Dipoto sheds light on keys to Mariners' offseason

November 14th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SEATTLE -- All has been mostly quiet on the transaction front for the Mariners so far this offseason, with only a few minor roster moves and a trade for Minor League catcher Blake Hunt. But for a front office that typically strikes early each winter, it may not stay that way for long.

Most of Seattle’s heavy lifting last year was done before the Winter Meetings, when the club traded for Teoscar Hernández and Kolten Wong.

The Mariners are certainly active in the free-agent and trade markets, but it’s been almost exclusively behind the scenes, as Jerry Dipoto’s commentary out of the GM Meetings last week was mostly -- and uncharacteristically -- mum on all fronts.

That said, Seattle’s president of baseball operations did shed some light on other components to the club’s offseason.

Full-time DH?
The Mariners have entered each of the past two seasons intending to deploy a designated hitter rotation as a load-bearing mechanism to build in rest and play matchups. But the forward-thinking logic hasn’t correlated to results.

Seattle’s DH’s have hit .192/.293/.366 (.659 OPS) and been worth 90 wRC+ (league average is 100) and -0.2 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs, perhaps leading the front office to being more open to a full-time player at the position.

“We'd love to have a full-time DH, a banger who just goes out and bangs,” Dipoto said. “But at the same time, we're open to the notion of rolling guys around. It's whatever the market will allow. You can't force things.

“We do score runs, we just don't score runs in a more well-distributed way. And if a full-time DH helps us in that way, then we'll roll a full-time DH. If it's something more of a move-players-in-and-out as the matchups demand, then we'll do that.”

Hopefully Ty turns it around?
It appears that the Mariners will indeed hold on to Ty France, at least based on Dipoto’s tone when speaking about the struggling first baseman. France is due for a pay raise that most projections peg in the $7 million range, and he’s coming off a season in which he hit .250/.337/.366 (.703 OPS), all below his career marks.

Both factors make him an intriguing decision ahead of Friday’s 5 p.m. PT non-tender deadline.

“It's not the best year that Ty's had as a Mariner, and I think Ty knows that it wasn't the best year, but he's a good player,” Dipoto said. “We saw that in streaks. Everybody is going to have their best year, and everybody's going to have the year that wasn't their best year. And my guess is that next year, you'll see something wildly different, because Ty's focused and he's too good of a player to not go home and focus on it.”

First base could potentially be a position where the Mariners seek more offensive impact, but Dipoto indicated that it very well could be via a bounceback from France.

“This guy is a year removed from being an American League All-Star and one of the better all-around hitters in the league,” Dipoto said. “And I don't think he's very far off from doing that again.”

Bliss-fully optimistic
Second baseman Ryan Bliss was one of the game’s productive prospects in the Arizona Fall League, where he earned Defensive Player of the Year honors, started in the Fall Stars Game and hit a critical grand slam in the Javelinas’ epic comeback win during the championship game.

“He's a double-plus runner. He's got sneaky power that you're stunned when you see him really lay into a ball because he's not a big, strapping guy,” Dipoto said. “He's more of a wispy, athletic guy who has tremendous bat speed. We're thrilled to have him.”

Bliss, the Mariners’ No. 14 prospect per MLB Pipeline, will be among the more intriguing players to follow in Spring Training.

“Whether or not he has a chance to make our team, we have a number of flexible, athletic right-handed hitters who play the middle infield positions -- guys like Jose Caballero, Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty and Josh Rojas, who's a lefty,” Dipoto said. “But of that group, every one of them has Major League experience and finished the year on our team. So Ryan's going to have to overcome that. But what we love is that he's young, he's athletic and his future is in front of him.”