It's a bittersweet day for the D-backs, as it was announced this morning by Ken Rosenthal on Twitter, and subsequently in ESPN's Rumor Central, that top D-backs executive Jerry Dipoto is to be named the General Manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It's sweet in that it's a great honor - and as well-deserved of one as I can imagine - for Dipoto, a fabulous executive who did a lot for this franchise in a very short amount of time as the team's Interim GM in 2010, yet bitter in the fact that, selfishly, I would love to keep Dipoto in Arizona because I think he's a mastermind of an executive. A quick look at Dipoto's baseball career and his tenure as Interim GM of the D-backs after the break.
Dipoto began his career in the pro baseball as a pitcher, selected in the third round of the 1989 MLB draft out of Virginia Commonwealth University. Dipoto spent the first three-plus years of his minor-league career as a starter, but hit a snag in 1992 at Triple-A Colorado Springs, struggling with his control and ability to miss bats, moving him to relief work. Dipoto shined in that role the following year, and split the '93 season between Triple-A Charlotte (the Indians moved their Triple-A affiliate between those years, it seems) and Cleveland, working in 46 games out of the Cleveland bullpen and notching a 2.40 ERA in 56.1 innings, saving 11 games and finishing eighth in Rookie of the Year voting. The following year, though, Dipoto hit a snag in Cleveland, spending most of the year back at Colorado Springs and posting an 8.04 ERA in the 15.2 innings he spent at the big-league level.
That off-season, Dipoto was traded along with Paul Byrd, Dave Mlicki, and a PTBNL (Jesus Azuaje) to the Mets for Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Roa. Dipoto spent two years in the Mets' bullpen, making 115 appearances and posting a 3.98 ERA - a 102 ERA+ - in 156 innings for New York, largely due to his ability to keep the ball in the park, as he gave up just seven home runs in those two years in NY. After the 1996 season, though, Dipoto was shipped off once again, this time headed to Colorado in exchange for... wait for it.... just a bit more....... Armando Reynoso. Sorry for the over-dramatization, I simply find this fun fact incredibly awesome.
Dipoto shined with the Rockies, posting a 4.21 ERA - good for a 129 ERA+ in the thin-aired sardine tin known as Coors Field - over 222 appearances, good for 267.1 innings of work, from 1997 to 2000. Once again, Dipoto didn't have particularly enthralling K:BB peripherals, at just 201:107 in his four seasons with the Rockies, but thrived by allowing just 25 home runs during his time in Colorado, a 0.8 HR/9IP rate that is exceptional for pre-Humidor Coors Field. Unfortunately, though, Dipoto's career was derailed in 2000 by a neck injury that forced him out of the game while in the midst of a solid campaign with the Rockies. Dipoto transitioned to scouting, and began his 11-year ascension through the organizational ladder.
Most D-backs fans will remember Dipoto for his 2010 stint at the Interim GM of the club, bridging the gap between the fired Josh Byrnes and current GM Kevin Towers. Despite his "Interim" title, Dipoto had no hesitation in leaving his footprint on the club, working a pair of major trades that have helped shape both the club's shocking 2011 playoff run and the team's impressive farm system. Dipoto sent two rotation workhorses, Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson, packing at the trade deadline, shipping Haren to the Angels for Joe Saunders, Patrick Corbin, (the oft-forgotten) Rafael Rodriguez, and a PTBNL (Tyler Skaggs), and Jackson to the White Sox for Daniel Hudson and David Holmberg.
The Haren trade, lambasted at the time, has worked out better than perhaps anybody other than Dipoto himself could have imagined. Saunders posted a 3.69 ERA - the second-lowest single-season ERA of his career - for the D-backs in 212 innings of work in 2011, providing a veteran left-handed anchor behind young studs Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, and Josh Collmenter. Skaggs and Corbin, meanwhile, each had breakout seasons in the minors this year and are key pieces in the D-backs' phenomenal farm system. Skaggs, in particular, saw his stock rise from a back-end top-100 prospect in the game to a sure-fire top-20 prospect in the game, and looks primed for a big-league debut in 2012 behind his low-90's fastball, plus curveball, and above-average changeup. Corbin, meanwhile, led the Southern League in strikeouts and profiles as a solid back-end innings eater with plus command of an average to above-average arsenal.
As lambasted as the Haren trade may have been, the Jackson trade was seen as a win from the get-go, and White Sox fans haven't been feeling any better about it as time has passed. Hudson went from struggling with his control in Chicago to dominating in Arizona from the get-go, making him an immediate upgrade in nearly every way - financially, contractually, and on the mound - over Jackson. Plus, Dipoto netted Arizona a prospect in the deal in Holmberg who worked 34 scoreless innings for Low-A South Bend this year at ages 19 and 20 before being promoted to Hi-A Visalia, and easily ranks among the team's best 20 prospects.
It's incredibly ironic that, of all teams, the Angels are the ones to hire Dipoto, given how much Dipoto's stint as Interim GM of Arizona was defined by the trade he made with ex-Angels GM Tony Reagins. It will be extremely interesting to see if the D-backs and Angels match up together in any future moves, given the close ties between the D-backs and Dipoto (and, similarly, to see if Dipoto and Josh Byrnes, the new GM of the Padres who Dipoto filled in for in Arizona, match up on any moves). Dipoto was as respected as an executive can possibly be throughout the D-backs front office, and for good reason. Congratulations to Jerry and, and here's hoping he has a great career with the Angels.