When looking for what has caused the Seattle Mariners to have such a disappointing season, three general problems stand out: (1) Their offense overall has been anemic (12th in the AL in runs scored); (2) they've dealt with injuries to a few key starters (Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton); and (3) their bullpen hasn't kept them in games or closed out games well (23 blown saves). The Mariners do have a strong core in the middle of their lineup with Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, and the same can be said of their starting rotation as long as Felix Hernandez, Iwakuma, Paxton and Taijuan Walker can stay healthy. A good offseason could get the Mariners right back to contender status next year.
Seattle did the right thing in hiring Jerry Dipoto to be their general manager earlier this week; he was by far the best candidate in the field. The best part of the hiring is the Mariners have given him full autonomy to make all baseball decisions, including hirings, firings, signings and trades, from the superstars to the bat boys. Dipoto told me Tuesday that factor was one of the key reasons he wanted the job. He has never had that type of authority before.
Dipoto's ability to balance building for the future while building for today is special. President Kevin Mather said it best in a statement: "He has a very unique skill set, having been a successful player in the majors, having scouted, having spent time in player development … and a track record as a successful GM."
Dipoto's modus operandi is to build depth in all aspects of his roster, with emphasis on the starting rotation and bullpen. He also wants to make sure his team is better prepared for injuries or underperformance, so look for him to build a deep roster both at the major league level and the upper tier of the Mariners' farm system.
Objective No. 1: Evaluate the manager and coaches
Dipoto told me Tuesday that he and manager Lloyd McClendon need to get to know one another over the next couple of weeks to find out how compatible they are baseball-wise. The relationship and trust with the GM and manager are paramount, but just as important is the baseball compatibility. Dipoto will make a decision after he gets a better feel for that.
I will add that Dipoto has always been a glass half full type of person and is fond of McClendon as a person. Conceivably, the right thing to do would be to honor McClendon's contract and bring him back next year, though it's worth noting that Dipoto has never had the opportunity to pick his own manager; he was merely an interim GM in Arizona, and Mike Scioscia already was in place as the manager in Los Angeles. Of course, it also might depend on what managers are available to Dipoto.
This will be an interesting decision, and it should happen fairly quickly this offseason. After that decision is made, the coaching staff will be evaluated next.