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Jerry Dipoto: GM of mystery

Was Jerry Dipoto the right man to rebuild the Mariners? The problem is that, even after four offseasons at the helm, we have no idea if he was or not.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, a friend of mine who is a Mariners fan (What? Some of my best friends are Mariners fans!) asked me what I thought about Seattle's new GM, Jerry Dipoto. And, to be honest, I was flummoxed. It took me a couple of days to answer him (and, thus, to write this article). I didn't know what to think about Dipoto because his tenure with the Angels was so complicated.

If you've been living under a rock, you might not know that Dipoto lost a power struggle this summer to Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Scioscia had no interest in following the scouting reports and suggestions given to him by his more analytics driven "boss," and owner Arte Moreno sided with Scioscia. Clearly, Moreno has been one of the more meddlesome owners in the game over the last several seasons, essentially mandating that the Angels sign Josh Hamilton (and then trade him), Albert Pujols, and C.J. Wilson.

It's impossible, then, to totally separate out what Dipoto did from what his owner made him do, and from the payroll restrictions his owner's mandates placed him under. But we have to try, don't we? I mean, I couldn't just leave my friend dangling with an "I dunno." So let's dig down a little bit and see if we can find the real Jerry Dipoto.

Dipoto was hired at the end of the 2011 season, taking over for Tony Reagins. The Angels were coming off of an 86 win season in which they missed the playoffs. That offseason, in addition to the big signings of Wilson and Pujols, the Angels made some smaller moves that worked well for them, including trading Tyler Chatwood to the Rockies for Chris Iannetta, and signing LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen.

Early in the season, they supplemented their bullpen by adding Ernesto Frieri, who took over as closer. At the trade deadline, while leading in the Wild Card, they picked up Zack Greinke for a package of prospects that included Jean Segura. That year, the A's and Orioles caught fire, however, while the Angels simply played decent ball the rest of the way, and Los Angeles were on the outside looking in on the postseason. Dipoto did an ok job, even though the decision not to do more at the trade deadline may have kept them out of the wild card game.

And that's, actually, pretty typical for Dipoto's tenure. Except for the 2012-2013 offseason (which was a disaster that included dealing away Ervin Santana for nothing, trading for Tommy Hanson, and signing Joe Blanton and Sean Burnett), Dipoto just did alright heading up the Angels. Enough to get by.

The trouble is that the Angels' success was built before Dipoto got there. Mike Trout, Garrett Richards, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Jered Weaver, Kole Calhoun, C.J. Cron, Matt Shoemaker all entered the organization under previous GMs. And free agent talents like Pujols, Wilson, and Hamilton were not actually Dipoto's decision.

Dipoto has shown the ability to find identify relievers like Ernesto Frieri, Trevor Gott, Mike Morin, and Cory Rasmus who can help the team for at least a couple years, but has been unable to cultivate talent and depth in other areas to support an aging and fragile lineup. Other than that, he's struggled to add impact talent (or even good free talent pickups) to the club on his own. As far as I can tell, his best two moves are as follows:

  • Getting Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs for Mark Trumbo, but he didn't even come out of that three-way trade with the best player, as Adam Eaton has become a great outfielder for the White Sox, and Skaggs has gone down to Tommy John surgery.
  • Trading Howie Kendrick for Andrew Heaney.

That's two true wins in four years that we can attribute to Dipoto, and that hardly seems like enough. It's also unclear how well he drafts, given that he's only had a first round pick for the last two seasons thanks to all the free agents the Angels have signed, but the Angels' minor league system is not considered impressive.

So ultimately, what can I tell my friend? We don't have enough evidence to say definitively that Dipoto is a bad GM. But don't really have any evidence that he's a good one either. He hasn't shown anything to make you think he's smarter than his peers. He hasn't shown that he can out-analyze them. He hasn't shown that he can out-scout them. He hasn't distinguished himself in any way except in his ability to follow orders and to lose an argument. So, no, I don't know that hiring him is definitely going to go poorly for the Mariners. But if I were making the choice, given all the qualified candidates available, I'd be very hesitant to give Dipoto another chance to show that there's nothing remarkable about him.