Dipoto: Ray trade helps balance payroll between offense, pitching

January 7th, 2024

The Mariners’ surprising decision to trade left-hander to the Giants for outfielder and right-hander on Friday may have been a cash-neutral move in terms of their 2024 payroll, but Seattle president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said the deal addressed multiple needs for the club.

Discussing the trade in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM on Sunday, Dipoto said the Mariners were looking for more payroll balance after investing heavily on the pitching side of the ball in recent years. That included their five-year, $115 million deal with Ray after the lefty won the American League Cy Young with the Blue Jays in 2021.

“In looking at our roster, one of the things that was important to us coming into this offseason was to redistribute the way our payroll was spread out,” Dipoto said. “We really haven’t changed our payroll a great deal in the present, but what we have done is we’ve redistributed so that it’s not so heavily invested on the pitching side.”

The trade also bolstered the Mariners’ pitching depth in the short term, something Seattle needed to do after trading one of its depth arms, Marco Gonzales, in a deal with the Braves earlier this offseason. After undergoing Tommy John surgery last May, Ray was not expected to pitch for the Mariners until midseason in 2024. Unlike Ray, DeSclafani is someone who can contribute immediately, though he hasn’t exactly been the picture of health, either, having made just 24 appearances (23 starts) combined over the past two years.

“Robbie was in the midst of a rehab coming back from Tommy John surgery, which we would anticipate [his return] being somewhere in and around the Trade Deadline, in that range, and we needed pitching depth, especially after some of the moves we made in the early offseason,” Dipoto said. “We’ve got a young rotation, I think we have a very good rotation, and looking to line up the next starters in line and people who can give us length, DeSclafani fits that.”

Additionally, Dipoto pointed to Haniger’s right-handed power in the outfield and clubhouse leadership as two more reasons the team made the trade. Haniger is a familiar face for Seattle, as he played for the team from 2017-22 before signing a three-year deal with the Giants last offseason.

Two of the Mariners’ leading right-handed power hitters, right fielder Teoscar Hernández and third baseman Eugenio Suárez, are no longer on the roster, with Hernández entering free agency in early November and Suárez being traded to the D-backs several weeks later.

“Mitch Haniger, that really fills a void, both as a right-hand-hitting outfielder in our mix, which was really light, frankly -- we had Julio [Rodríguez] and a number of lesser-proven left-hand hitters, and we needed a right-hand bat,” Dipoto said. “As significant with Mitch, it also fills a void that we created in clubhouse leadership and guys that have been through it before.”

The Mariners will enter 2024 looking to get back to the postseason after narrowly missing out with an 88-74 record last season. Seattle reached the playoffs as an AL Wild Card team in 2022, qualifying for the postseason for the first time since the 2001 campaign.

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