With the end of another playoff-less season, the accompanying tours of shame by the various members of the Mariners front office and ownership are well underway. Last week it was Jerry Dipoto, putting his hand on the Bible and swearing before God and Country to uphold an offseason of clean living, and minimal transactions. This week, it’s new CEO John Stanton’s turn, offering an emphatic support of Dipoto’s front office in an article by Greg Johns, of MLB dot com:
“I’m completely supportive of Jerry and thrilled with the job he’s done and the way he’s addressed the adversity and overcome it, in many respects,” Stanton said. “I’m all in on Jerry and enthusiastic about what he’s done.”
In the theater of public relations, this is very much following the steps on the dance card. The team isn’t going to change over the front office after two seasons, one a qualified success, and the other easily hand waved as a mere “setback”. However, thanks to a recent article from national writer, Arby’s enthusiast, and general menche Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, we have some TREMENDOUS NUGGETUDE that Jerry Dipoto’s contract is set to expire after the upcoming season.
Now, let’s back up here, and all agree to some basic things:
1) It is now clear, if he accepted a 3-year contract, that Jerry Dipoto’s primary, secondary, and perhaps even tertiary mandates were to end the organization’s playoff drought as quickly as possible, no matter what the cost.
2) Despite disagreeing with plenty of moves, my and many of my colleagues’ issues with Dipoto’s time as General Manager have had more to do with the decision to try and maximize the current window, rather than the granular details of how he has gone about that. Broadly speaking, we’re aiming at different targets, not arguing flight paths.
3) All but the most blindly optimistic Mariner fan would likely acquiesce that any scenario that involves the 2018 Mariners competing for more than a Wild Card spot, and an ~85 win season, involves a series of extreme outliers.
Now, if we can agree on these three points the problem begins to come into focus. The Mariners are taking their head personnel executive, the man who will be in charge of another draft, and another trade deadline, into a contract year, seemingly with a win-or-else mandate, for a season that appears to have a low probability of success. This represents a failure to acknowledge the current power structure of the American League; where Houston, New York, Boston, and even Cleveland appear to return very strong rosters for 2018. Additionally, any executive with a soon to expire contract, looking to save his job by turning a 95th percentile outcome into a 90th percentile outcome by further savaging tomorrow for today, is gonna take one look at the handle in his office labeled “YOLO” and yank on it without a second thought.
So, this is all preamble to my main, badly buried lede: For the sake of 2018 AND 2019 and beyond, the Mariners should sign Jerry Dipoto to a 2-3 year extension before he makes even one more transaction. The cult of personality surrounding Dipoto as a baseball messiah never made sense, and is finally beginning to deflate, but by a fair and objective analysis he appears to be, at minimum, the organization’s best general manger since Pat Gillick. I know, I know, the lowest of bars, cleared.
Still, having been fortunate enough to talk to Dipoto on a few occasions, and through observing him work closely over the past two seasons, I believe him to be a smart, forward-thinking man with good communication skills, and the ability to manage the people below him to the degree that his overall vision for the franchise doesn’t fall into chaotic disrepair. At minimum, he deserves a chance to draft and develop for more than two seasons to see if Kyle Lewis, Sam Carlson, Evan White, etc. blossom into the kind of franchise-altering talents this team so desperately needs.
By extending Dipoto now, the Mariners allow his plan the stability necessary to look beyond 2018, key for not only Dipoto himself but for all the minor league coaches, scouts, and talent developers tasked with implementing a coherent, consistent program that regularly turns out major league talent in Seattle. The lack of coherence can have a cascading effect, with the stress of unknown job security leading to potential suffering of performance, damaging press leaks, and talent loss as employees jump ship for a seemingly more stable situation.
Crucially, extending Dipoto does not in fact commit the team to another 3-4 years of Jerry Dipoto. General Manager salaries are difficult to find, but with Theo Epstein making reportedly around $10 million dollars, it’s hard to believe Dipoto earns even half that. The risk of eating $10-15 million, should Dipoto’s regime tank and a change clearly becomes necessary is something, but its far from prohibitive in the world of professional baseball.
Jerry Dipoto was brought in to win now, and in 2016 he got very close. Despite the belief here that the best course of action is to build for the future, it is clear that ownership wants to break this damn losing streak in 2018, come hell or high water. That mandate is not inherently reflective of Dipoto’s ability as general manager. He has thus far gone to great pains in fact to NOT further saddle the organization with long-term commitments to older players and should be commended. Allowing him to work in a contract year where decisions made could be felt for years to come (hello, Erik Bedard trade) brings too great a temptation to sacrifice the future for a small chance at glory.
Whatever 2018 brings, Jerry Dipoto deserves the opportunity to transition the franchise to its next phase. For him, and for the franchise, an extension as soon as possible is the best thing to do. So, let’s do it.