a state of transparency with the fan base, which was a great move following Jack Zduriencik’s unpredictability.

With the preexisting core of sluggers and a bona fide ace in Felix Hernandez, Dipoto’s primary goals this off-season were to add athleticism throughout the roster, solidify the bullpen, shore up the defense and piece together a lineup that will get on base on a consistent basis.

Jerry D’s first big move in his reclamation of the Seattle Mariners roster came on November 5, 2015 when he traded away shortstop Brad Miller, first baseman Logan Morrison and right handed relief pitcher Danny Farquhar to the Tampa Bay Rays for talented young starting pitcher Nathan Karns, left handed pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser and center fielder Boog Powell. Dipoto showed immediately that he was not afraid to part with key members of the 2015 roster, and continued to clean house when he shipped fan favorite Tom Wilhelmsen, center fielder James Jones and a player to be named later to the Texas Rangers for center fielder Leonys Martin and right handed pitcher Anthony Bass on November 16, 2015. Only a few weeks into the off-season, Dipoto had already made what I believe to have been his most underrated move.

Leonys Martin is a career .255 hitter with a career OBP of .305. Those numbers are not great, but he is an athletic, exciting center fielder who plays strong defense and will roam the spacious outfield of Safeco well. On top of that, the 27-year-old Martin has a fantastic throwing arm and stole 67 bases between the 2013 and 2014 seasons. In addition, Nathan Karns is a solid young starting pitcher that went 7-6 in 2015 and compiled 145 punch-outs over 147 innings in his first season as a full-time starting pitcher. Boog Powell is an athletic outfielder that could see playing time in 2016 backing up Leonys Martin in center field.

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Dipoto didn’t stop there, acquiring several other key pieces through trades by the end of 2015. Other notable players acquired in trades this off-season are right handed relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit, middle infielder Luis Sardinas, first baseman Adam Lind, catching prospect Steve Clevenger, and premium left handed starting pitcher Wade Miley. At 29 years of age, Miley has now played four full seasons in the big leagues, averaging over 31 starts each year between 2012 and 2015. A steady, reliable southpaw, I expect Wade Miley to pitch well below his very nice career ERA of 3.95 in the safe confines of Safeco Field.

Doing his best A.J. Preller impression, Dipoto just kept on going, making big moves in the free agent market as well. As if the addition of a legitimate leadoff hitter in Nori Aoki wasn’t good enough, Dipoto managed to retain starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma after something in The Kuma-Bear’s physical led to a failed contract negotiation with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Other notable free agent acquisitions were outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, veteran catcher Chris Iannetta and hard throwing closer Steve Cishek.

It didn’t take much to recognize that there was something seriously wrong with the Seattle Mariners roster in 2015. The most notable problems were in the bullpen and in the lineup’s ability to get on base and produce runs in critical moments. While Dipoto did get rid of most of the young arms in the bullpen from 2015, he has put together an experienced, veteran ‘pen that should be able to consistently put away games. But just like his analytical counterpart Billy Beane, on-base percentage was the pressing issue for Dipoto.

The 2015 Seattle Mariners had a team on-base percentage of .311, 22nd in the MLB, and a team batting average of .249, good for 23rd in the MLB. Since Jerry Dipoto has already revealed the tentative starting lineup for 2016, I decided to crunch the numbers and find the collective 2015 OBP and batting average of the projected 2016 lineup.

2016 Seattle Mariners Projected Lineup:

1.  Nori Aoki RF

2. Ketel Marte SS

3. Robinson Cano 2B

4. Nelson Cruz DH

5. Kyle Seager 3B

6. Adam Lind/Jesus Montero (Platoon) 1B

7. Seth Smith/Franklin Gutierrez (Platoon) LF

8. Chris Iannetta/Steve Clevenger (Platoon) C

9. Leonys Martin CF

In 2015, this lineup would have produced on OBP of .328 and a batting average of .269, a marked increase in both crucial categories. In fact, those numbers would have been good enough for second in the MLB in both statistics.

The true quality of Dipoto’s work will not be measurable until the Mariners take the field for the first time this Spring. But the one thing that we do know is that Jerry Dipoto knows what he is doing, and he is going to stick to his plan. In addition to his goal of surrounding the core of sluggers with dudes that get on-base, Dipoto also wanted to supplement Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton with two more solid starters. He did so in Wade Miley and Nathan Karns.

2016 Seattle Mariners Projected Starting Rotation

1. Felix Hernandez RHP

2. Wade Miley LHP

3. Taijuan Walker RHP

4. Hisashi Iwakuma RHP

5. James Paxton LHP

6. Nathan Karns RHP

On top of the work that Dipoto did on the rotation, he effectively addressed the weakest point for the 2015 Seattle Mariners–the bullpen. Parting ways with Tom Wilhelmsen, Danny Farquhar, Carson Smith, Jose Ramirez, Rob Rasmussen and Tyler Olson, Jerry Dipoto completely revamped the bullpen. Veteran relievers like Joaquin Benoit, Ryan Cook and Justin De Fratus will look to compliment the returning young arms of Mayckol Guiape and Vidal Nuno.

2016 Seattle Mariners Projected Bullpen

Closer: Steve Cishek

Setup Man: Joaquin Benoit

Middle Relievers: Charlie Furbush, Ryan Cook, Mayckol Guiape, Evan Scribner, Jonathan Aro

Long Relievers: Vidal Nuno, Justin De Fratus

Thus far, it is very clear what Jerry Dipoto is trying to do with the Seattle Mariners roster. The lineup is poised to get on base and put the ball in play, the starting rotation is prepared to dominate one through five, and the bullpen is now in a position to provide consistent performance in the late innings. If there is any weakness that still remains, I would argue that the bullpen could use one more power arm, but overall, Mariners fans can’t complain.

At this point in time, as a lifelong Seattle Mariners fan that has seen the likes of Bill Bavasi and Jack Zduriencik baffle fans with questionable moves, Jerry D is a breath of fresh air. He wants to win, and he realizes that he has a core of superstars for the next three years that could do just that.

Barring any unexpected moves, the off-season is most likely over for Jerry Dipoto and his staff. They should be very pleased with what they were able to make happen this winter. Now, we wait until the Spring, and we hope. Because when you are a Seattle Mariners fan, all you can do is hope.

Next: Seattle Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr. Stays Humble Throughout All the Fuss

UPDATE: Originally, Hisashi Iwakuma was excluded from the starting rotation listed. In an edit, Iwakuma was added as the fourth starter, bumping James Paxton to fifth and Nathan Karns to sixth.