Dipoto: Mariners’ path to climbing out, when to anticipate Justin Upton

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The Mariners are in a hole to climb out of and sit bottom in the American League West after losing two of three to the Oakland Athletics. Jerry Dipoto, general manager and president of baseball operations, remains confident his team can pull this off, despite knowing the Ms have some things to fix.

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“We just have to play better,” he said Thursday morning during the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show on Seattle Sports Station. “…You are always looking for additions and re-evaluations. We reevaluate about every day. You’re trying to find the best combination of players that will take you to the promised land or the baseball championship, and right now we don’t feel like we’re particularly close.”

Dipoto still believes the Mariners can get back on track, whether it’s through players returning from injury or through veterans just playing more like the backs of their baseball cards.

“Part of that (improvement) will come from within,” he said. “The recent return of Kyle Lewis, which we hope is the return of the likes of Mitch Haniger and Tom Murphy, Abraham Toro. And I think on the pitching side guys like Ken Giles and Erik Swanson who’ve been so good for us are closer and that’s going to help in our bullpen.

While acquisitions might be in order, Dipoto explained that this is a difficult time in the MLB schedule to make trades, though he did mention Seattle hitting the ground running on May 25, 2018 with the Tampa Bay Rays to lose outfielder Denard Span and to acquire emergency workers Alex Colomé.

“You don’t usually see trades until June, July, and I don’t feel like the market is really boiling yet,” he said. “…It’s still a young season but I don’t think we’ll be able to meet any of those needs via trade anytime soon, which is one of the reasons we signed Justin Upton.”

The M’s added Upton, a 34-year-old hitter, to freehand last weekend, though he may be weeks away from making his debut for the team (he reported extended spring training in Arizona after the signing).

“He’s someone who’s been through this before,” Dipoto said. “He’s a four-time All-Star and was a free agent. It will take a while before he gets up to speed and ready to play full time. Hopefully during this next road trip we’ll be there somewhere and Justin can help us and really start expanding what’s happening in our lineup and outfield.”

While the Mariners went into their day off Thursday 18-27, which is 11 games behind division leader Houston, they’re still only about a quarter of the way through the season, and Dipoto knows things can turn around quickly because he saw it with the team a year ago. The Mariners sat 21-26 after a May 23, 2021 loss and were still under .500 in mid-June but finished the season with a record of 90-72.

“We found ourselves in an almost identical situation last year, almost at the same time this time. We had a good start to last season, I think the first 20, 21 games were remarkable – 13-8 – and then we fell back hard, lost I think 18 of our next 26. We were at the bottom of the league division and had to scratch out, and we did. And this year we must do the same. … We still see ourselves as a young, growing team, and we watched it a year ago – we saw us clawing our way out of that hole.”

How can this happen now? A few things Dipoto pointed out: more hitters across the lineup helping the more consistent producers, and Seattle boasting more results in big spots.

“Right now we have five players who are ready for a season of 3 1/2 or four wins from WAR, which is a big number – both in that there are five of them and (because) 3 1/2, four wins, that’s pretty rare air. Not too many guys do that in any given year. We have guys like Adam Frazier, Julio Rodríguez, Ty France, JP Crawford and Eugenio Suárez all have that pace. Unfortunately, we have no one else to contribute.

“We reach points in our lineup where we generate traffic. If you look at our team – and that’s why the national experts, I think, are a little more optimistic about what will happen in the future – we control the strike zone, we go to the base. Our Offense by Weighted Runs Created-Plus came into play eighth in Major League Baseball yesterday (note: Seattle is currently eighth in MLB with a 110 WRC+), which I know is hard to believe when you watch what happens but we’ve actually been pretty good under the hood. We just don’t turn it into runs. … Our ‘clutch’ isn’t what it was a year ago.”

You can listen to the entire Jerry Dipoto Show on the podcast starting Thursday at this link or in the player below.

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