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Old 12-13-2018, 05:51 PM   #1
Hendu Style
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"Down to the Studs" -- The Tear-Down and Build-Up of the Seattle Mariners

Our story begins at the 2018 MLB Winter Meetings. The Mariners have executed a series of daring offseason moves, dumping burdensome salaries and casting off fan favorites and replacing them with a combination of prospects and more club-friendly contracts. Up until this point - December 13th, 2018 - our remains in-line with every single move that General Manager Jerry Dipoto has made in the real world.

The first domino fell just ten days after the 2018 World Series, when former #3 overall pick Mike Zunino was traded to Tampa Bay to start the offseason.

Not even two weeks later, James Paxton, who dazzled fans with a no-hitter in his native Canada and drew chants of "Eh! Eh!" in the so-called "Maple Grove" at Safeco Field, was gone in a New York minute to the Yankees.

Edwin Diaz, he of the electrifying 100 mile an hour fastball and the second-most saves in MLB history, was shipped off to the Mets along with Robinson Cano, who just five years earlier had arrived as the savior of the franchise.

Shortstop Jean Segura, who had competed for the AL Batting Crown while stringing together back-to-back .300 seasons in Seattle, packed his bags for Philadelphia in a swap with the Phillies.

Our dynasty diverges from the real world from there.

News hit this morning - December 13th, 2018 - that the Mariners had traded Carlos Santana to the Cleveland Indians for Edwin Encarnacion.

We will dare to do better.

We will carry on the roster tear down that began Dipoto's first swing of the ax on Zunino, and continued with the rolling heads of Paxton, Diaz, Cano, and Segura. They were the first, but they will not be the last. We will slash payroll and restock a long-neglected farm system. We will position ourselves to sign some of MLB's most coveted and most expensive free agents. And we will do it all against the toughest A.I. that Out of the Park can throw at us.

Welcome to "Down to the Studs."

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Old 12-13-2018, 05:59 PM   #2
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Preamble... and an invitation

Because we are playing out this dynasty on OOTP 19, I have simmed out the 2018 season to get to this point in the timeline. 2018 results in this thread will take a divergent path from the real 2018. But the trades and transactions that the M's have made up until today - from the regular season all the way up to the December 2018 Winter Meetings - have all been executed.

If you can't wait to see the results and stories in this thread, you can follow in real-time on my Twitch channel:

www.twitch.tv/drdynastic

I encourage you to follow me there and on Twitter (@drdynastic) if you'd like to have an interactive experience with this dynasty. I'm also a sportscaster and game reviewer, so if you'd just like to talk baseball and hang out, that's perfectly fine too.

Thanks for tuning in.

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Old 12-13-2018, 10:47 PM   #3
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The Mariners' unlikely playoff run seemed like a distant memory. Seattle's plucky bunch had managed to string together 91 wins in the regular season to clinch the franchise's first trip to the postseason in 2001, ending the longest playoff drought in U.S. pro sports. Jean Segura's dramatic 2-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning nearly lifted the Mariners to a come-from-behind victory over the Red Sox, only to see Ben Gamel strike out with the game-tying and game-winning runs on base to end the A.L. Wild Card. The Red Sox would go on to play in the World Series, where they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Little did everyone know, that was the beginning of the end for the Mariners.





Jerry Dipoto surveyed the hotel lobby, sizing up the competition. Amid the endless din of the Las Vegas slot machines singing a sirenís song in the distance, the Mariners general manager fixed his eyes on his counterpart from St. Louis, John Mozeliak. The Cardinals President had just landed the grand prize of the winter, signing free agent outfielder Bryce Harper. Baseball pundits were already crowning the Cards as the big winner of the 2019 offseason. Mozeliak did little to refute that notion, bathing in the glory of landing Harper. Cameras clicked away as Mozeliak and super-agent Scott Boras paraded Harper through the lobby for the world to see.

While the Cards were at the proverbial high rollers table, the Mariners were stuck at the nickel slots. In a series of trades that quickly and utterly dismantled the 91-win roster from the season before, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, James Paxton, Jean Segura, and Mike Zunino were all trades away. In their place came a combination of prospects, overpaid veterans, and the sad realization that it was going to be a dreary 2019 season in Seattle.

The roster tear down had come just days after the Mís had been defeated by the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card, a playoff game that haulted the longest running postseason drought in American pro sports. The celebration was short lived as Dipoto reimagined the Mís roster, realizing the teamís window to compete in the West had closed just as quickly as it had opened.

What was the Marinersí plan? Only Dipoto and Seattleís ownership knew for sure.

Mozeliak, Boras, and Harper barely acknowledged Dipoto as they walked by, making their way to the MLB Network stage. But Dipoto didnít mind. He wasnít here to lock up a big contract. He was here to get rid of one. Or even two.

In a flurry of moves, even by Dipoto's standards, the Mariners pulled off three separate trades with Cleveland, Miami, and Toronto.

Carlos Santana found his way to Miami along with the four prospects in exchange for Marlins catcher JT Realmuto, third baseman Martin Prado, and reliever Josh Edgin. Kyle Seager and the remaining 4 years and $71 million in salary found a new home in Cleveland for the Indians' Edwin Encarnacion and prospect Marcos Junior Gonzalez. Wade LeBlanc and Dan Vogelbach were sent to the Blue Jays in a swap that brought the Mariners third baseman Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and promising catcher Reese McGuire.

The trades had done little to improve the Mariners for 2019, but they were the final pieces in ensuring the team could be ready to be spend in free agency as soon as 2020. Now it was just a matter of getting through what figured to be a very challenging 2019 season.
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Old 12-14-2018, 05:40 AM   #4
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2019 Season

The 2019 Opening Day roster looked anything but promising. Gone were star closer Edwin Diaz, ace pitcher James Paxton, Hall of Fame candidate Robinson Cano, popular slugger Nelson Cruz, and All-Star shortstop Jean Segura. Help didn't appear to be on the way for at least another year. Or more.

While the 2019 Mariners were moving backward, the top of the league was moving forward. Reigning American League champion Boston added Clayton Kershaw to its rotation through free agency. The Yankees had a new ace in Paxton to take over for the injured Luis Severino, out until after the All-Star Break with a torn UCL. Even the Texas Rangers were on the upswing, thanks to the offseason upgrade at third base with Josh Donaldson.

Despite the acquisition of Seattle native and reigning ERA champion Blake Snell from Tampa Bay, an early season trade of Mitch Haniger only caused more consternation among the fan base. The team suffered another public relations nightmare when Justus Sheffield, the stud pitcher at the center of the James Paxton trade to New York, was put under the knife with a torn ACL and was shut down for the season.

The on-the-field product was every bit as bad, finishing dead last in just about every offensive category. The moribund Mariners trudged their way through a 94-loss season that could've been even worse had it not been for two rain-outs that were never made up. With Haniger out of town, Taylor Motter turned into a fan favorite, putting together a surprising .289/.360/.573 slash line with 18 homers in just 62 games played. But the Mariners finished the 2019 season with the second-worst record in baseball, ahead of only the 63-99 Kansas City Royals. As bad as the Mariners were in 2019, their minor league system was somehow even worse. The restocked farm system was ranked dead last by Baseball America heading into 2020, with just one player - pitcher Logan Gilbert - ranked in the top-100.

Any hopes of jump starting the rebuild were squashed when ownership slashed the team's approved budget by a reported $20+ million. Knowing there was no way he could make a reasonable sales pitch to any prospective free agent in the offseason, Dipoto chose to invest that money into a renewed commitment to the organization's minor leagues, scouting, and development. There would be no passionate free agent pitch to Nolan Arenado or Paul Goldschmidt. The Mariners would have to be all-in on rebuilding from the bottom to the top.



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Old 12-14-2018, 06:36 AM   #5
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2020 Offseason - Getting Back on the Horse

Jerry Dipoto had a well-earned reputation as a gambler and an aggressive trader. Some baseball insiders felt that Dipoto sometimes made a trade just for the sake of making a trade. But few knew that the Mariners GM had become gun-shy after the disastrous events of the 2019 season. He had chastised himself for not pulling the trigger on a deal that would have landed Sean Newcomb from the Braves. Newcomb had flourished in his first full season in the Majors, turning himself into a viable starting pitcher after posting a 3.34 ERA over the course of 24 starts for Atlanta. Instead, Dipoto had chosen to deal with Cleveland, landing a little-known minor league shortstop named Marcos Junior Gonzalez. "MJ" had very little clout but was held in high regard by Dipoto's scouts, who dubbed him as a "can't-miss" prospect. Gonzalez hadn't exactly disappointed in Short Season A-ball, but the 20 year-old was still a good three years away from being Major League-ready.



To make matters worse, his peers were making a killing in free agency. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow re-signed Gerrit Cole to a club-friendly 6-year, $72.6 million deal early in free agency, and followed that up by making the biggest splash of the offseason. 7-time Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado signed with the Astros on a 5-year, $120 million deal. It no longer seemed like the Mariners were taking one step back to take two step forward. Jerry felt like his team had stepped in quicksand while everyone else was taking an escalator.

Opportunity knocked, though, just before the start of Winter Meetings,when the Boston Red Sox came to the Mariners in hopes of offloading J.D. Martinez's contract. Though talks eventually stalled out, it got Dipoto back on the horse just in time for the Winter Meetings.

Just as Dipoto arrived in Las Vegas, he received a phone call from Miami's Alex Delgado. The Marlins GM was under direction of team owner Derek Jeter to cut payroll, and Carlos Santana was at the top of the list. Santana hit a respectable .270 with 19 homers, but wasn't living up to the giant contract he had first signed with Philadelphia. Delgado had pitched Dipoto on a swap that would send the first baseman and his $17.5 million salary to Seattle for catcher Jose Trevino and minor league pitcher Brenden Heiss. By the time negotiations had wrapped up, Dipoto had talked Delgado into eating $15 million of Santana's 2020 salary, while also landing 23-year old pitcher Jorge Guzman. All in exchange for 20 year-old pitching prospect Brailin Gonzalez.

Jerry Dipoto was back.





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Old 12-14-2018, 06:58 AM   #6
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Yes! Another Hendu Style dynasty!
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Old 12-18-2018, 07:31 AM   #7
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Old Habits Die Hard

With his SoDo Mojo back, Dipoto attacked the offseason with a vengeance. Rarely a day went by that the Mariners front office wasn't reaching out to another ballclub, looking to strike some sort of deal. On Friday the 13th, 2019, something freaky happened. Even by Jerry's standards.

The Mets were desperate to move Robinson Cano out of New York. The team had landed second baseman Daniel Murphy in a free agent deal the previous winter, and had nowhere to put Cano. With still two more years remaining on Cano's contract before a $2 million buyout kicked in, Robbie was now an albatross hanging around New York's neck, and they would do just about anything to get rid of him. Flush with cash from the previous winter's purge, the Mariners were fielding multiple offers to take on bad contracts from teams in exchange for prospects. Amazingly, the Mets managed to put together a package that beat the rest.

The Mets sent John McMillon, a standout reliever and a supplemental pick from the 2019 MLB Draft, along with minor league reliever Steve Nogosek and minor league shortstop Brody Cook. All the Mariners had to send in return was their 5th round choice from the draft, pitcher Justin Hooper. And the kicker: New York agreed to pay for $32 million of Cano's remaining $48 million in salary over the next two years.



Dipoto then turned his attention to the free agent market. With the prime players off the board - Nolan Arenado to Houston, Justin Verlander to Philadelphia, Anthony Rendon to Toronto, Marcell Ozuna to San Francisco - the Mariners patiently waited until February to start pursuing free agents who were getting nervous about not finding a club before Spring Training.

Closer Zach Britton was the first to sign. The lefty had saved 34 games and posted a 1.88 ERA the previous season for Minnesota, but the market had dried up on relievers. The Mariners had money to burn and inked Britton to a one-year, $8.3 million offer sheet, all the while Dipoto had kept pestering the Braves about parting with Sean Newcomb, who had earned a trip to the All-Star game in 2019. The Braves were well-positioned to move Newcomb, since he was still only the #4 pitcher in the team's rotation. Dipoto got Atlanta's attention by dangling J.P. Crawford, who had torched Triple-A pitching the previous year to the tune of a .342 batting average, 16 triples, and 98 walks. The 25 year-old shortstop was ready for primetime.

Dipoto was able to package Crawford and the recently-signed Britton - eating $7 million of his salary - in exchange for Newcomb and two minor league middle infielders, Matthew Lugo (#9 overall pick in 2019) and Logan Warmoth (#22 overall pick in 2017).



More importantly, none of these moves jeopardized the team's prized #2 overall draft pick... one of the few bright spots from the previous year's miserable on the field performance. Because Dipoto and the front office stayed patient in free agency, the ballclub retained the rights to its first-round draft choice. But the lineup and pitching staff that was being assembled was sending the team toward another top-5 pick in the draft, and ownership's patience was running thin.
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Old 12-20-2018, 06:48 AM   #8
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Taking stock of the upcoming 2020 season

The Mariners broke Spring Training with little hope of contending in 2020. Their lineup was anchored by a 37 year-old Robinson Cano, back for another go-around in Seattle after the Mets could no longer stomach his contract. Their biggest free agent signing was a pitcher by the name of Brad Boxberger, a 31 year-old journeyman who had record a grand total of five saves in the previous four years. Still, Jerry Dipoto was optimistic about the future.

"I think we've positioned ourselves well for 2021," Dipoto told reporters after the Mariners wrapped up 2020 Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona. "I really like the potential free agent class next year, and our payroll will be in line for us to make some moves."

Dipoto wasn't wrong. The payroll was projected to fall just under $90 million, and that didn't include team options on Mike Leake ($18 million), Carlos Santana ($17.5 million), and Dee Gordon ($14 million). Mike Trout headlined a class of potential free agents for 2021, a list that also included closer Ken Giles and pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.



Seattle's hope was that its so-called bumper crop of prospects would be ready to greet a free agent or two on the Mariners MLB roster. But the farm system had yet to bear fruit. Outfielder Jarred Kelenic had struggled in Short Season A, hitting just .179 in 63 plate appearances as a 20 year-old. Lefty Justus Sheffield was still on the mend from a torn UCL and had tossed just 26 innings in his time in Seattle's farm system. 2018 1st round pick Logan Gilbert was the Mariners' lone top-100 prospect in the minors, ranked #69 according to Baseball America heading into 2020.

"I'm telling you right now, our farm system is sneaky good," Dipoto insisted during his annual State of the Team address to reporters. "We have some really high-ceiling infielders in the low minors, and I think we have a few guys who are right there, on the verge of making our big league roster in Triple-A."

As far as the Triple-A prospects, Evan White figured to be the most MLB-ready. The first baseman proved to be an exceptional defender, and he managed a .298/.355/.416 slash line in AA in 2019 before a late-season call-up to AAA Tacoma which saw him hit .280 in 20 games. Still, he had hit a total of just 26 homers in 1154 career minor league at-bats, hardly the kind of power that one would expect from a first baseman.

Cal Raleigh, a 23 year-old catcher drafted in the 3rd round two years prior, had a .291 batting average in 152 minor league games in 2018 and 2019, while amassing 17 home runs, 51 doubles, and 91 RBI. If not for incumbents J.T. Realmuto and Reese McGuire in the Majors, Raleigh could very well be playing on the MLB roster in 2020.

24 year-old middle infielder Logan Warmoth, a product of the JP Crawford trade, reached AAA the previous year in the Braves organization and had now climbed every single rung of the minor league ladder.

And longtime outfield prospect Kyle Lewis was primed to make his MLB debut after center fielder Mallex Smith went down with a partially torn labrum at the start of Spring Training.

Dipoto was even more keen on his prospects in the lower rungs of the Mariners minor league ladder. 19 year-old Riley Greene, an outfielder drafted out of high school in the first round in 2019, hit .314 and flashed a great glove in his first year of pro ball in the M's Rookie League. 2019 draft pick Liam Deegan (4th round) lacked a flashy glove, but made up for it with raw power, evidenced by his 7 homers and 14 doubles in 54 games in Rookie ball.

Above them were infielders Matthew Lugo, Marcos Junior Gonzalez, and Osiris Castillo. The trio of Latin American players were all natural shortstops, but were now branching out to new infield positions to avoid a logjam in the minors. Lugo, a .293 hitter the previous year for Atlanta's Rookie League team, shifted over to third base, bringing with him a howitzer for a right arm. Gonzalez's bat (.315 in a short stint in Short Season A) was starting to catch up with his elite level defense, and he remained at shortstop. Castillo, who was the furthest along in the farm system of the trio, would slide over to second base after hitting .224 and stealing 11 bases in 45 games in Class-A Clinton.

Despite the relatively quiet offseason, Dipoto was determined to make one last trade before the start of the 2020 season. With plenty of financial room to spare heading into the new season, the Mariners GM made a phone call that would net the team a slew of new minor league arms, and a new starting left fielder.

Last edited by Hendu Style; 12-20-2018 at 07:22 AM.
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Old 12-23-2018, 03:19 PM   #9
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Something for Nothing?

Garrett Richards was one of the many reclamation projects the Mariners had taken on in Spring Training. Tyson Ross and Jake Odorizzi had also signed conditional contracts with the Mariners, given a chance to compete for a spot in Seattle's rotation. If they made the Opening Day roster, they would receive a guaranteed contract in excess of $1 million. But if they didn't, the M's would have 30 days to promote them to the MLB roster or lose them to free agency. While Odorizzi and Ross both struggled to find their form in Cactus League play, Richards did not.

The one-time Angels ace pitched impressively for the Mariners. In five appearances in Spring Training, Richards gave up just one run. He finished with an ERA of 0.93 in the Cactus League, enough to catch the eye of the Washington Nationals, who were looking for an insurance policy if Gio Gonzalez (fractured elbow in 2019) didn't find his way back into the rotation.

Jerry Dipoto was more than happy to take on the salary of Adam Eaton and a quartet of low-level minor league relievers. The 31 year-old left fielder was due to make $9.5 million in 2020 and had a team option for 2021. He would fill one of the team's many holes in the field and in the batting order, filling out the team's payroll but with no commitment beyond the upcoming season. It was a perfect fit.

The prize of the package in Dipoto's eyes was Justin Wilson, the Nats' first-round pick in the 2019 draft. The right-hander struggled in the New York Penn League, posting a 6.67 ERA in 32 appearances, but still had plenty of upside. The rest of the prospects were late-round picks in the previous two years' drafts, and Washington had few qualms about parting ways with them. For Dipoto, it was an opportunity to stock the farm system with arms at little to no cost to the team as far as draft capital.

Surprisingly, the Mariners had added more WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to their roster in the offseason than any other team, and it wasn't even close. The club's added 10.0 WAR was led by 1B Carlos Santana (2.8), Eaton (2.6), RP Andrew Miller (2.0), and SP Sean Newcomb (1.8). It was also a case of addition by subtraction when the M's lost 1B Edwin Encarnacion (-1.0) and 3B Martin Prado (-0.7) to free agency.

Nevertheless, the baseball prognosticators were still foreseeing a last-place finish for the Mariners in the AL West, predicting a league-worst 94 losses for 2020.







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Old 12-23-2018, 05:18 PM   #10
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Mariners Trade Eaton to Rays for Haniger

Mariners Trade Eaton to Rays for Haniger
Swap also includes prospects, cash


by Ryan Divish, Seattle Times

In a move that is a clear indication that the Mariners are throwing in the towel for 2020, the team sent veteran outfielder Adam Eaton on Saturday to Tampa Bay in a trade that will reunite Mitch Haniger with his former teammates in Seattle.

Eaton had reportedly grown frustrated in his short time as a Mariner, as Seattle currently holds the worst record in baseball (13-32). The move sends him to Tampa Bay, where the Rays are 21-23. Eaton was third on the team in batting average (.282) and is tied for second in the American League with 3 triples.

"All I ever wanted to do this year was compete for a spot in the playoffs," said Eaton by phone to the Seattle Times. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to do that with the Rays."

The Mariners also sent pitching prospect Max Povse to Tampa Bay, and the expectation is the Rays will immediately promote him to the Majors. Povse started the year in Triple-A Tacoma for Seattle, going 4-0 in 10 appearances this season. In return, the Mariners receive Haniger and former first-round draft pick Brendan McKay.

"Great times in Seattle," wrote Haniger to the Seattle Times via text. "Can't wait to play in T-Mobile Park again."

Haniger has appeared in 36 games this season, batting .223 for the Rays as a fourth outfielder. He could end up taking Eaton's vacated spot in left field, or return to right field, though that spot is currently occupied by Taylor Motter, who is batting .290 this season after batting a career-high .289 in 62 games last season. The most appealing part of the trade package could be 24 year-old prospect Brendan McKay. He went 4-3 with a 4.76 ERA in eight starts for the Rays' Double-A affiliate in Montgomery, and was Baseball America's #11 prospect in 2019, though he has failed to find his way to Triple-A.

"We have high hopes for Brendan," Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto said during a teleconference call with the media. "He's got two great pitches and is working on his changeup. He's maybe a year away from making it to the big leagues. He could be a future ace for us."

The Mariners also agreed to take on $4.3 million of Eaton's remaining salary in the deal.




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Old 12-24-2018, 01:36 AM   #11
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No Trout: Other Fish in the Sea?

The news came across Jerry Dipoto's phone just as he was boarding the plane for Secaucus, New Jersey, home of the MLB Draft.

"Trout Signs Extension with Angels."

The Mariners -- and other MLB teams for that matter -- had been clearing payroll in hopes of going after the biggest free agent perhaps to ever hit the open market. But it never happened, thanks to Angels owner Arte Moreno backing up the Brinks Truck to the tune of $311 million over 7 years. The $44.4 million salary would make Mike Trout the richest player in baseball history.

Dipoto took a deep breath as he took his seat, waiting for the inevitable avalanche of texts that would follow. Not only was Trout off the market, but he was remaining in Los Angeles and the American League West. For two years, Dipoto had privately envisioned Trout as the centerpiece of the new Seattle Mariners. It hurt doubly since he had a chance to land Trout via trade, when the Angels were shopping around their future Hall of Fame center fielder out of fear of losing him to free agency. As the plane took off for the East Coast, Dipoto's head was in the clouds, trying to dream up a way to offset the failed opportunity at getting Trout.

One of the few benefits of losing 94 games is getting a high draft pick the following year. The Mariners' 68-94 record in 2019 was "good enough" for the #2 overall pick in the 2020 MLB First-Year Player Draft. It was a foregone conclusion that Kansas City was going to take high school pitcher Victor Mederos with the top pick. It was just a question of who the Mariners would draft one pick later.

Dipoto was high up on Trejyn "Tre" Fletcher, a high school outfielder from New York. He was a speed burner on the base paths, covered a country mile in the outfield, and could hit for power. He was a true 5-tool player. Yet Dipoto's scouts were deadest on Noel Schmader, a 6'7" fireballer from Wooster High School in Danbury, Connecticut.

"He should have truly elite stuff when all is said and done," Dipoto's area scout from the Northeast wrote in a scouting report. "Schmader has an excellent pitch repertoire -- fastball, curveball, changeup -- which should allow him to become a great starting pitcher."

Dipoto had the last call, and in a fitting decision to officially move past the loss of one talented center fielder, the Mariners drafted another. June 4th became "Tre Day" as the Mariners used their coveted #2 overall choice on Trejyn Fletcher. The M's GM did acquiesce in the second round, picking Jackson Phipps, a 6'3" lefthander that his scouts were pushing.

The Mariners continued to stockpile young players when Dipoto splurged on two international prospects a month later, inking three Latin Americans to million dollar paydays: Juan Guebara (pitcher, $1.2 million), Gilberto Guerrero (pitcher, $1.4 million), and Juan Mora (shortstop, $2.2 million). All three were just 16 years old at the time of their signing.

But as the team limped into the All-Star Break with an MLB-worst record of 25-65, Jerry wasn't done dealing. Free agent-to-be All-Star catcher JT Realmuto (.304, 5 HR, 29 RBI) fetched a return of All-Star closer Robert Stock (18 saves, 2.02 ERA) and Triple-A reliever Rodolfo Martinez (2.95 ERA in 37 appearances) from the San Francisco Giants.





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Old 12-24-2018, 04:20 PM   #12
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I anxiously decided to subscribe to your thread! Good luck on the rebuild from the studs...lol!!!!!!
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Old 12-25-2018, 05:00 PM   #13
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Rock bottom?

If the Seattle Mariners mission for 2020 was to tank, they accomplished their mission in convincing fashion. Their 45-115 mark was the worst in Major League Baseball, tying the 1935 Boston Braves for the fourth-most losses in a single season. To make matters worse, the Houston Astros continued to dominate not only the AL West, but the American League as a whole. They won their second World Series in four years, topping the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had reached their fourth straight Series.

But Jerry Dipoto could only focus on his own team at the moment. He didn't need team owner John Stanton to tell him to clean house -- he was more than ready to do that on his own. Nearly $50 million in payroll was slashed when team options were declined on Mike Leake ($18 million), Carlos Santana ($17.5 million), and Dee Gordon ($17.5 million). But just as Dipoto was readying himself for a free agent spending spree, the General Manager was summoned to the Mariners' palatial estate in nearby Bellevue, Washington.

"Jerry, your task this year was to play close to .500 ball this year, wasn't it?" Stanton asked the GM just as Dipoto as he entered the owner's home office. The room was musty and smelled like an antique store.

"Yes, Mr. Stanton..." Dipoto began.

"And you failed that goal completely, didn't you?" Stanton asked rhetorically, not waiting for an answer. "And I seem to recall asking you to get some home run hitters before last season. You didn't do that either, did you?

"Don't bother," Stanton continued. "My secretary, Janice, has been going to Mariners games for two decades. Do you know what she tells me? She says my team sucks, Jerry. She says her boy gets teased when he wears his Cano shirt to school. Imagine that."

Dipoto stood silently as Stanton made his way from his executive desk and starting thumbing through an old leather bound book from one of the room's countless shelves.

"I'm reading this book about pirates chasing some lost treasure," Stanton said, breathing deeply as he adjusted his glasses, nose vectoring towards the book. "The captain claims he knows where it is. But after a while, the crew grows restless, and they start doubting their captain. They don't think he knows where the treasure is.

"Do you know where the treasure is?"

Dipoto gave a nervous smile. If there ever was a hot seat in Major League Baseball, he was sitting in it at this very moment.

"Yes, I do," Dipoto answered, putting on a false front of confidence. "The treasure is Bryce Harper."

Stanton put the book back in its place on the shelf.

"I'm a collector," Stanton said, fixing his gaze on another old book. "I pay you very well to collect players for my team. I remember you sitting in this very same room, listening to you say that we were going to get the best player of his generation..."

"I didn't think he was going to re-sign with the Angels," Dipoto pleaded. "Nobody did."

"Ah, yes, Mike Trout," Stanton said smugly. "That's his name, right? You said we were going to sign him, and other good players would follow. Now you say you want to get this Brian Harper fellow?"

"Bryce..." Dipoto sighed.

"Well, you can forget that little fantasy," Stanton said abruptly. "I've been paying attention to other teams, and how they're winning games. Houston... Los Angeles. Do you know what they have in common?"

"$250 million budgets?" Dipoto muttered to himself.

"Home grown talent," Stanton answered. "Cory Bellinger. Cody Seager. Larry McCullers. (Was he trying to butcher these names?) Carlos Correa. Jose Altuve. All of them were drafted by the Dodgers and the Astros."

The man had a point. Little as he knew about baseball, he knew enough to realize that even the highest-payroll teams leaned on talent evaluation and development.

"So you're saying we shouldn't go after Harper, or any other free agents?" Dipoto asked, resigning himself to another miserable season.

Stanton removed his glasses, and gave Dipoto a condescending smile.

"Precisely," Stanton replied, then put his hand on Dipoto's shoulder. "Now, don't you worry. I still have high expectations for my team, Jerry. I want us to play .500 ball. I'd like to see an uptick in attendance. And I want to see some of those guys you've been drafting make it onto our club at the park."

Catcher Cal Raleigh was just about ready for a call-up to the Majors after hitting 15 homers in 89 games in Triple-A. 24 year-old first baseman Evan White had a .280 career average in 415 minor league games, including 148 in Triple-A. Cody Clemens, a throw-in player in a midseason trade with the Cubs the year before, had hit a combined 29 homers for Chicago's and Seattle's AAA affiliates that year as a third baseman. Help was certainly on the way.

"Don't disappoint me," Stanton said, showing Dipoto to the door. Jerry thought to himself, this may be the last time he steps foot in this room, and that wouldn't be such a terrible thing.





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Old 12-25-2018, 08:36 PM   #14
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Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

The onus was on Jerry Dipoto to turn things around. And quick. There would be no quick-fix, cure-all band-aids either. No magic bullet in the form of Bryce Harper or Masahiro Tanaka. The Mariners would have to be rebuilt from the ground-up. Dipoto doubled down on Seattle's farm system, increasing the organization's player development budget from $16 to $20 million.

Though the entire coaching staff had one year remaining on their contracts, Dipoto decided to clean house. Each dollar paid for the remainder of their contracts would be absorbed by his payroll. But what did Dipoto care? Ownership told him not to spend on big ticket free agents. So why not spend that money on buying out his staff's contracts?

Manager Scott Servais was the first to go. Servais was given a terrible hand when the roster was torn down to the studs, but his 111-209 record over the last two years was impossible to ignore. In the place of Servais as skipper came former Boston Red Sox skipper Alex Cora, whose team's Wild Card finish was not enough to appease ownership. Tim Hyers followed Cora from Boston as the Mariners' next hitting coach, replacing Tom Brunansky. Sue Falsone, baseball's first female trainer with the LA Dodgers, was brought in to head up Seattle's training staff. Only pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and bench coach Gary DiSarcina were spared from the carnage.

But perhaps the most important moves happened in the Mariners Front Office. Dipoto enlisted Jeff Hartsock as the club's new Scouting Director. Hartsock's MLB career as a player had ended in 1992, just as Dipoto's career was getting started. Hartsock then began a long, circuitous route as a scout, earning acclaim in the Texas Rangers farm system for his finds in Latin America. Determined to give Hartsock every tool at his disposal, the team's scouting budget was increased to $24 million, double of what it was as recently as 2019.

And in an odd pairing, Dipoto enlisted the former manager Scott Servais as his new assistant GM. Instead of buying out the remainder of his $780,000 salary, Dipoto showed Servais the ropes as a favor to an old friend, hoping it would help him find a new calling in the baseball world.





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Old 12-25-2018, 11:52 PM   #15
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Unlikely Bedfellows

The Winter Meetings had gone without a move being made by the Mariners. Abiding by the ownership mandate, Jerry Dipoto didn't spend a single penny in free agency. Madison Bumgarner took a 6-year, $213 million deal to sign with the Mets. Adam Wainwright (2 years, $33 million) and Anthony Rizzo (4 years, $55.6 million) both jumped ship to the Washington Nationals. Bryce Harper still remained on the market after opting out just two years into his free agent contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Determined to add instant offense to one of the most anemic lineups in modern day baseball history, Dipoto reached out to Boston. In an effort to reunite new manager Alex Cora and hitting coach Tim Hyers with some of their former Red Sox hitters, Dipoto engaged in talks with Dave Dombrowski. In tow with Dipoto were his new assistant GM, Scott Servais, and scouting director, Jeff Hartsock.

They used Dombrowski's hotel suite in the Las Vegas Luxor as the negotiating room. The Boston General Manager had been trying to move the contract of designated hitter J.D. Martinez, but to no avail. Dombrowski found a willing trade partner in the Mariners.

The trade talks began with Martinez going to Seattle, straight-up for catcher Jose Trevino. Dombrowski wanted the M's to take on all of Martinez's remaining $39 million over the final two years of his contract. Martinez had proven to be a prodigious hitter, evidenced by the 44 homers he had hit the previous season in 2020. But he wasn't worth an annual salary of nearly $20 million. Talks seemed to be at a standstill when Dipoto wouldn't budge from his demand of Boston helping absorb half of Martinez's salary. But they were rejuvenated when Dipoto offered to take on first baseman Jose Abreu ($21.2 million over the next two years) and catcher Christian Vazquez (owed $6.25 million in 2020 but with a club option for 2021). The two sides haggled back and forth until the final deal was struck:

SEATTLE RECEIVES:
LF J.D. Martinez (Boston pays $10.7m for 2021/$10.7m for 2022)
1B Jose Abreu (Boston pays $4.2m for 2021/$4.2m for 2022)
3B Renato Nunez
C Christian Vazquez

BOSTON RECEIVES:
C Jose Trevino (Seattle pays $545k salary for 2021)
RP Ben Bracewell
LF Ben Gamel (Seattle pays $950k salary for 2021)
$300k in cash


Scott Servais, Dipoto's recently-fired-manager-turned-assistant-GM, couldn't believe it.

"This isn't fair at all," Servais remarked, whispering into Dipoto's ear at the bargaining table. "We're not getting much in return."

"Excuse us for a moment," Dipoto said, smiling to Dombrowski.

The Mariners got up from the table and went out on the balcony overlooking the Las Vegas strip. It was now night time. The had been holed up in the room for nearly three hours.

"What do you think?" Dipoto asked his new scouting director, ignoring Servais.

"You know what you're getting with Martinez and Abreu," Hartsock answered. "J.D. would be a nice DH for us. The kind of bat you've been missing since Cruz left."

Nelson Cruz, the former Mariners DH, had retired after the 2020 season. He had left Seattle just two years ago, playing out his final two years in Detroit and Philadelphia, hitting a total of 21 homers in 162 games. Sadly, diminished as his power had become, it was sorely missed in the Mariners lineup, which had finished dead last in the AL in homers the last two seasons.

"And Abreu?" Dipoto asked, turning to Servais. "You saw him up close and personal last season, Scotty."

That he did. In the previous season, Abreu had belted 4 homers and driven in 7 runs in just seven games against the Mariners.

"Guy's got a lot of pop," Servais answered. "He can't field worth a ----, but he swings a mean bat."

Abreu averaged 35 homers per 162 games in a 7-year career that had taken him to the White Sox and the Red Sox. He also carried a lifetime .304 batting average.

"We're the ones taking on all that salary," Servais said. "You know Dombrowski's going to turn right around and spend that money on Bryce Harper. Maybe we can ask for a little more."

"Like what?" Dipoto asked his scout.

"Well, they've got a few prospects I like," Hartsock replied, looking through spreadsheets on his iPad. "There's the pitcher, Englert... but he's injured. Coleman's good, but he's a little long in the tooth. Wait... how about Gonzalez?"

"You'll have to be a little more specific," Jerry said with a chuckle.

"Gamaliel Gonzalez," Hartsock answered, reading his notes aloud. "Lean and athletic... grades out as a plus defender. Hits with his hands, stays inside the ball, works it up the middle. Gonzalez has the talent to flourish in the majors."

Gonzalez hadn't yet turned 20 years old, but he had already spent three seasons in Rookie ball with the Red Sox, putting together a .285/.373/.407 slash line in 54 games during the 2020 season. The fact that the Red Sox would be saving over $35 million for 2021 -- just enough to put together a bid for Harper -- only strengthened Seattle's negotiation position. In the end, Boston budged when Dipoto agreed to throw in a catching prospect of their own, Jake Dunham.

In one fell swoop, the M's acquired two new full-time starters at first base and DH for the heart of the order, a platoon third baseman, a backup catcher, and a prospect.

Harper would end up spurning the Red Sox for the Blue Jays, signing a 6-year, $115 million offer sheet with the Blue Jays, with yet another opt-out after two years. The M's squeezed relievers Will Smith ($2.5 million) and Keone Kela (2 years, $4.8 million) into their payroll and embarked upon the 2021 season.





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Old 12-26-2018, 03:03 AM   #16
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Good News, Bad News

The Mariners broke camp in 2021 with a high ceiling and low expectations. The current iteration of the team was besieged with injuries. J.D. Martinez, the team's de facto star, broke his knee cap while sliding into second base on a pinch-hit double in the 11th inning, just three games into Spring Training. He was expected to miss the next four months. The news got worse just days later, when pitcher Justus Sheffield suffered a fractured elbow, sidelining him at least eight months. That was Sue Falsone's first week on the job as the team's new head trainer.

The experts were once again predicting a last place finish for the Mariners in the AL West, but there was some unexpected good news on the eve of the start of the regular season. Baseball America, which had routinely rated Seattle towards the bottom of its annual minor league system rankings, surprisingly ranked the Mariners as #1.

Center fielder Tre Fletcher, Jerry Dipoto's first-round pick in 2020, was rated as the #2 player in all of the minors. It was a small measure of vindication for Dipoto, who had fought his previous scouting director over the #2 overall pick. Gjelt Steentjes, a 19 year-old Dutch pitcher, was rated as the #3 player according to Baseball America. In all, the Mariners had four players ranked in the top-75. And with the #1 overall pick coming Seattle's way in the June 2021 MLB Draft, the Mariners were finally starting to catch some breaks. The future looked bright for Seattle, but the present looked as gloomy as ever.



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Old 12-26-2018, 04:25 AM   #17
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And with the first pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Seattle Mariners select...

Unlike the previous year when Jerry Dipoto and the scouting staff couldn't see eye-to-eye on who to draft #2 overall, it was a consensus pick between Dipoto and his new scouting director, Jeff Hartsock, for the top overall pick in the 2021 MLB First Year Draft. Dipoto and his scouts were practically falling over themselves over Nick Bitsko.

Bitsko was a 6'4 right hander out of Doylestown, Pennsylvania. He was about to turn 19 years old, but he carried himself like a college kid. He passed the eye test, throwing a heavy 95 mile an hour fastball to with a sharp curveball, and a solid slider and changeup. He also graded well as an impact hitter. M's scouts had been to Central Bucks High School to watch him countless times. The only question was if he would be a hitter or a pitcher.

If there was a silver lining to John Stanton blocking the pursuit of Bryce Harper that previous winter, it was that the M's had held on to their first round draft pick instead of giving it up as compensation. They had just stumbled upon the best amateur player to come through the draft in a decade.



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Old 12-26-2018, 11:31 PM   #18
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2021 Season -- An improvement... barely

The 2021 sputtered to the finish line to the tune of a 93-loss campaign, yet still huge improvement from 2020. The M's suffered through an injury-plagued year, losing J.D. Martinez until the All-Star Break to a broken knee cap. Martinez never seemed comfortable at the plate, hitting just .216 with 4 homers for the season.

At least he made it back on the field. Two starting pitchers -- Brendan McKay (torn rotator cuff) and Sean Newcomb (torn labrum) were lost for the season. As much as injuries defined the season, so did the team's rise of rookies.

Kody Clemens was a stalwart holding down third base and batting in the middle of the lineup in his first taste of the Majors. The son of the great Roger Clemens hit .261 while clubbing 22 homers. Logan Warmoth turned in an equally effective rookie campaign, batting .281 with 31 doubles and 13 home runs. Four more rookies -- C Cal Raleigh (.193, 2 HR), LF Josh Stowers (.271, 7 RBI), 1B Evan White (.277, 5 2B), and SP Jorge Guzman (2-4, 5.21 ERA) -- worked their way into starting positions after late season call-ups.

2021 marked the end of the Robinson Cano Era in Seattle, once and for all. Cano hit .238 in his final season, with the team exercising a $2 million buyout to avoid paying him $48 million over the final two years of a contract first signed in 2014. Cano missed the last half of the season with a knee injury, but managed to hobble onto the field for a wave to the crowd before their season finale.

As far as the rest of the baseball world went, it was business as usual. The Astros repeated as World Series champs, besting the Braves in 6 games. New York's Noah Syndergaard pulled off the rare MVP/Cy Young double play, thanks to a 19-9, 2.37 ERA, 277 strikeout season. Former Mariner James Paxton took home the Cy Young in the American League, going 17-6 with a 3.08 ERA and 211 K's. That one particularly hurt, since the players involved in the trade that sent Paxton to the Yankees netted the Mariners Justus Sheffield (10.1 Major League innings with Seattle in 2020, did not pitch in 2021 due to injury), Erik Swanson (released by Seattle), and Dom Thompson-Williams (retired after 2020 minor league season) never amounted to much in Seattle.

Still, Jerry Dipoto's spirits were lifted when he saw that 2021 American League MVP, shortstop Carlos Correa, had opted out of his contract with the Houston Astros to become a free agent at the age of 27. Perhaps this was just the opportunity Jerry was looking for to bridge the gap between his team and the kings of the baseball world.





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Old 12-28-2018, 02:51 AM   #19
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The Next Best Thing?

Free agency was upon Major League Baseball, and to the joy of 28 GM's around the league, shortstop Carlos Correa and third baseman Manny Machado both opted out of their contracts to become free agents. What was once looking like a pretty lukewarm market was suddenly boiling with talent.

Correa was the headliner. The 27 year-old hit .322 with 37 homers, 51 doubles, and 118 RBI in an MVP season in 2021, helping lead the Houston Astros to a second World Series title. Machado was nearly as impressive for the Orioles. The 29 year-old hit .290 with 35 homers, 38 doubles, and 117 RBI. Correa and Machado were both due mammoth paydays, and they knew it.

Under the guidance of agent Scott Boras, Correa was seeking a landmark deal in excess of $50 million per year, which would make him the first player to eclipse that milestone in U.S. sports history. Problem was, the Mariners had a budget of just north of $20 million to pursue free agents. Seattle pitched a 10-year, $215 million contract and was pretty much laughed right out the door. So Jerry Dipoto started dreaming up a way to land a big star in the middle of his infield without breaking the bank.

On a lark, Dipoto engaged in talks with the Cleveland Indians about their franchise shortstop, Francisco Lindor. The 28 year-old had signed a 7-year, $269 million extension before the 2021 season, and he rewarded the Indians with an AL batting crown by hitting .336, while leading all MLB position players with 9.4 Wins Above Replacement. Cleveland was in the market for a starting pitcher, and the Mariners had just the right guy in mind.

Blake Snell was entering the final year of arbitration with Seattle and was scheduled for free agency the following winter. He had won his arbitration case in earning $10 million ahead of the 2022 season, and was seeking an extension that would pay him $20 million annually. Dipoto had room in his budget to sign that extension, but had no plans of using that money on a pitcher about to enter his thirties. Surprisingly, the Indians were willing to trade Lindor for Snell, straight-up. But that would mean the Mariners would pay all of Lindor's substantial salary, which would peak at just under $40 million three years in. So the two sides went back and forth on financial terms until finally the Indians agreed to pay 40% of Lindor's salary in return for first baseman Jose Abreu and third baseman Kody Clemens, along with just under $10 million in cash considerations. Dipoto raised the stakes by asking for a new starting pitcher -- Danny Salazar -- in exchange for reliever Steve Nogosek. The deal would put a $3.4 million dent in Seattle's budget for the upcoming season, and add $22 million for the upcoming season. After that, Lindor had a player option, and there were no guarantees the shortstop would remain a Mariner after those first two seasons. It was a risk Dipoto was willing to take.

But the Mariners didn't stop there. Dipoto struck a deal with the Mets, sending closer Keone Kela and prospects Nick Kahle and J.D. Hapes to New York for reliever Carter Capps. Kela had one more year before free agency, while Capps still had two years remaining, and New York was willing to foot all but $1 million of his yearly $8.1 million salary in the swap.

Just like that, the Mariners had added franchise shortstop Francisco Lindor, veteran starting pitcher Danny Salazar, and reliever Carter Capps to the roster while taking on just $3.4 million of additional payroll for 2021. With any luck, Seattle could still be a player in free agency, too.





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Old 12-28-2018, 04:18 AM   #20
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The Puerto Rico Connection

On December 9th, 2021, the prize of the free agent market arrived in the Pacific Northwest. Carlos Correa had called the meeting, despite the objections of his agent, Scott Boras. The meeting, which consisted of Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto, team owner John Stanton, shortstop Francisco Lindor, along with Correa and Boras, was held in Bellevue at the swanky Daniel's Broiler Restaurant on the 21st floor of the Bank of America building.

"Cisco!" Correa shouted out as he entered the restaurant, which was open just for this meeting. He embraced his fellow Puerto Rican, Francisco Lindor.

"'Los!" Lindor answered with a pat on the back.

The exchanges were much less enthusiastic between Boras and Dipoto, who didn't exactly hit it off when they last met two weeks earlier. Dipoto had offered up a $21 million a year contract to his client. Needless to say, Boras was insulted by the deal, since he was hunting for a landmark $50 million per year contract.

"It is against my better judgment that I am here," Boras said with a stern handshake. "But Carlos insisted that I come."

Correa and Lindor went out on the balcony overlooking downtown Bellevue. Off in the distance through the clouds and the rain was Seattle.

"He is not concerned with money, but I am," Boras continued, looking at the two All-Stars laughing and conversing in Spanish. He took a deep breath. "Am I to understand that you cannot pay above the original putrid offer you brought to me and my client?"

Dipoto turned to his boss, team owner John Stanton.

"That is correct," Stanton replied. "I've give my front office a very clear budget. Whatever Jerry is offering you is all we got."

Of course, that wasn't entirely true. Dipoto could always move money around in the budget, allocating less for the MLB Draft and International Free Agency. Theoretically there was still another $10 million on the table, and Boras likely knew that.

"I'll cut right to the chase," Boras said. "Carlos will sign with you under two conditions. One, he play third base."

"Done," Dipoto blurted out, not bothering to consult the team's manager, Alex Cora.

"Two, there will be a player opt-out for Carlos for the same year as Lindor," Boras continued. "Three year deal at $21 million. That is assuming you can scrape together that kind of money."

"We can," Dipoto answered. "But for three years?"

"The contract will be for seven years total," Boras replied. "But at this paltry number, and given your track record for screwing the pooch, you and I know this little marriage isn't going to make it past Lindor's opt-out. When Lindor leaves, so does my client."

Two days later, just as the Mariners held a press conference to officially introduce Correa as the newest member of the team, the defending World Series champion Astros signed free agent Manny Machado, and the Texas Rangers signed Clayton Kershaw. The American League West arms race had begun.

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