Mariners will still have work to do at Meetings

Dipoto seeking bullpen, rotation depth after flurry of offseason moves

Mariners will still have work to do at Meetings

SEATTLE -- With Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings set for next week just outside Washington, D.C., it's fair to wonder how many moves Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has left to make after already engineering six offseason trades that have brought in 10 new players.

But remember, this is one of the most active GMs in baseball, and the latest shuffling has yet to fully address the shortage of left-handed relief and has also created more of a need in the rotation, so don't be surprised if Dipoto manages to do a little more holiday shopping when player agents and executives from all 30 teams gather for four days of conversation.

MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at 6 a.m. PT.

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Dipoto wasted no time remaking the Mariners last year in his first season on the job, with most of that coming via the trade market. Seattle did sign a handful of free agents -- outfielder Norichika Aoki, catcher Chris Iannetta and relievers Steve Cishek, Ryan Cook and Justin DeFratus -- but Dipoto engineered 25 trades involving 60 players over the course of his first season, with six of those deals coming before the Winter Meetings even began and three during last year's gathering in Nashville, Tenn.

This offseason's similar early flurry has narrowed Dipoto's remaining focus, particularly after securing shortstop Jean Segura from the D-backs on Wednesday in a five-player swap that cost Seattle young right-hander Taijuan Walker.

Dipoto on Segura trade

Dipoto has already checked off most of his position desires, having also brought in first basemen Danny Valencia and Richie Shaffer, backup catcher Carlos Ruiz, outfielder Mitch Haniger and utility man Taylor Motter, along with young lefty relievers James Pazos and Zac Curtis.

He also addressed some of the rotation concerns on Monday by acquiring two young right-handers, Rob Whalen and Max Povse, from the Braves in exchange for 2014 first-round Draft pick Alex Jackson.

In addition to improving at shortstop and adding depth at first base and catcher, Dipoto wanted to get more athletic in the corner-outfield spots flanking Leonys Martin. He feels both Haniger and Ben Gamel, acquired from the Yankees in August, are ready to compete for full-time spots this spring, while returnees Seth Smith and Guillermo Heredia as well as Valencia, Shaffer and Motter figure in the mix, too, along with designated hitter Nelson Cruz.

"We really like our depth and potential for impact, and feel good about where we are with our outfield," Dipoto said. "It's a nice, young athletic group of plus defenders who all have an interesting skill set. Some with power, some with speed, some with both."

This offseason's deals have come with a cost of six Minor League prospects, plus Walker, shortstop Ketel Marte and lefty Vidal Nuno. The biggest departure was Walker, though the Mariners still have five returning starters in Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, James Paxton, Ariel Miranda and Nathan Karns.

"Obviously now the [starting] depth is no longer enviable and we'll have to look to the market, whether trade or free agents, to try to help create a little more depth," Dipoto said prior to Monday's trade with the Braves. "Perhaps at the back of our rotation, perhaps we look to beef up the bullpen, but most of our primary focus moving forward from now toward Opening Day will probably be toward the pitching staff."

The free-agent pitching crop is thin, which is why Dipoto felt he could wedge maximum value out of Walker on the trade market. That will force Dipoto to be creative as he looks to reinforce the rotation now, but Seattle found depth last year with midseason additions Wade LeBlanc and Miranda, and the club could look for those sort of below-radar moves again to deepen its starting pool, perhaps something like a Doug Fister reunion or a similar type of player.

The Mariners do appear to have some payroll flexibility. Their current projected 25-man roster adds up to about $140 million, which is just below the $142 million they were at for Opening Day last year. All indications are the newly aligned ownership group will be willing to increase payroll some in the right circumstances and Dipoto may well go the free-agent route to bolster the bullpen.

Though one quality left-handed target is already off the board with Toronto's Brett Cecil signing a four-year, $30.5 million deal with St. Louis, there are still some solid southpaws like Boone Logan, Jerry Blevins and Javier Lopez on the market.

And, of course, the trade scene provides infinite possibilities, particularly for someone with Dipoto's willingness to deal.

"We really like Zac Curtis," Dipoto said of the lefty acquired in the Walker deal. "Between he and Pazos, we picked up two power left-handers who have considerable bat-missing skills and have been really dominant at the Minor League levels, particularly against left-handed hitters. So those are good fits for us now and moving forward, but we won't hesitate as we continue forward in the offseason to add a veteran component to our bullpen mix. I would say that's a great likelihood."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.