M’s Will Reportedly Announce Jerry Dipoto as New GM Today
It started with a tweet from ESPN’s Jim Bowden, but it’s everywhere now: the M’s have reportedly decided to offer the GM position to ex-Angels GM Jerry Dipoto. We don’t know the full candidate list, but recent reports had the M’s deciding between Dipoto and Yankees AGM Billy Eppler. I’ll have more later, but here’s what we know about Dipoto:
1: Has the GM experience that M’s president Kevin Mather wanted, as he led the Angels from October 2011 to July of 2015.
2: Worked as head of player development in Arizona from 2005 to 2010 under stat-conscious GM Josh Byrnes. As player development is perhaps the most crucial (and unexpected) failing of the M’s in the Zduriencik years, this was probably a big plus for Dipoto.
3: Reputation for mixing statistical information with old-school scouting. Dipoto has scouted for Boston and Colorado before moving to Arizona, and clearly has a foot in both worlds. Theoretically, his status as an ex-MLB pitcher may help him sell recommendations with managers; it’s probably a bit easier to take coming from a big leaguer than a 27-year old Ivy League grad who refers to probability distributions.
That sounds great, of course, but there are also some red flags here. These aren’t proof positive of anything, mind you, but they need to be discussed. First, while he has GM experience, his Angels tenure was not without problems. Given that the M’s wanted GM experience because it was a proxy for being able to manage a diverse group of departments, the fact that Dipoto resigned after getting out-maneuvered by his field manager – who worked directly with ownership – is a concern. More than that, Dipoto presided over a series of remarkably unproductive drafts. As I mentioned the other day, the Angels have had a surprisingly good group of young players make the majors under Dipoto, but nearly all were drafted before Dipoto took over. Because he only took over in 2011, some of this is to be expected: the Angels haven’t had time to graduate top prospects like Sean Newcomb. They’ve gotten great production out of Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and Garrett Richards, but all of them were drafted by Tony Reagins. Andrew Heaney’s been a bright spot, but he made his MLB debut for the Marlins and was essentially MLB-ready before Dipoto acquired him. Many of the balance of the Angels’ top 10 were acquired in trade, from Nick Tropeano (Astros), Kyle Kubitza (Braves) and Trevor Gott (Padres). Maybe that’s the result of some skilled deal-making, but it suggests that the system’s draft-and-development group hasn’t been terribly productive.
The same is true of Dipoto’s tenure in Arizona. When Josh Byrnes took over in late 2005, the Diamondbacks had a farm system ranked #1 in baseball. By the time he and Dipoto left, the system ranked in baseball’s bottom third. To be fair: part of the reason why the system looked bereft of talent was that so many of their top prospects graduated to the majors, from Justin Upton to Micah Owings to Stephen Drew. Dipoto should get a modicum of credit for helping get those players ready for the bigs, but again, all three were drafted prior to his hiring, and the players he presided over have a pretty mixed record. From Bobby Borchering to Taijuan Walker’s HS teammate Matt Davidson to Marc Krauss to Brandon Allen, the D-Backs collected corner bats and watched nearly all of them stall. The one who DIDN’T was the least-heralded of the bunch, and his success makes you think differently about the prospect rankings. If we knew then what we know now, would they be ranked 22nd? No, probably not. Does one really big win make up for a ton of losses? It depends, but it clearly helps. In any event, Dipoto had a couple of successes during his tenure, but that tenure also saw the system’s overall talent drop vis a vis its competitors. How you apportion credit and blame between the GM, the Player Development group and the amateur scouting crew is impossible to figure out. Let’s just say, though, that the overall record is mixed.
I mention all of this not to say it’s a terrible hire. His blend of experiences seems perfect – from player to scout to (stat-aware) executive – and having navigated a number of different organizations, I think he’ll be better at people-management than his predecessor. He’s worked in an environment where he had a nearly unlimited free-agent budget, and he’s worked under a GM in Arizona who had more fiscal constraints. While the Josh Hamilton acquisition blew up on him, it’s generally acknowledged that ownership had a hand in that deal. He’s made some extremely good trades, such as the Zack Greinke deal, and picking up Ernesto Frieri worked wonders in the short term. But just as there’s good on his resume, there’s some concerning things, too. That’s the nature of long resumes, perhaps. I’m cautiously optimistic here, though I think I’m much more cautious than others, at least from a quick glance at my twitter feed.