Jerry Dipoto isn’t wasting any time. He used his introductory news conference Tuesday at Safeco Field to outline his initial priorities as the Seattle Mariners’ new general manager.
“My baseball philosophy is to build flexibility, build versatility, create balance and that will lead to sustainability,” he said.
“I believe that starts today.”
▪ Dipoto hedged when asked about retaining manager Lloyd McClendon, who has one year remaining on his contract:
“The best marriages,” Dipoto said, “are those in which you fall in love and then get married, rather than someone arranging it from a thousand miles away. We’ll take the time to get to know one another.”
Dipoto said he planned to meet each day this week with McClendon in order to gauge their compatibility.
That’s likely to be a key component in light of Dipoto’s July 1 decision to resign as the Los Angeles Angels’ general manager in large part due to public friction with manager Mike Scioscia.
“I wouldn’t say bringing in my own guy is critically important,” Dipoto said. “To have someone that I believe in, that I trust, who trusts me and believe in what I’m doing, is terrifically important.”
▪ On overhauling the front office, including the club’s under-fire scouting and player development departments:
“Baseball contracts typically run through Oct. 31,” Dipoto said. “You want to restructure whatever you’re going to restructure by that point. That gives me more than a month to sit down with people.”
Dipoto said changes are coming but suggested, initially at least, they will be limited.
“I’m sure people will come join the organization who aren’t here presently,” he said. “I’m also 100 percent sure that many of the people you see here today are going to be key figures as we move forward.”
▪ On his priorities in supplementing the major league roster:
“If you put together the elements of what’s required to be a contending club,” Dipoto said, “I think the one that we are missing right now is just the general roster depth.
“The lineup needs to be a little bit longer. The rotation needs to be a little bit deeper. The bullpen needs to have more layers than it presently has.
“Through hard work and good scouting and the use of proper analytics, you can turn over a couple of rocks and find a guy here and there. You can create depth in a roster that allows you to be competitive quickly.”
That belief points to a key element in Dipoto’s philosophy: He is a big believer in the sabermetric revolution sweeping through the game — although he dismisses any characterization as a numbers-only guy.
“When making any decision,” he said, “you have to consider what you see and what you know. What we see is the player playing out in front of us. What we know is what he’s done.
“What we can do is then come up with some general understanding of what he may do moving forward, based on all of the elements — the age of the player, the health of the player, the ballpark he plays in, etc.
“There are so many key elements. But, today, if you’re not using the analysis that’s available to you … information is the key to the universe. If we’re not using it, we will.”
The Mariners announced Monday their decision to hire Dipoto, 47, as the full-time replacement for Jack Zduriencik, who was fired Aug. 28 after nearly seven years in the position.
Club president Kevin Mather, who headed the search, said there were “upwards of 40 candidates at the beginning of this process.”
Mather pared the list to 10, interviewed six of them and identified three finalists, who then met with board chairman Howard Lincoln and other top club officials.
The other finalists, according to sources, were Billy Eppler, an assistant general manager with the New York Yankees, and Jeff Kingston, a Mariners assistant for six years who served as Zduriencik’s interim replacement.
Dipoto is a former pitcher who logged eight big league seasons from 1993-2000 for three organizations before embarking on a front-office career. He served as an interim general manager in 2010 at Arizona.
Hired Oct. 29, 2011 as the Angels’ general manager, he overhauled the roster through a series of trades and splashy free-agent signings. A year ago, the Angels returned to postseason for the first time since 2009.
“I believe my decision to leave the Angels,” Dipoto said, “was in the best interest of the Angels. It was in my best interest. … Sometimes, it’s just right to move on for everybody’s benefit.”
Dipoto joined the Boston Red Sox in August as a special adviser before getting what he characterized as a “dream job” when hired by the Mariners.
“The foundation here is fantastic,” he said. “Elite-level players like Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. Young guys like Brad Miller and Mike Zunino, Chris Taylor and Ketel Marte …
“And a guy I think has the chance to shoot the moon in Taijuan Walker. It’s a really nice group of young players.
“Our job, in baseball operations, will be to surround that group with as good a foundational core as we can and create as much balance on the roster as possible.
“We want to create a model here that is something that can be sustained year in and year out, where we have a steady flow of young players coming from the minor-league system.”