The first check ownership needs to write this off-season is to the GM who has largely done what was asked of him
It is rare for the Lookout Landing staff, numerous and diverse as it is, to agree on anything, so it’s no small thing that every staff member agrees: Jerry Dipoto should be given an extension by the Mariners. Where we differ is in the fervency with which we avow that statement, our reasoning behind it, as well as the exact terms of said extension (including whether or not to extend other members of the Dipoto regime). Here, we dive a bit deeper into each staffer’s thinking on the matter, but two things we all agree on: the Mariners should extend Jerry Dipoto, and they should do it now.
The Mariners and Dipoto are in an interesting position. There’s almost no scenario where Jerry Dipoto would accept a one-year extension. For the two sides to come together, Dipoto will need to be offered at least an extension through 2023. But the bigger issue here is payroll. If I’m Dipoto, I’m simply not accepting an extension without the guarantee from John Stanton & Co.™ that the payroll will spike. He’s worked too hard on this rebuild to allow a floundering budget to derail his goals. At the end of the day, if I’m Stanton, I’m giving Dipoto the extension, but it shouldn’t be assumed that he’d accept that extension without reading the finer print.
Terms of extension: 2 years and team option
I have found Jerry Dipoto’s personal choices and communication disappointing. It has scarcely helped that few in the sport seem to speak fondly or positively about the M’s GM interpersonally, and the gap between what the Mariners promote themselves as—cutting edge, mental health proponents, transparent—and what their players have said at times strikes a frustratingly dissonant chord. Even the recent Kendall Graveman circumstance is one ostensibly avoidable near-entirely by a difficult conversation with the clubhouse, something many great bosses are willing to do with their employees. I want more from Dipoto because I believe he and his front office are leaving improvements on the table by doing less.
All that said, I believe the organization is on the right track by and large, and further than they would be with an average (or brand new) FO and player development group in place. Let this group spend and spend big; ownership, get out of the way and watch this organization with one of the worst reputations and legacies of success in all of sports recapture the goodwill of fans. I promise you get to make money off that too, John.
Terms of extension: 2 years, plus a mutual option
Extend other members of the front office: Yes on Scott Servais, Meh on Andy McKay
In a mere 3.5 years, without completely bottoming out, Jerry Dipoto has restocked the Mariners’ farm from worst to first (at least per Baseball America). Now, it’s only fair to point out that when BA ranked the Mariners last, members of the front office acknowledged that they don’t pay too much attention to the rankings, and I imagine that tune has changed recently. But I remain impressed by Dipoto’s drafting (and Scott Hunter’s drafting, naturally), which has consistently turned first-round picks into top-100 prospects with significant helium. Doing so without matching the depths of the Orioles is impressive as well.
That said: Prospect rankings don’t win games. You gotta turn those players into MLB results. Letting Dipoto and Scott Servais go now only makes sense if you have a material upgrade waiting in the wings — think Joe Maddon replacing Brad Ausmus in L.A. For the most part, I view managers (and even many GMs) as pretty fungible, so unless you’ve got a deal lined up with Theo Epstein, I’d rather keep the continuity and let Dipoto’s plan find success or fall flat.
Terms of extension: 3 years, however many millions of dollars GMs make
Extend other members of the front office: Yes on Scott Servais, Yes on Andy McKay
Like the man himself, the Dipoto tenure has not been without flaws, some of which have been more painful to cover than others (the Dr. Martin debacle continues to leave a sour taste in my mouth to this day). But the fact remains that Dipoto has done what Mariners ownership has asked of him, and then some. He took a stars(ish)-and-scrubs team with a few topheavy salaries and tried, and almost succeeded, to make contenders out of them, dealing off pieces of a poor farm system to try to bolster the big-league club and coming one patented A’s-Devil-Magic™ game away from making that happen; then, when the Mariners were finally ready to bite the bullet and rebuild, he took advantage of an inexperienced GM to shed one of those topheavy salaries in return for a blue-chip prospect, who in turn became a key piece in moving the ransacked Mariners system out of the farm cellar and into the loft. Now, he’s built a fringe-contending team ahead of schedule with savvy trades, prospects starting to pay out from that revamped system, and put players in a position to succeed with good personnel hires like Perry Hill (including some that fly beneath the radar, like promoting well-regarded pitching coach Rob Marcello from High-A to Triple-A). Dipoto deserves the opportunity to see this wave of highly-regarded prospects through to the majors, the intersection of the parts of the team he delegates (scouting, international signings, and the draft) and those he’s more hands-on in acquiring and developing (and, to be frank, marketing).
I understand Scott Servais, our Stern Midwestern Dad, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but stories about him doing things like traveling to the DR to connect with players in their hometowns or being up for getting Edwin Diaz’s haircut suggest to me there’s a lot about Servais we don’t see under the surface. Also, I will be a surprisingly unpopular voice here and say I extend Andy McKay first and foremost. Speaking from an educator’s point of view, I see how from the outside his meme use is aunt-on-Facebook levels of cringe, but that is literally how you have to be as someone charged with development. Your job is to create a safe space where people feel emboldened to take risks as learners in order to move forward, and the way to facilitate that is to create an environment where it’s okay to be vulnerable, and being a gigantic, earnest cornball is the most direct path to that. The Mariners have all kinds of great technology and analytics, but all of that means nothing if the players aren’t willing to take a risk to buy into changing something and take ownership of their careers, and that’s the environment McKay fosters. Any credit to the Mariners farm system belongs not to Dipoto—except for his restraint exercised in not trading parts of it off—but to the scouts who argued for acquiring those players, and to the (remarkably diverse) coaches developing those players, all under the direction of McKay. Extend ‘em all.
Terms of extension: 3 years, whatever
Extend other members of the front office: Yes on Servais, No on Andy McKay
I’m not a big fan of any discourse that says Dipoto “deserves” to see the rebuild through. Lots of people deserve lots of things, and that’s not the sort of thinking that should drive sweeping organizational decisions. That said, I agree with Kate on pretty much every point. I believe that Dipoto has done a fantastic job with what he’s been given. To Joe’s point, I’m sadly unconvinced that the team will actually provide Dipoto with the resources to get the team over the hump, but if they do, I believe he’s fully capable of taking this team to the playoffs.
Servais has been equally fantastic. As far as performance goes, if you feel a manager is somewhat responsible for any gap between talent and performance, the 2021 Mariners have outperformed their talent and then some. As far as clubhouse culture, we can only go off of what we see. What we’ve seen this summer, time and time again, have been positive on-field interactions between Scott and the players. The younger guys seem to genuinely like him. Andy McKay is just that guy you knew in college that got really into yoga and Tony Robbins and can’t stop posting on social media. I’m not a huge fan, but it seems harmless. The huge knock on the Mariners has always been their player development (see: every failed prospect except Félix Hernández and Kyle Seager between 2001 and 2015), and it does look like that’s improved. I mean, the Mariners have the best farm system in baseball. Not sure what else you’d ask for from your head of player development, other than to stop posting.
Terms of extension: 2 years and an option?
Extend other members of the front office: Fine on Scott for consistency with the young’uns, No on Andy McKay because I find his motivational memes and general ethos abhorrent.
I wouldn’t say I’m Pro Dipoto (sorry, there was never any chance of recovery from “penny stocks”), moreso anti total organizational overhaul…for now.
Let the man finish. And give him the financial all-clear to really make things happen.
My hot take is that the managerial role matters very little in modern baseball – especially AL baseball. Servais can stay for consistency’s sake, but I wouldn’t be mad if they invested in one of those giant grocery store robots and used the subsequent savings on another bullpen arm. Get McKay and his toxic grind productivity mindset outta here.