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Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Athletic: The most meaningful moments of the Seattle Mariners’ rebuild [$]

“We had the type of roster where we weren’t young and we weren’t old, we weren’t good and we weren’t bad,” Dipoto said. “We were kind of caught in the middle.”

They also still had 36-year-old veteran second baseman Robinson Canó, who had served an 80-game suspension in 2018 after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Canó, with five years and $120 million remaining on his contract, was, essentially, untradeable.

Or was he?

It was over breakfast at the GM meetings where Dipoto pulled up a chair next to then-Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who had been on the job for one week.

“I sort of casually said, ‘Do you have any interest in an All-Star second baseman?’” Dipoto told The Athletic in 2021. “He said, ‘Maybe.’ That’s where the discussion started.”

Eventually, Dipoto and Van Wagenen found a deal to their liking: The closer Díaz and Canó for a package of five players, highlighted by the guy that Dipoto wanted all along, outfielder Jarred Kelenic.

Unloading Canó was key for several reasons, including that it helped facilitate a trade that sent Segura to the Phillies for shortstop J.P. Crawford.

“Once we moved Robbie, Jean, who had a full no-trade clause, was more than willing to go elsewhere because he saw what was happening with the club,” Dipoto said.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 15, 2022 at 12:02 PM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mariners

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: September 15, 2022 at 05:12 PM (#6096318)
Not seeing much to consider in that intro. Sure Cano was tradeable -- as long as the Ms threw in half the money (much by eating the contracts of Bruce and Swarzak) and an all-star closer. He got his man in Kelenic who unfortunately has had one of the worst starts to a ML career ever -- still plenty of time to figure it out but it's not been such a super-coup. So to date, that trade is a savings of about $60 M for 4 years of Edwin Diaz (who cost about $22 M). May or may not turn out to be a good trade for the Ms but, in the end, it has zilch to do with Seattle's current success.

OK Segura had a NTC and (maybe) he shifted from a guy who would have insisted on something extra to get him to agree to a trade to Philly to a guy more than happy to accept a trade to Philly. He's put up 8 WAR for $60 M (not pro-rated for 2020), 3 WAR/650 and the Phils have a 1/$17 option. DiPoto did a nice job on Crawford (or got lucky on Crawford and unlucky on Kelenic) who was a prospect on the way down when he picked him up. He's put up 9 WAR for $8 M and they have him locked up for 4/$45. Crawford is clearly part of the M's current success but it's not clear they'd be substantially worse off with Segura (except in the random sense Segura has been hurt half of this season).

All rebuilds start with first steps and, as first steps go, these are perfectly fine but also pretty ordinary. Teams dump half of bad contracts frequently; teams trade solid vets for declining prospects all the time. It does seem like an awful lot of people talk about the Cano trade without acknowledging that the Ms ate half the contract. The Mets got Cano for the equivalent of about 5/$60 which meant he only needed to produce about 7-8 WAR to break even on that. He'd put up 6 WAR in 1.5 seasons before that (with PEDs for at least some of that time but he hit as well after the suspension as before). For sure, nobody in that Mets' FO (if any are still around) should be bragging about trading Kelenic and $60 M for Diaz but so far it's worked out.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 15, 2022 at 05:38 PM (#6096323)
Another point was that they took a look at the 89-win club in 2018 and decided to tear it down because they were old, rather than try to win with those guys.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: September 15, 2022 at 05:43 PM (#6096326)
Meanwhile the Ms rebuild looks not unlike a lot of rebuilds

Cal Raleigh was a non-prospect (never top 100) who has become a very good MLer. Ty France looks like a classic late bloomer -- very useful while they're blooming, can wilt on a moment's notice. Adam Frazier is a pre-FA version of Segura and yet another odd AJ Preller trade. Suarez is the "expensive" vet pick up from a cheap, rebuilding team with 2/$22 left. Winker is the "expensive arb" pickup from that same cheap, rebuilding team (and has been replacement level this year). Julio Rodriguez is the stud prospect; Haniger is Haniger and FA at the end of the year; Santana is the aged emergencey replacement 1B.

Robbie Ray was the big FA acquisition but he's been pretty average. Two young SPs (Gilbert & Kirby) have pitched really well. Luis Castillo has been great and they've got him for one more year (reportedly gave up a lot for him). Bullpens are bullpens.

The team looks good for next year in terms of talent still under control but by 2024 the offense will probably need to be rebuilt (other than JRod, Crawford and hopefully Raleigh) and Castillo probably won't stick around. They still aren't an old team but aren't a young team. If they've got a good farm system, that might not be a big problem. If they don't, it's still not necessarily crippling -- there are generally Winker, Frazier, Marco Gonzalez, etc. types available for 1/$12 or 2/$20 or whatever. One key question over the next couple of years is Suarez -- he was very solid but struggled in 2020 and completely fell apart in 2021. He's bounced back very nicely this year and if they get another 2 years of that for $22 M they'll be very happy.

But still this "rebuild" is "holy crap that Julio Rodriguez is bloody good." He is but he's no Mike Trout, we don't even know for sure yet whether he's Kris Bryant (probably). The 2014 Angels went 98-64 with productive seasons from not yet old guys like Iannetta and Kendrick and good work from "young" guys Calhoun and Cron and good seasons out of Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker and none of them are very far from Frazier, Suarez, France, Gilbert, Kirby. Baseball is very far from basketball in this regard of course but, to date, this is in the "they did a great job of rebuilding by drafting LeBron James" category.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: September 15, 2022 at 06:14 PM (#6096333)
I thought they were not old but not young. :-) Anyway, looking at that 2018 team, it's hard to argue with their decision. They weren't old but two of the best-hitting that season were 37-yo Nelson Cruz (who amazingly kept it going) and a half-season of 34-yo Denard Span who did not. Moving away from those two was pretty obvious. Another good half-season out of 35-yo Cano. They held onto the cheap Haniger and the expensive Seager (apparently an "untradeable" contract). Trading Segura took guts but moving away from the other younger position players was pretty easy because none of them (maybe Zunino) looked very good.

On the pitching side, they held onto Leake and Gonzalez. Trading Paxton also took guts but it turns out they got nothing of importance in return although 28-yo Erik Swanson is having one of those OMG relief seasons this year.

I don't mean to downplay what DiPoto attempted -- it would have been very easy to take at least one more try with Cano, Diaz, Segura and Paxton; instead he traded most of the younger assets (and Cano). Unfortunately, to date, all he got out of that was Crawford. I haven't dug through the transactions but if there's a Feldman for Arrietta and Strop trade in here, I'm not seeing it -- not that Theo necessarily understood how that one would turn out either, it's just the sort of miracle trade that's often pointed to as part of a "genius" rebuild.

Other than JRod, I just don't see much difference between the 2018 Ms and the 2022 Ms. France, Frazier, Crawford, Suarez, Ray 2022 are pretty similar to Cano, Segura, Seager, Haniger, Paxton 2018 except for that excess $60 M they owed Cano. If the 2018 squad wasn't the way forward, it's not clear why the 2022 squad would be.
   5. JJ1986 Posted: September 15, 2022 at 06:33 PM (#6096337)
The ####### A trade is getting France (and more) for an Austin Nola and 2 broken relief pitchers.
   6. bookbook Posted: September 17, 2022 at 09:01 AM (#6096607)
There have been smaller trade “wins”: getting Matt Brash and probably Adam Macko for nothing of consequence.
And there have been trade losses: Chris Taylor is the greatest of these.
There are development wins that look like they’re in progress: Julio, Gilbert, Kirby, Raleigh, Munoz (the middle 3 do owe a bit more credit to Ms development work than the others)

There are obvious development failures in progress: Kelenic, Sheffield, Dunn, Trammell(?), Toro(?), Torrens

There are late bloomers: Sewald, France, Swanson,

There are midcareer collapses: Winker, Diego Castillo, Haniger’s health.

The farm system has produced, and seems to have more to offer, but it’s low-ranked (especially after lopping off the top to get Luis Castillo) and doesn’t provide much AAAA depth, either.

It isn’t obvious how, or whether, Dipoto’s doing a great job. Yet the team does seem to have a young core emerging, tons of payroll flexibility, and likely a second consecutive 90-win season.

Hindsight analysis sucks, but the picture on this rebuild will be a lot less murky in 2 years, or so.

   7. bookbook Posted: September 17, 2022 at 09:07 AM (#6096608)
They’ll really miss Noelvi Marte in the next few years. He was the only difference-making bat in the system who might have snuck into the current wave.
   8. bookbook Posted: September 17, 2022 at 01:26 PM (#6096624)
Jerry’s technique may be to throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. It’s crude, but can be effective especially for bullpens and utility players.
   9. The Ghost of Sox Fans Past Posted: September 18, 2022 at 12:50 AM (#6096740)
I like what Dipoto has done.

It is unfair to judge trades after the fact. Hindsight is always 20-20.

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