SEATTLE -- For Jerry Dipoto, the vision finally is coming into focus. A myriad of moves -- by far the most in Major League baseball over his 16 months as Mariners general manager -- have led to what he believes is a ballclub better suited for Safeco Field and the
SEATTLE -- For Jerry Dipoto, the vision finally is coming into focus. A myriad of moves -- by far the most in Major League baseball over his 16 months as Mariners general manager -- have led to what he believes is a ballclub better suited for Safeco Field and the rigors of a postseason race.
When Dipoto replaced Jack Zduriencik at the end of the 2015 season, he set forth a plan built around acquiring speed and defense to handle the spacious Safeco outfield and manufacture enough runs on offense to supplement the club's core group of veterans -- Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.
Pitching has traditionally been Seattle's strength, bolstered by Safeco's difficult run-producing environment. So if the club could hike its on-base percentage and scoring potential while helping its hurlers with better defense, that figured as a solid formula to get the Mariners back to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
A 10-win improvement under new manager Scott Servais got the Mariners to 86-76 and now Dipoto and his regime hope they can take the next step into postseason play after another busy winter in which they've energized the offense with the addition of speedsters Jean Segura and Jarrod Dyson, gotten younger with up-and-coming right fielder Mitch Haniger, solidified the bullpen with the addition of Marc Rzepczynski and Shae Simmons and added veteran stability to the rotation with Drew Smyly and Yovani Gallardo.
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While Dipoto never seems to rest, as evident by 36 trades involving 92 players during his time already with the Mariners, he insists he is about set now and likes the roster that has come together.
"We will now look toward small Minor League deals, bringing guys in to compete in camp for bench or depth roles," he said. "But what you see is what you get. This is our team. Our five starters are already in-house and we like the depth we've created in back of them.
"We feel the combination of veteran experience and young upside in the bullpen is particularly intriguing with a lot of hard throwers and bat-missers. And the position-player club, we like the mix of veteran core players who are still having incredibly good years and a group of upcoming young players that really complement one another really well."
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Dipoto gave up some of the club's better Minor League arms to improve the chances of winning now while his core nucleus remains in place. He gave up promising young starter Taijuan Walker to get Segura and Haniger, then sacrificed top starting prospects Luiz Gohara and Ryan Yarbrough to land Smyly and reliever Shae Simmons in a pair of moves on Wednesday.
But the continued juggling of pieces has solidified the starting depth behind his all-veteran rotation of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Smyly and Gallardo. He feels Ariel Miranda -- who started the last two months in 2015 after being acquired from the Orioles -- and winter additions Rob Whalen, Max Povse and Chris Heston -- join with 2015 Draft pick Andrew Moore to provide enough depth to make Yarbrough and Gohara expendable.
It helps that the five Major League starters all have at least two years of team control remaining if the Mariners choose to pick up 2019 team options for Iwakuma and Gallardo, meaning the club has time to draft or acquire other longer-term prospects to stock the lower levels of the pitching pipeline.
Smyly was the last piece to fall into place on the Major League rotation after a winter-long pursuit by Dipoto. Though the 27-year-old's numbers weren't awe-inspiring last year with Tampa Bay (7-12, 4.88 ERA in 30 starts in his first year back from labrum issues in his left shoulder), he finished the season strong. Smyly was hounded by the long ball in the hitter-friendly American League East and could benefit greatly from the move west.
"He fits our ballpark particularly well," Dipoto said. "He's a pretty extreme fly-ball pitcher with low walks, high strikeouts. With our greatly improved outfield defense in our park, he fits us like a glove, really."
And the Mariners' new outfield gloves, along with Segura at shortstop? That's a key part of the equation as well.
"The one thing I don't want to sell short is how much attention we paid to run prevention," Dipoto said. "While we may not have added big names on the pitching side, everybody brings something to the table. And the addition of Dyson, Haniger and Segura should help us prevent runs. We feel we've made the defense dynamically better."
Put it all together and the Mariners' moves create an interesting puzzle, which will begin actual construction in one month in Peoria, Ariz.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [
@GregJohnsMLB]() and listen to his podcast.