Dipoto looking to build around young All-Stars
SEATTLE -- Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said some reassessment and restructuring of his club's roster is in order this offseason, but coming off an 89-win season with some good young pieces in place he won't be looking to tear down and start over.
Dipoto looks at first-time All-Stars Mitch Haniger and Edwin Diaz as well as up-and-coming starter Marco Gonzales as building blocks for the future, not trade chips to bring in younger prospects in a total youth movement.
"We do have some guys that are aging and some guys that are just coming into their own," Dipoto said. "I think that makes us like most every other team in the league. We just have to determine what our direction is and a lot of our direction will be based on that core of young players."
In meeting with the media the day after the season ended, Dipoto didn't make any declarative statements about whether he'll bring back designated hitter Nelson Cruz or what positions Robinson Cano, Dee Gordon and others would fill next year.
Instead, he said internal meetings regarding all the options have just begun and how things play out will depend on what moves can be accomplished.
Cano said after Sunday's season finale that he expected to return to second base next season. He split time at second with Gordon after returning from his 80-game suspension in mid-August, but Dipoto and manager Scott Servais indicated no such decisions have yet been made.
"Our roster where it's at right now is a long way away from Opening Day," Servais said. "I think it's important to see where we are at that point and see where he fits best. It's about the team. It's about putting the best team out there, giving us the chance to win the most games. We'll see how it breaks out here this offseason."
In the same vein, the Mariners are open to re-signing impending free agent Cruz, but that sounds far from a slam dunk.
"Those decisions have yet to be made," Dipoto said. "Right now it appears there's a very clear need at DH, and we all know and love Nelson. But we have to consider what comes next and the different creative ways a roster might come together. We'll never close the door on considering anything, up to and including bringing him back. I think Nelly would like to be back, but I'm sure he is considering his options as well."
Gordon opened the year in center field, a position he'd never played, then shifted to his natural second-base spot during Cano's suspension. Dipoto acknowledged the club would like to find one spot for Gordon to stick to next year, but wasn't prepared to say where that position would be.
"We asked him to move to center field, and he did yeoman's work at a position he'd never played," Dipoto said. "He did what we asked him to do, because that's what good teammates do. When we asked him to move in to play second base, he did that, too, because that's what good teammates do.
"At the end of the day, we'll have to assess what fits with this roster and where Robbie plays and whether we bring back Nelson. A lot will be judged by what the roster looks like as we go through the offseason. So many different things could happen from trades to free-agent signings that we can't pin ourselves into one single idea or building around one single player. We have to take more of a broad view of a roster than that."
Dipoto believes Gordon and Kyle Seager can bounce back from sub-par offensive seasons and sees help coming as early as the second half of next season from young prospects Evan White, Kyle Lewis and Braden Bishop. He hasn't closed the door on Daniel Vogelbach being an offensive contributor.
Pitching-wise, all five starters are slated to return, though certainly questions linger about Felix Hernandez's status after his difficult 2018 campaign.
In other words, it'll be an interesting offseason in Seattle and while a total overhaul shouldn't be expected, tough decisions and moves are definitely forthcoming.
"Ultimately, we haven't reached our goal here," Servais said. "We may have to make a few changes to get to the goal. And it's not just to make a Wild Card Game, it's to get deep into the postseason and win a world championship."