Believe it or not, not every button Jerry Dipoto has pushed has worked since the Seattle Mariners made him their general manager in September of 2015.
But it certainly seems that way.
Some of the trades that have earned him the moniker of “Trader Jerry” have culminated in most of their biggest contributors this season, from Dee Gordon, Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger, to Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake and Wade LeBlanc – just to name a few.
And on Friday afternoon the Mariners announced that they agreed to a multi-year contract extension that will keep Dipoto running the team’s baseball operations for what's believed to be at least through 2020. His contract was reportedly set to expire at the end of this season.
“Our major league club is not only better than when we started, we are younger and more athletic with a window of opportunity that is just opening,” Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather said. “We are expecting to compete every year for a playoff spot and to win the World Series.”
Terms of Dipoto’s extension weren’t readily available.
Dipoto, at the time of his hiring, said this position with the Mariners was a dream job for him. He affirmed Friday that it very much still is.
“This this a great market in a city that is starved to win – with an opportunity for me to be creative,” Dipoto said.
“We are going to make bad deals. You could make 10 trades or 100 trades – you are going to make bad deals. That’s the nature of baseball because we’re betting on human beings to a degree. But you get the right people, guys like Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Dee Gordon — and I could go on and on — (and) Marco Gonzales. Guys who aren’t just good players, they are good people and they come together in a room and they start to drive the core around them. I think that’s what has happened in our clubhouse and as an extension what has happened on our field in 2018.”
Dipoto also said several times that he can’t imagine doing his job without manager Scott Servais, who is also in the final year of his contract, alongside him. He said he’s hoping a deal could be worked out to extend Servais before the end of the season.
“Without question,” Dipoto said about a potential deal to secure Servais with the Mariners longer. “I don’t envision a time when I’m doing my job without him doing his job.”
The deal comes at a fitting time, with the Mariners on pace to end the longest-active playoff drought in American professional sports, with their last appearance being in 2001, when Pat Gillick was GM.
Dipoto became the Mariners’ ninth general manager in club history when he took over before the 2016 season for Jack Zduriencik.
He's is one of the few running baseball operations around major league baseball to also be a former major league player. He was a reliever from 1993-2000. This year marks Dipoto’s 30th season in professional baseball, going back to his minor league days.
This is what Dipoto’s done his whole life, he said, starting with trading baseball cards from a young age (he revealed that his favorite trade was for a Lee Mazzilli card as a young New York Mets fan).
“And I was freely trading at that time, too,” Dipoto chuckled.
But one of his more heralded trades brought Segura and Haniger to the Mariners from the Diamondbacks in a deal that sent right-hander Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Martel to Arizona.
Dipoto acquired Gonzales, a former first-round draft pick, from the St. Louis Cardinals last year in exchange for outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill. He also got Leake from the Cardinals in exchange for prospect Rayder Ascanio.
Then this offseason he got creative. In need of a center fielder, Dipoto sought after Gordon in a trade with the Marlins to acquire the former Gold Glove second baseman who had never before played center field in the major leagues.
Gordon’s now back at second base since Robinson Cano was suspended 80 games for violating major league baseball’s joint drug agreement, but the center field experiment appeared to be paying off, and it’s likely Gordon will spend more time in center when Cano returns from his suspension next month.
If you’re counting, the Mariners typical top three in the batting order – Gordon, Segura and Haniger – were all acquired in Dipoto trades.
He vowed to make the Mariners younger and more athletic. For the most part that has paid off.
Take the outfield. Not only Haniger, but Dipoto also acquired Ben Gamel in a 2016 trade from the Yankees, signed Guillermo Heredia from Cuba and then in May acquired outfielder Denard Span along with right-hander Alex Colome, who led the American League in saves a season ago.
Haniger was asked about his perception of Dipoto.
“Ah, man, positivity,” Haniger said. “I haven’t been around a ton of GMs, but when he comes into the clubhouse, every instance I’ve had with him has been very positive and he’s always in a good mood and that’s nice to see that your boss is always in good spirits no matter how we’re playing.”
That’s because Dipoto is a self-described “50-year-old dork like the rest of them.”
“Scott and I have talked about this for 20 years – all our years as baseball players the one thing we always wanted was for somebody to talk to us to give us some ability to govern our own careers and be our own best coaches and to give us freedom and quick feedback and let us know where we stand,” Dipoto said. “Over the years that’s just how I evolved as a baseball person, and if I wanted to be that way with a player, why wouldn’t I want to be that way with a fan, a coworker – anybody?
“I love the fan walking down the street who pumps their fist and yells, ‘Go, M’s.’ Because that’s me. I’m doing the same thing, and I’ll pump my fist back to them. Let them know that you care, too. It’s OK to do that.”
Dipoto confirmed that the Mariners signed Florida State catcher Cal Raleigh, their third-round draft selection, just before Friday’s 2 p.m. MLB deadline to sign draft picks.
MLB.com’s Jim Callis reported that the deal was for $854,000, which was just above the pick’s slot value.
Dipoto said Raleigh headed to the Mariners complex in Peoria, Arizona, before shortly joining short-season Single-A Everett.
They weren’t going to have first-round pick, right-hander Logan Gilbert, pitch much anyway this summer, but they shut him down for good when they learned Gilbert contracted mononucleosis, which hospitalized him in Orlando.
Dipoto said Gilbert will spend 4-6 weeks recovering but they expect him to be ready for high-performance camp in spring training.
Outfielder Mitch Haniger (bruised knee) missed his second consecutive game on Friday, but Servais said they were encouraged it wasn’t worse. Haniger said he would even be available to pinch hit in Friday’s game against the Rockies. … 2016 first-round draft pick Kyle Lewis will represent the Mariners in the 2018 Futures Game and play for the U.S. Team during the All-Star break.
Left-hander James Paxton (8-2, 3.39 ERA) starts for the Mariners against the Rockies and left-hander Kyle Freeland (8-6, 3.25 ERA) in a 1:10 p.m. Saturday game at Safeco Field. It will broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM radio.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677; Twitter: @TJCotterill