There seems to be a steady stream of content creators putting out their thoughts on the Seattle Mariners rebuild. There is plenty of quality in these pieces and are well worth your time. But since I’m often the last person to join the party, I figured now is as good a time as any to talk about the Mariners rebuild.
If you’ve been following us since our inception or when we wrote for Sodo Mojo, you probably know that we are pro-rebuild and there is an undeniable truth that must be said right away: Jerry Dipoto has absolutely crushed this rebuild thus far. Anybody who would tell you otherwise has either not been paying attention, has a narrative or brand they’re trying to sell you, or are just plain stupid. But the facts are undeniable. The Seattle Mariners rebuild has gone as close to perfect as one could have reasonably hoped for.
This starts at the minor league level, where Dipoto has taken a bottom five farm system and in two and a half off-seasons, he’s turned into a top-five system. Baseball America ranked seven Mariners inside their Top 110 prospect, including the numbers 3 and 4 prospects in baseball, Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic respectively. This of course doesn’t even factor in the young MLB players who have graduated from prospect statuses like Evan White, Kyle Lewis, Justus Sheffield, and Justin Dunn.
In addition to the incredible improvement in the farm system, Dipoto has found some diamonds who have a good chance to be a part of the next good big league club, including Marco Gonzales, Tom Murphy, Ty France, J.P. Crawford, and Dylan Moore. The player development department has been incredible thus far and is quickly gaining a reputation around the league as one of the best in the game and Seattle has only truly been rebuilding for 2.5 years. It’s been simply incredible.
Now, the hardest part still lies ahead. Turning a strong rebuilding era into an era of sustained winning is the hardest jump there is, but the Mariners are in a good position to make that jump in the next 1-3 years. Or, at least they should be. However, it is hard to shake off one factor that can change everything: John Stanton.
Since taking over as majority owner in late 2016, Stanton has already proven to be a vast improvement over the Nintendo of America group led by Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong. Then again, that’s not really saying much is it? But there are really few concerns on my end that Stanton will not open up his wallet in the coming years. At least, that is how I felt a few days ago.
You see, we were told that Dipoto is rather unhappy with the man signing his checks, and Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times all but confirmed as much on his podcast. It appears that ownership has suddenly changed course on Dipoto, who was already on record as saying playoff contention was a goal in 2021. Now, the latest reports indicate that Dipoto may not have the financial flexibility to add to his payroll as he originally thought and the smoke got even bigger when Dipoto started to walk back his playoff contention talk on Monday’s press conference.
And herein lies my biggest concern with the Mariners rebuild. It has nothing to do with Jerry Dipoto. Only a fool would want to change regimes right now (though fools aren’t too hard to find). It’s not with the current group of players in the organization. Sure, they’ll need help from outside of the organization to win a world series, but this is true of every team, including the 2020 champion Los Angeles Dodgers (hello Mookie Betts).
No instead my biggest concern is the apparent meddling of John Stanton. I don’t think anybody without something to sell you honestly thinks that overpaying on multi-year contracts in this weak free agent class was a good idea. And for the most part, fans have understood that philosophy. But it now appears that paying even market value for MLB help is off the table for Dipoto. The language has gone from “we are looking to add” to “if possible”, and this team still has holes to fill on its big league roster. Not to compete for a world series, but to protect yourself against some of the inevitable injuries and poor performances from this young team.
John Stanton is a billionaire. Ultimately, the buck stops with him. The apparent “bait and switch” on his baseball people, and the fans of his team, is frankly unacceptable. And whether or not these reports are true, we need to hear from him. We deserve an explanation. Are you going to let Dipoto spend this off-season? Or are you protecting lost revenue due to the pandemic? It’s unfair for Stanton to let his GM take the heat for his decisions. If Dipoto is allowed to spend, then let him. If he isn’t, tell us why. You owe us that much.
The Seattle Mariners are going to be good again. Of this, I have no doubt. Jerry Dipoto has done a marvelous job navigating this rebuild. Of this, there can be no doubt. Now, the precipice of the most exciting era in franchise history since the mid-’90s, we stare into the face of doubt. Perpetrated by the largely anonymous face of one Mr. John Stanton.
Do the right thing, Mr. Stanton. Give your GM the reigns and let him do his job. And if you’re not willing to do that, then at least have the guts, or the respect to tell us why.