As expected, there was quite a bit of turnover in the front office and player development staff for the Seattle Mariners following the firing of Jack Zduriencik and the hiring of his replacement Jerry Dipoto. But as we learned yesterday from MLB.com’s Greg Johns, Dipoto has decided to hang on to a number of people from the previous regime, and that bodes well for the organization.
The first name to touch on here is the man who served as the Interim GM in the month in between Zduriencik and Dipoto, Jeff Kingston. Kingston was the Assistant General Manager under Zduriencik for the past six seasons and he is a very bright, young and well-rounded potential future GM candidate in baseball. He was often mentioned by Zduriencik for his work on contracts and was a key cog and “point man” for the development of the club’s shiny new academy in the Dominican Republic. Kingston also handled a lot of the work that went into the studies around reconfiguring the outfield wall dimensions at Safeco Field back in late-2012.
Next on the list of notable names retained is Tom McNamara. McNamara, of course, has served as the M’s scouting director for the past seven seasons, overseeing the MLB Draft for the club. Many felt as though one of the few checkmarks that remained in the former GM’s corner was having McNamara as his first lieutenant for the draft. McNamara – who was with Zduriencik in Milwaukee prior to coming to Seattle – got the club their lone “home grown star” in Kyle Seager in the 3rd Round of the 2009 Draft, and has generally been regarded as a keen evaluator of talent that has turned out a number of late-round successes for the M’s. His 2015 Draft haul looks like it could be one of his best efforts, too.
Tom Allison was hired by the M’s away from Arizona – where he worked with Dipoto and was his scouting director during Jerry’s run as Interim GM there – to be Seattle’s head of pro scouting, a position he’s filled for the past three seasons. He is staying as part of Dipoto’s crew here in Seattle now, too. That position is constantly analyzing potential fits from the Major and Minor Leagues to be acquired via trades.
Tim Kissner, hired three years ago to take over as Director of International Operations, is also staying on board. Kissner took over for Bob Engle and oversees Seattle’s total international scouting efforts. Under his watch the new academy in the Dominican opened and Seattle pulled their team out of the volatile political situation in Venezuela and that struggling league.
Those four names are probably the most familiar to people who casually follow the movements within the Mariners’ organization. But a few more lesser-known but very important pieces to the whole minor league system and player development efforts are staying put as well.
Jack Howell, who has been the M’s Minor League Field Coordinator for the past four seasons is also sticking around to work on Dipoto’s staff. Seattle hired Howell away from the Marlins, where he served for one season as their Minor League hitting coordinator, but before that he spent nine years working for the Diamondbacks, including the 2009 and 2010 seasons as the hitting coach for their big league team. So Howell, too, worked closely with Dipoto in the past. In his role with the Mariners, he’s been a key part of the regular interaction with prospects at all levels on all teams and those on injury rehab assignments in Arizona.
Former Jackson Generals’ manager Jim Pankovits (infield coordinator), Double-A hitting coach Brant Brown (who was serving as outfield coordinator until he was needed to fill a vacancy in Jackson) and former long-time Tacoma and short-time Mariners’ manager Daren Brown (bunting and baserunning coordinator) are sticking around as part of the instructor group for Dipoto as well.
Another very important piece of the organization that works on that last part is Gary Wheelock. Wheelock is the rehab pitching coordinator in Arizona, working with getting injured players back on regular programs and overcoming the stresses and mental challenges that coming back from injuries can cause. He worked extensively with Danny Hultzen in 2014 and had a lot of great things to say about the lefty in this piece that I put together late last season with his help.
And lastly, Roger Hansen – who has now been with the Mariners organization through four General Manager changes – is staying put. The guy who was Ken Griffey, Jr.’s first roommate as a minor league player has served in a number of roles with the organization dating back to 1990, ranging from managing in Peoria and Everett, to several seasons spent as the minor league catching coordinator, to the role he has held since September of 2011 as a special assistant to the General Manager. Roger has been making frequent trips to the Dominican to report on player development there recently, and it sounds as though his duties will continue to be varied and numerous under Dipoto.
While the roles for some of these people have not been finalized, they are all confirmed by the club as staying put as part of Dipoto’s new team of front office and player development people. And while the results from the player development side of the organization haven’t been the best over the past seven years, these people seem to represent the surviving strong points in the system.
The list of departures from the 2015 season staff now includes 22 names: front office executives Zdurienick, Gwynn, Ted Simmons, Pete Vuckovich and Joe McIlvaine, MLB coaches McLendon, Jewett, Donnelly, Van Slyke, Mike Rojas and Jason Phillips, minor league coordinators Terry Clark and Lee May, Jr., scouts Joe Nigro and Duane Shaffer, and minor league coaches Snyder, Navarro, Scott Steinmann, Cibney Bello, Jason Blanton and Mike Davis and also former MLB hitting coach Howard Johnson.
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