The 2014 offseason. Looking back, the biggest story that anyone can remember is A.J. Preller. Last Winter was the winter of Preller. The seemingly endless action of Preller, from the trades for Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, and others, to the free-agent signing of James Shields, was the story of the whole offseason. While the Padres season was arguably an abject failure in hindsight, A.J. Preller did accomplish one of the things he set out to do. The new GM sought to create a change in attitude and more importantly a change in culture. The Padres may have not responded well to all the changes, but interest in baseball is back in San Diego nevertheless.
While A.J. Preller was the “rockstar GM” of last offseason and the star of the show, there is a new sensation in town this year. While Jerry Dipoto is not a new general manager by any standard, he is new to the city of Seattle. Dipoto came into Seattle after a messy departure from the Los Angeles Angels with a plan that he wanted to immediately implement this offseason. And implement it he has.
Dipoto is doing this offseason what A.J. Preller should have been doing last offseason. Instead of acquiring big name talent at the expense of the farm system, talent that did not mesh together on the field, Dipoto’s focus has been on acquiring talented players that have been written off in other places. The key difference here is that the prices have been cheaper and the roster looks more well put together than in the past.
While A.J. Preller ignored defensive value and other little things to bolster a historically bad offense, Dipoto is doing the opposite. The Mariners have gotten younger and look like a more complete team offensively and defensively than they have in years past. The acquisition of Leonys Martin helps shore up the outfield defense and Luis Sardinas has potential in the infield, while the acquisition of Nate Karns solidifies the rotation. Add Joaquin Benoit to a bullpen that struggled and the Mariners have already improved in every facet of the game. The Mariners also got a better defensive catcher in Chris Iannetta which will also have a positive effect on the pitching staff.
A.J. Preller’s focus was on acquiring lots of big names in order to help sure up an offense that was bad. Dipoto’s focus has been on acquiring players that were written off in other places, such as Martin and Sardinas, or players that were not necessarily needed on other teams, such as Karns and Benoit. The Mariners have had to give up some talent in return, in Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, among other major and minor league players, but as a whole the team is getting better under a new philosophy.
The Mariners have so far built a more complete offense, a deeper pitching staff and bullpen, and a more defensively minded ball club. While there is still obviously much work to be done, Dipoto has gotten off to a great start this offseason. While Dipoto has been the most involved in the free agent and trade markets this offseason, he is still no A.J. Preller. However, given the Padres failure to respond to all the moves last offseason made by Preller, maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing.