Angels General Manager History: Jerry Dipoto

Constructing an MLB roster remains and will always be one of the hardest jobs in all of sports.

As general manager of a baseball team, there are countless tasks to handle, which look at both the short-term and the long-term. There’s putting together a 26-man roster via player development, the draft, free-agent signings, and trades. There’s finding the balance between winning now and thinking about the long-term prognosis in every single move. There’s trying to project how well a pitcher will perform, both statistically and on the health side. Perhaps most difficult is trying to put together a farm system and evaluating what a guy might in 3-4 years. Put simply, constructing a baseball roster has its major difficulties.

That leads me here today to continue my series evaluating every general manager in Angels franchise history. Evaluating any general manager needs context, given that putting together a roster in the 1960s-1970s (prior to free agency) is way different than it is in the year 2020. My goal is to evaluate every general manager based on all of the given information we have about them and how much success the team had while he was there.

With this in mind, let’s get onto the tenth general manager in Angels franchise history.

PART 1: Fred Haney

PART 2: Dick Walsh

PART 3: Harry Dalton

PART 4: Buzzie Bavasi

PART 5: Mike Port

PART 6: Dan O’Brien

PART 7: Bill Bavasi

PART 8: Bill Stoneman

PART 9: Tony Reagins

Jerry Dipoto (Oct. 29, 2011 – July 1, 2015)

Dipoto is a baseball lifer through-and-through. Dipoto spent parts of eight seasons in the majors in the 90s as a so-so relief pitcher but good enough to give himself a commendable MLB career. When it was clear that he was done as a player, he made the fairly quick and seamless transition into a front-office role with the Colorado Rockies as an assistant to the GM. He went on to fill multiple scouting roles in the next decade, most notably in his role as Director of Scouting and Player Personnel for the Arizona Diamondbacks. When Tony Reagins stepped down from the Angels GM role in the fall of 2011, Dipoto was named the Angels new GM. Angels owner Arte Moreno said he hired Dipoto because he “liked the way that Jerry viewed baseball analytics”. This comment would remain forever relevant and controversial given what unfolded in the latter part of Dipoto’s tenure.

Dipoto’s aggressive nature

Photo by OC Register

Dipoto wasted zero time making a name for himself and shocking the baseball world in his first offseason as Angels GM. A little over a month after he was hired, Dipoto signed the two premier free agents in a matter of hours on one December morning. Shortly after signing Albert Pujols to a mega-10-year-deal, news broke that Dipoto also signed left-hander C.J. Wilson to a five-year $75 million contract. The fact that an Angels GM made significant signings in free agency wasn’t new. We’d seen prior GMs, such as Buzzie Bavasi in the late 70s-early 80s, make moves for significant talent. What was surprising, however, was just how quickly Dipoto made such significant moves. As we’d come to see later, this was part of the wheeling-and-dealing nature of Dipoto.

Even with these aggressive moves, the promotion of instant-star Mike Trout, and the midseason trade for ace Zack Greinke, the Angels would miss the playoffs due to a putrid 8-15 start in April. The team showed its true talent the rest of the way (81-58 record after that point) but the early falters sunk them. Dipoto’s aggressive nature didn’t stop after the season. In the 2012-2013 offseason, Dipoto saw Torii Hunter and Zack Greinke leave in free agency and responded by signing Josh Hamiton to a five-year, $125 million deal. Dipoto also brought in Chris Iannetta, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, and Sean Burnett into the fold.

The 2013 season, however, was an utter flop. Yet another poor April (9-17 record) began a sub-.500 season thanks to major underperformances from all of the recent additions to the club. Mike Trout firmly established himself as baseball’s best player but it wasn’t enough to carry the rest of the roster was just wasn’t very good. Before and during the 2014 season, Dipoto made a boatload of moves albeit not quite as flashy (or careless) as the previous ones. In that time, Dipoto brought in David Freese, Fernando Salas, Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago, Joe Smith, Huston Street, Vinnie Pestano, Jason Grilli, and Collin Cowgill. The results finally showed for Dipoto: the Angels won 98 games, winning the AL West for the first time since 2009.

Dipoto’s fallout

Photo by LA Times

The 2014 season would be Dipoto’s last full season as things were about to get ugly in 2015. The turbulent relationship between Dipoto and Angels manager Mike Scioscia was well-known and resulted in Dipoto stepping down in the middle of the 2015 season. Disagreements about the implementation of analytics and the method to incorporate them into scouting reports led to the final breaking point of the relationship between Dipoto and Scioscia. The tension between both sides was present in Dipoto’s first season, an early indicator that this was not a healthy relationship. Firing longtime hitting coach and Scioscia appointee Mickey Hatcher in the middle of the 2012 season did not help the relationship. This was more than simply an argument between the old school and the new school. This was a power dynamic, a tug-of-war that saw two prominent members of the same organization fail to come together and find middle ground with their philosophies. Scioscia, who held more power and track record in his title manager than any manager in recent memory, had the organization’s backing and it was clear which side would win.

Just like I touched on in the last GM installment about the relationship between Tony Reagins, Arte Moreno, and Eddie Bane, this same power dynamic and controversy is hard to truly evaluate. There is public information from prominent sources breaking down what occurred and what led to Dipoto’s departure. The difficulty, however, lies in knowing exactly how these conversations went down and who was out of line. It could very easily be both sides that were at fault, unwilling to work together even amidst their differences of opinion. Or it could be more one-sided than we think. Truthfully, I don’t know what the right answer is and who deserves more of the blame between Dipoto or Scioscia/Moreno. What’s clear, however, was the Angels public feud and departure of Dipoto was a massive PR shitstorm for a club still in the middle of a competitive season.

Dipoto’s lasting impact

Photo by Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dipoto’s departure and public feud with Mike Scioscia and his short-term-heavy approach make him one of the most controversial figures in the franchise’s history. When Dipoto ditched the toxic situation in July of 2015, so much of the future was unclear, beyond just who the next full-time GM would be (Bill Stoneman held the interim role through the rest of the year). Dipoto’s departure and handling (or mishandling) of building for the long-term left the Angels and their next GM in dire conditions.

Dipoto’s wheeling-and-dealing nature had huge ramifications for the organization. While lauded at the time (to an extent) for making an effort to build a winner, the moves for Pujols, Hamilton, and Wilson were multifaceted moves with huge consequences. From a purely financial perspective, those players cost a lot of money, especially given how they performed on the field. But they also restricted payroll in a major way, putting the Angels in a long-term money crunch due to players who weren’t performing up to par. Beyond the money, the Angels also sacrificed early draft picks for all those players, creating a disadvantage in a realm where the Angels could sign their next cost-controlled youngsters. Even the lesser talked about moves, such as trading for Zack Greinke or trading Mike Clevinger for Vinnie Pestano, depleted the Angels of the resources necessary to build a sustainable winner.

Those moves don’t even touch the surface of Dipoto’s long-term roster building. Dipoto’s track record in the draft and the international world is nearly as rough as his free-agent/trade resume. When Dipoto took over in 2012, Baseball America ranked the Angels system as the 19th-best in baseball, thanks to players like Trout and Garrett Richards. As expected, the promotions of those players led to a decline in the farm system, which isn’t the issue. The issue was the response to this and the ability to replenish the system.

Via the draft, here is the list of noteworthy signings in Dipoto’s four seasons: David Fletcher, Keynan Middleton, Michael Hermosillo, Justin Anderson, Sean Newcomb, Taylor Ward, and Jahmai Jones. Signing Fletcher in the sixth round of the 2015 draft was an obvious success but that entire draft record is underwhelming. Add in Dipoto’s international signings, mainly the Roberto Baldoquin debacle, and you have a four-year resume showing an inability to evaluate young talent. By the time Dipoto had left, the Angels were routinely running out one of the worst farm systems in baseball. To this day, it still remains a bit perplexing that a GM who was a former player and scout and was heavily invested in analytics had this poor of a resume. Regardless, Dipoto’s short-term priorities and inability to build the farm system led to catastrophic results.

What Dipoto did well

Dipoto showed the desire to provide immediate results for the Angels. Say what you will about his nature and the long-term outlook but Dipoto clearly wanted instant results on the field, a commendable trait in this specific industry. Dipoto also was at the helm for the lone Angels postseason appearance this past decade with the 98-win 2014 season. In his four seasons (if you include all of 2015), the Angels averaged 87.5 wins a season. A slightly better start in 2012 and/or finish in 2015 may have left Angels fans with a very different opinion on Dipoto.

And to play devil’s advocate, Dipoto was thrown into a situation of power dynamics by both his immediate boss (Arte Moreno) and his conduit for on-field success (Mike Scioscia). For example, Moreno played a huge role in the Pujols negotiations and Scioscia was baseball’s longest-tenured manager, meaning he may not have been apt to changes as much as a newer, younger manager. Because of these factors, Dipoto was dealing with many issues beyond just building a competent organization. He had to do so while having less power and say than two other prominent members of the organization.

What Dipoto didn’t do well

The question you have to ask yourself: were the long-term consequences Dipoto helped create worth the 87.5 wins a season and one playoff appearance? I’d venture to guess that most fans would say no. Dipoto spent tons of money that crippled payroll flexibility and consistently swapped out long-term health for short-term gains. As a result, the Angels were competitive in the time Dipoto was in Anaheim but it seriously cost the Angels in the long run. There is no doubt that Dipoto bears a lot of responsibility for the dire position that his predecessor, Billy Eppler, inherited. It’s hard to forget the first season post-Dipoto in 2016. With nearly $100 million tied up to four underperforming, or already traded, players (Weaver, Wilson, Pujols, Hamilton) and baseball’s worst farm system, Dipoto left the Angels in a truly pitiful situation.

19 Comments
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2002heaven
Super Member
3 years ago

Arte didn’t want to go into a rebuild mode after 2009
He wanted to mortgage the future for a already weak and wounded farm system, plus he didn’t want to pay big money for good top shelf pitchers both starters and relievers ( Zack Greinke should’ve made that obvious ). Obviously both DT Tony & Jedi are both controversial GM’s to this blog base……..bottom line Ed Bane and Bill Stoneman were both very overrated as was the strength of the mid 2000’s farm system ( Brandon Wood, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Dallas McPherson, Joe Saunders, Sean Rodriguez ). Ugh!!!!

GrandpaBaseball
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  2002heaven

Not to say you are wrong, but all mentioned had average ML careers as opposed to guys that never make the bigs. The one big hurt was Brandon Wood and the biggest surprise is Mathis.

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago

I’ve really enjoyed this entire series and this one was great.. Thank you.

I was absolutely in love with the idea of Dipoto when he came here. A young, analytics heavy guy with a background in scouting seemed like just what the Angels needed. The smile, the shades, the hair, the confidence. He checked all the boxes for a guy bringing a new direction and energy to the field.

If there’s one thing I think he did more than anything it was expose the Moreno/Sosh deathgrip on the franchise. Eppler likely has more free reign due to the public spat embarrassing those two.

2002heaven
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

I’ve soured on analytics overuse……Paul DePodesta with the Cleveland Browns organization ( i think NFL is better for analytics than MLB ). Grady Fuson was right…..actuaries don’t beat a good scout with good observation skills IN ANY SPORT!!!

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  2002heaven

I like a good mix. I guess I’m naturally a pretty “best of both” type thinker.

At the time Jerry was hired we had absolutely no analytical input. I love a great scout, too, but good teams have both.

UnrealisticOptimist
Trusted Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

Good to hear something nice about Dipoto. If only Fans knew of what was really going on in those times.

GrandpaBaseball
Legend
3 years ago

Jedi (Jerry Dipoto) was in way over his head. Start with the 3 big FA signings. It is my belief that Arte wanted Pujols no matter what the cost. Selling the cable TV deal was the bull eyes of this move and secondary was the selling of tickets in the Hispanic community too increase attendance. No one from the team president, V.P., to G.M. to Sosh wanted to tell Mr. Moreno NO. Albert’s offensive and defensive numbers were declining and the rumors persisted of steroid use and fast and forceful denials by the first baseman. Wilson did not play in his year 4 and how could anyone of seen that coming?. Hamilton was just a monster mistake from the get go when looking at the whole picture, but the guy had behaved apparently in Dallas. So the amount of finger pointing goes Jedi’s way for these signings, but only Wilson was his. The other two belong to the Moreno’s account. Jedi though knew what the score was in accepting the offer from the Angels to be the G.M. and therefore instead of being hard headed when he should of been the teacher of analytics to the staff. Terminating the batting coach was a immature move to show power. Quitting at the halfway point of a season was again a childness like move and showed that the man is clueless. He has shown no improvement in Seattle other than collecting steroid users. Sometimes it takes a second chance to show that you learned from your prior poor performance, so maybe Jedi will still show he knows what he is doing, just glad it is in our division.

H.T. Ennis
Admin
Super Member
3 years ago

It’s hard to fault Dipoto for Pujols and Wilson, and I generally try to avoid doing so. And it is impossible to know exactly what happened and what led to the signings. But the Hamilton signing freaking sucked. And Jerry was the GM.

Eric_in_Portland
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  Brent Maguire

this sums up my feelings, too. I half suspect that DiPoto could have done well for us if he didn’t have to contend with either Arte or Sosh getting in the way of his job responsibilities. As it was, though, that farm system…wow.

2002heaven
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Brent Maguire

Maybe he was forced to retain Ric Wilson as scouting director ( Ed Bane was overrated, Jered Weaver and Mike Trout ( a accidental HR as far as I’m concerned and who else? ) Arte doesn’t want to make big sweeping changes ( either he’s lazy and cheap or he’s paranoid about negative outward appearances ). Never had a President of Baseball Operations ( what does that tell you? ). Yeah and Arte was gonna spend a fortune on scouting and player development……..LMFAO!!!!! THIS FANBASE IS FORTUNATE TO HAVE IT’S ONE PLAYOFF APPEARANCE AND HIS TWO WINNING SEASONS THAT HE GAVE TO US WITH A OWNER LIKE AM……

hockey_duckie
Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Brent Maguire

We lost first round picks due to FA signings of Pujols and Hamilton. I think Dipoto was in charge of one first round draft pick, P Newcombe.

We don’t know all the details of who wanted who between Arte and Dipoto. It just seems odd to trade for P Greinke and give up all those assets just to lose a first round pick by signing a hitter than re-signing Greinke. That was the point of trading for Greinke, IMO, was to avoid losing a first round pick.

The new rules don’t make you lose a first round pick. To give perspective, signing Rendon during those old rules would have lost the Angels a first round pick, which is P Detmers.

Designerguy
Super Member
3 years ago

One of the most haunting photos in Angels’ history, thanks to Dipoto.

90.jpeg
John Henry Weitzel
Editor
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Designerguy

Why get one good pitcher when you can get 4 “pitchers”? This one gives me shudders.

eyespy
Super Member
3 years ago

Three. One of them just got better with us, and got paid to stay away from the field.

Mia
Legend
Mia
3 years ago

It was all downhill from this day on for Jerry.

Closing photo.JPG
Fansince1971
Legend
3 years ago

Boy, that picture of Mike and Jerry forcing smiles! They clearly knew their picture was about to be taken. I wonder what conversation preceded that moment. It was an awkward relationship for sure.

I still think that 2014 team should have won it all. Were it not for a completely ineffective Hambone in key RBI situations, and a lucky eyes closed catch by Aoki, that series would have gone to the Angels and then who knows how that effects everything- including the 2015 blow-up.

The way Jerry left mid-season and the dismantlement of the Farm left a very bad taste in my mouth. That said, I do give him credit for building the 2014 team which should have accomplished much more in the playoffs than it did.

steelgolf
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Fansince1971

Hambone should have never played in that series. He had just come back from injury and had ZERO time in the minors to get back up to game speed. He was completely lost during every at bat. And that is on Scioscia, he created the line up, he penciled him in.

JackFrost
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  steelgolf

Yep. And he utterly failed in a lot of RISP situations. Any halfway decent major league outfielder in those same situations would likely have changed that series dramatically.