Seattle Mariners

Mariners are considering ‘full-fledged teardown,’ trading Mike Zunino, according to reports

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton (65) walks with catcher Mike Zunino at the start of the fifth inning of the team’s baseball game against the New York Yankees, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Seattle Mariners starting pitcher James Paxton (65) walks with catcher Mike Zunino at the start of the fifth inning of the team’s baseball game against the New York Yankees, Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) AP

Still don’t believe the Mariners would really consider tearing everything down and starting from scratch?

And are you surprised that Jerry Dipoto would be the talk of the general managers meetings that began Monday in Carlsbad, California?

Dipoto talked about the unlikely potential for a full-fledged teardown at his end-of-season press conference, but Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday morning that sources told him the Mariners are telling teams that they’re willing to move “just about anyone” and are willing to wait out a few bad seasons to build a competitive team.

That part isn’t totally new.

It just all depends on what the Mariners are willing to take in return, especially in any deals that might include Mitch Haniger, Edwin Diaz, Marco Gonzales or James Paxton because they’re all young, affordable (for now) and under club control for multiple years.

“We have to consider all the different possibilities,” Dipoto said about a month ago at Safeco Field.

“We do have some guys that are aging, we do have some guys that are just coming into their own, and I think that makes us like most every other team in the league. We just have to determine what our direction is, and a lot of our direction is going to be based on our core players. We do have a nice group of young, controllable players that we do intend to continue to build around. It’s just a matter of where that happens, when it happens and how it happens over the course of the next six or eight months.”

Dipoto and manager Scott Servais both specifically pointed to Haniger, Gonzales and Diaz as players they intend to build around.

“Not the pieces that you’re trying to send away,” Dipoto said.

Take that as lip service, or that the Mariners’ plans truly don’t include a complete tear down. Certainly, Dipoto is not opposed to attempting to make the team more competitive by trading around the edges.

But all this still leaves unanswered the Mariners’ greatest offseason question: Where do they go from there? How do they escape the middle-of-the-pack purgatory that saw them win 89 games, yet still finish eight games back of a playoff spot?

Some clamor for the same tear-it-down model that had more American League clubs unloading players in 2018 than adding them. Others would say because all those teams zigged, the Mariners should zag — but then are they just playing for a one-game wild card?

As much as Dipoto and company want to end a playoff drought that has lasted since 2001, they said they also want to build something sustainable — and how can a team be sustainable when the Astros, Red Sox, Yankees and Indians don’t appear to be going anywhere south in their division standings anytime soon.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic later reported that the Mariners, among many of their discussions, have talked to the Rays about a deal that might involve catcher Mike Zunino.

But ... when is Dipoto not talking to the Rays about a potential trade? That’s been the Mariners’ No. 1 trade partner since Dipoto arrived before the 2016 season.

Last month we laid out the Mariners’ roster construction heading into the offseason and who might have the most trade value and who has the least.

“There’s no reason for us to start from scratch,” Dipoto said. “But we do need to reassess where this roster is, and take a look at not just 2019, but how we catch the teams that are in front of us because I don’t think the Astros, the Yankees, the Red Sox or the Indians are going anywhere, and, frankly, the Tampa Rays and Oakland A’s just showed us that they’re real, and we have to consider that.”

This all doesn’t mean Haniger and Diaz are completely off the table. With the Mariners’ farm system so thin it’s unlikely Dipoto’s ears would be shut to any deal that involved a haul of top-ranked prospects, and those are the players most likely to satisfy that. Dipoto’s propensity for trades says his ears are never shut, period.

“I don’t think there’s ever a player that’s off limits,” Dipoto said. “We are always listening, we are always considering, we are always assessing the best way to do the job we’re trying to do, which is to build a championship roster.

“You have to be able to attack in the moment, or be efficient and opportunistic in that moment when it presents itself. And if you limit yourself to not talking about certain players, you’ll never get there.”

Their moves seem most likely to be centered around Paxton and shortstop Jean Segura. Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager will combine to make about $71 million next season. They’re (very, very likely) not going anywhere.

Paxton can become a free agent in two years. Segura signed a five-year contract extension last season, and it includes a full no-trade clause. But they both have talent, which is valuable.

So not a full tear down, but maybe a partial one that includes Zunino, too. And maybe they look into packaging Seager’s contract into one of those. Dipoto was asked about the possibility of more of a step back to be competitive in a year or two than something that would set them up for 3-5 years of rebuilding.

“Sure,” Dipoto said. “That has to be a consideration. Our goal is to win the World Series as soon as we can, and if we’re not going to win it in 2018, then our goal is to determine what our best timeline is.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Sources: The Mariners are considering a full-fledged teardown this winter. If trade market is strong, they’ve told teams they’re willing to move just about anyone. And if that happens, they have indicated they’re willing to wait a few years to build a competitive team again.</p>&mdash; Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/1059839052784926721?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 6, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Now, blowing things up in Seattle is subject to return. Jean Segura’s no-trade would need to be worked around. Return for Mitch Hanover, James Paxton and Edwin Diaz would need to be massive. But Mariners are in that awful no-man’s land where they’re good but not good enough.</p>&mdash; Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) <a href="https://twitter.com/JeffPassan/status/1059839693657845760?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 6, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Among <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Mariners?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Mariners</a>’ many discussions, per sources: Talks with <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rays?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Rays</a> about catcher Mike Zunino. TB has only two Cs on 40-man - Nick Ciuffo and Michael Perez, who have played 40 games combined in MLB. Only other SEA catcher on M’s 40-man is David Freitas, who has played 42 MLB games.</p>&mdash; Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) <a href="https://twitter.com/Ken_Rosenthal/status/1059883715571023872?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 6, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677; Twitter: @TJCotterill

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