To say that the 2013 season for Seattle Mariners was a disappointment would be a gross understatement. Although the M’s finished a surprising 2nd in MLB for home runs, it was somewhat irrelevant considering they finished next to last in hitting with RISP, batting an anemic .222. Terrible hitting is nothing new to the Mariners. Their offense has been historically bad over the last handful of years, yet that was not the only reason for the M’s failures this year. The Mariners boasted potentially the best 1-2 starting pitchers in the American League: Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Unfortunately, the back end of their rotation was one of the worst in baseball, thanks to the likes of Joe Saunders, Aaron Harang, Brandon Mauer, etc. To make matters worse, the bullpen, which was supposed to be a strong staple for team, finished with an atrocious 4.58 ERA. This was just good enough to finish next to last for the entire MLB. These shortcomings lead to the inevitable departure of manager Eric Wedge. The wheels have come off, and now GM Jack Zduriencik finds himself in a precarious position heading into the final year of his contract. In order to fully comprehend what kind of hot water Zduriencik is in, we need to take a look back at his inception, which took place after the disastrous 2008 season.
When Jack Z was hired before the 2009 season, he promised a complete reformation. M’s fans had no reason to see why he wouldn’t fulfill his promise. Although Zduriencik had no GM experience, he possessed an impressive resume of scouting talent for the Milwaukee Brewers organization. He was the director of scouting for the club and was responsible for finding talent such as Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Cory Hart, and other pieces that helped the Brewers make multiple runs deep into the postseason.
The 2009 season gave M’s fans hope. The team finished with a respectable 85 win season, a 24 improvement from 2008. Jack Z also brought back Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle’s prodigal son. Things undoubtedly looked to be on the upswing. Fans finally had reasons to be optimistic. There was a GM in place that had the moxy to lead the M’s into the promise land, or so they thought.
This outlier would turnout to be the peak of Jack Z’s success with Seattle. It is impossible to deny the glaring missed trades and signings that he has been responsible for in the past 4 years that have led to this seismic shift. In the middle of 2010, when it became abundantly clear the Mariners were out of the playoff picture, Jack Z traded perennial All-Star Cliff Lee for the number one hitting prospect in baseball. This player was Justin Smoak. Smoak was designed to be a franchise first baseman for years to come. That obviously has not panned out even remotely close to what he has hoped for.
In 2011, an up and coming starting pitcher named Doug Fister was having a fantastic year for the M’s. However, in desperate need of young offensive talent, Zduriencik pulled the trigger on a trade that is still haunting the M’s today. Fister was dealt to the Tigers for Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells and minor leaguer Francisco Martinez. As of today, Furbush is an average left handed reliever in the Mariners’ bullpen, Wells played for 5 different organizations this year alone, and Martinez was designated for assignment by Seattle in the middle of the 2013 season. As for Fister? He is currently an invaluable starter for the World Series hopeful Detroit Tigers.
In 2012, when it once again became clear the Mariners were far from playoff contention, effective reliever Steve Delabar was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for a ham sandwich (Eric Thames). Halfway during the 2013 season, Eric Thames was designated for assignment, while Delabar earned an All-Star spot.
Jack Z’s free agent signings have also been less than spectacular. Names like Jack Cust, Milton Bradley, Michael Morse and Chone Figgins have all been pickups in the Jack Z era. Safeco Field might as well be a burial ground, considering it is where all of those players’ careers have been laid to rest.
So here Jack Zduriencik stands, at the proverbial precipice of his career as Seattle’s GM. To be quite frank, he needs a miracle to keep his job in Seattle. In order for him to receive an extension, the Mariners must finish above .500 in 2014. While that scenario is definitely possible, it is in no way probable. Young guns Taijuan Walker and James Paxton looked impressive during their very brief time in the majors this year, however the sample size was far too small and they still have to make the jump to the big leagues. Young position players Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, and Nick Franklin are projected to be above average MLB players, but once again they are extremely raw and have so much room to grow. Jack Z needs these kids to grow up fast. He also needs to go out and sign multiple free agents at 1st base and the outfield, as well as solidifying the M’s terrible bullpen and back end of the rotation. Piece of cake, right?
This offseason will be very interesting to watch. The decisions made in the next few months will not only effect Zduriencik’s future, but possibly the future of the entire Mariners organization for years to come. The hot stove will be turned up for everyone in the Emerald City.
Simply, it’s do or die time for Jack Z.