It’s no secret the Mariners are in a win-now mode in their bid to end a 15-year postseason drought. General manager Jerry Dipoto readily admits that — and the words come in a rush.
"I’ll say it as plainly as I can," he declared. "When you have Robinson Cano, who arguably had the best year of his career last year and is playing in his mid-30s at an All Star level; when you have Nelson Cruz, who’s roughly led the league in homers for three years running; when you have Felix Hernandez at 31, a former Cy Young Award winner who last year failed to throw 200 innings for the first time in about a decade; when you have one of the preeminent third baseman (Kyle Seager) in the league who can do a lot of things offensively and defensively, and you’ve committed at roughly $75 million annually for those players, you are in a `win-now’ mode."
Dipoto has been on the job for just over 16 months, and his moves to reshape the Mariners’ roster have been non-stop. There have been 36 trades, seven free-agent signings and nine waiver claims.
The 40-man roster now contains just nine players that he inherited.
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"It doesn’t shock me," Dipoto said. "It wasn’t necessarily by design but, again, we have not done this with pandemonium in mind. We did this to build a team that can better support a winning core, and we feel like we’ve built that."
Those trades included 26 minor-leagues players.
That departure of so much young talent leads some to contend Dipoto stripped the Mariners’ farm system — and therefore jeopardized long-term success — in pursuit of a win-now mindset.
"Dipoto’s strategy to go all-in right now, having inherited an above-average major-league team, makes a lot of sense," ESPN’s Keith Law wrote, "but if it doesn’t work there’s going to be a long, cold winter in Seattle."
Prospect rankings are an inexact science, but the Mariners’ farm system is generally viewed as one of the thinner collections — despite seeing each one of its affiliates last year reached postseason.
Dipoto refutes this criticism.
"We feel like we’ve added a lot of talent," he said, "and I’d also like to at least personally express that we've done it without stripping the minor leagues. I think that is a narrative that's just wrong.
"Many of the deals that we've made in recent months have been more trading major league players for major league players or prospects for prospects."
The many deals only included two players who entered last season ranked by Baseball America as being among the organization’s top prospects: outfielder Alex Jackson and left-handed pitcher Luiz Gohara.
In contrast, Dipoto points to deals that netted three rookies likely to make this year’s roster in first baseman Dan Vogelbach and outfielders Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel.
The Mariners also held onto their only prospects ranked in the Top 100 by MLBPipeline.com: outfielders Kyle Lewis (No. 29) and Tyler O’Neill (No. 36), and their minor-league pitcher of the year (right-hander Andrew Moore).
"We’ve added younger players to our mix, Dipoto said, "and we feel like we've held on to the foundation of what we were doing in player development because that has been a big part of what we want to do.
Industry views remain mixed on this off-season’s biggest trade, which sent right-hander Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte to Arizona for shortstop Jean Segura, lefty reliever Zac Curtis and Haniger.
Walker has long been viewed as having front-of-the-rotation potential, while Marte, at 23, has considerable upside. But the Mariners see Segura as a proven standout, and they believe Haniger is ready to blossom.
"It’s a baseball trade," one rival front-office executive said. "If Walker figures it out and becomes a No. 1 guy, then the Diamondbacks probably win the trade. But Segura is the surest thing in that deal."
Other deals also raise questions by appearing to prioritize short-term benefits.
The Mariners acquired outfielder Jarrod Dyson, who will be a free agent after this season, from Kansas City in a trade for right-hander Nathan Karns, who still has four years of club control.
Lefty Drew Smyly came from Tampa Bay in what, effectively, amounted to a three-way deal with Atlanta. The cost included Gohara and lefty Ryan Yarbrough, who was the Double-A Southern League pitcher of the year.
Smyly has two years of club control.
Dipoto said the Mariners felt comfortable in surrendering Karns, Gohara and Yarbrough because of previous deals that added veteran Yovani Gallardo, Chris Heston, Rob Whalen and Max Povse.
"It’s no fun to win if you can't figure out how to sustain," Dipoto said. "So we’re trying to figure that out as we go. We will make mistakes.
"It happens when you make (so) trades in a brief period of time but as (manager) Scott (Servais) said last year, `You pick up and you move on.’"
That much seems certain; Dipoto won’t pull back. Just a few days ago, he smiled in declaring: "We’re never done."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners