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Jack ZduriencikAfter receiving a one-year extension for the 2014 season and plenty of speculation that it would be his last with the organization, the Seattle Mariners announced that they have extended executive vice president and general manager Jack Zduriencik to a multi-year contract extension. Specifics about the contract beyond it being for multiple years were not released, the usual procedure for the club.

Zduriencik took over as general manager following the 2008 season and the M’s have a 430-510 record under his tenure, including a 101-loss 2010 campaign. Seattle currently holds a Wild Card slot and sits six games back of the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels in the American League West.

After former manager Eric Wedge announced he would not return for the 2014 season in the final week of the 2013 season, speculation heated up as to whether or not Jack Z would name Wedge’s successor or if that task would be up to a new GM. The incumbent would be held on to with some rumors surrounding an extension for the 2015 season and beyond, and soon hired Lloyd McClendon as manager, perhaps one of the best moves he’s made during his tenure.

When the M’s signed Robinson Cano to a ten-year deal last December ownership was understandably very involved in the process — after all, it’s not everyday that one commits a quarter billion dollars to a player — but I had a hard time believing the powers that be would allow a franchise-altering transaction like that to take place if they didn’t feel Zduriencik would be with the club for much longer. But, the organization was committed to the plan that now has the Mariners playing meaningful baseball in August and into September with a solid chance at playing their first playoff baseball since 2001, even if it’s only one game. Not to mention the fact that the farm system is now as strong as it’s been in recent memory.

Prior to this year’s trade deadline, some sparks flew after a report from FOXSports after various executives described Zduriencik as difficult to complete a deal with despite plenty of effort. Prior to the report the M’s had just re-acquired Kendrys Morales from the Minnesota Twins and the GM did well to silence his critics when he picked up Austin Jackson and Chris Denorfia in a pair of deals on July 31st.

Here’s a few of Trader Jack’s best deals from his tenure with the Mariners thus far:

Mariners acquire 1B Mike Carp, OF Ezequiel Carrera, OF Endy Chavez, P Maikel Cleto, OF Franklin Gutierrez, P Aaron Heilman, and P Jason Vargas in a three-team deal that sent P Sean Green, P J.J. Putz, and OF Jeremy Reed to the New York Mets, and 2B/3B Luis Valbuena to the Cleveland Indians

Mariners acquire P Cliff Lee from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for P Phillippe Aumont, OF Tyson Gillies, and P J.C. Ramirez

Mariners acquire OF Austin Jackson from the Detroit Tigers in a three-team deal that sent SS Nick Franklin to the Tampa Bay Rays

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    What a strange, personal thing to say about someone you’ve never met. You seem to think that my criticisms about the M’s are part of some elaborate self preservation mechanism I’ve developed to protect myself from the soul crushing effects of baseball disappointment. I hate to burst your bubble, but I don’t really take baseball all that seriously. I love to watch games, and spend far too much time following the team (and the Seahawks as well). I’ve been a pretty hardcore M’s fan for about a decade. Trust me, if I needed ‘escape clause’ to maintain my own personal happiness from disappointment from the M’s, I’d have stopped following the team a long time ago.

    I think my view of the M’s is pretty balanced. Bringing it back to the particular topic at hand, I don’t think Jack is evil. I also don’t think he’s brilliant. He’s a pretty mediocre GM. A more optimistic appraisal (so we can all be happy, in this moment of bliss) is that he’d be in the middle tier if we ranked GMs. He does some good things, and he does some bad things. Are there better candidates? Absolutely! But, right now, he’s going to be around for at least another year.

    Like I said before, he’s changed his M.O. two times as a GM over his tenure with the M’s. The last shift – away from one dimensional sluggers and toward pitching, defense, and guys with all-around skills – is great. I’m cautiously optimistic that he keeps it up, or maybe even gets a bit better.

    If that view makes me a nihilistic pessimist who is only happy when griping about something…..oh well.

    To leave this post on a more positive note, the M’s have three of the top 15 players as currently ranked by FWAR!


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    Jerry, I’m not sure that anything the M’s do will ever please you. You can’t even find a way to be happy at the moment, without an escape clause, if they fail. Enjoy success while it’s upon us, or you may miss out on the moment, because you’re waiting for failure.

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    Definitely agree that hiring LMC is my favourite move by Jack Z thus far. I also agree that the club may be best served to try and make a big splash via trade this winter. They still need that bat for between Cano and Seager, and have plenty of assets they can wok with. Presumably two rotation spots could go to Elias and Walker, but that leaves Ramirez and one of those to out of the picture if the M’s decide to add another rotation piece.

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    I was not high on GMZ after last season and would have liked him to be moved and one of the good Assistant GM’s hired but he deserves the extension he’s received based on his results this season. He’s finally fulfilling The Plan and teaming home grown talent with an elite bat and some productive vets and it works as he said it would. He has also positioned the team for extended success with the talent he has accrued on the farm. I believe the team will make more payroll available as the money comes in from the new regional and national TV contracts plus the increased revenues from increased attendance. The third time was a charm for JZ in hiring managers. I’ve had a couple of issues with The Pencil but I’m glad he’s our manager and would expect him to get an extension too. As for Cano I thought he was an overpay when he signed but now not so much. He should produce and age as good as Jeter has for the past ten years and his contribution can’t be calculated in numbers alone. He’s turning some of our kids into pros. His albatross risk is lower than a lot of nine digit contract players like Fielder, Pujols, Hamilton and Choo.

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    I don’t think the ‘good move or bad move’ is the right question. Its about making good decisions. As you mention, a GM can make a great decision and have it backfire. The idea is that GMs that make mostly good decisions (nobody is perfect) tend to have those decisions work out. A process is a long-term plan. While good process and good results don’t always go hand in hand, they are clearly related. A single move could succeed or fail, but if you have a good process, you should get more of the former than the latter. Last offseason, I think Jack made much better decisions than the previous two offseasons. And while they all didn’t out (Hart, and to a lesser extent Morrison), the team is clearly better and back on the right track.

    At the time, I thought the Hart deal was a far better deal than the Young acquisition, mainly because Young was a huge longshot. But both were good moves. Part of the reason they were good moves is because they were low risk/high reward. I loved the Hart signing at the time, and still think it was a great decision. It just didn’t pan out.

    I’m coming around on Jack. I loved his first year, think he got a bit sideways for a while (especially bailing on defense for HRs), and has done well lately. I generally liked the deals he made this offseason. The Cano move shocked me, and I think its justifiable. Rodney, Hart, and Morrison were pretty decent moves. And he did VERY will with the under the radar additions of Beimel and Young. Most importantly, he put a guy in charge of the lineup who is damn good. McClendon is my favorite M’s manager period. He doesn’t sell out the defense too much, and is awesome handling the bullpen. I hope he’s around for a long time.

    The thing that I’d like to see change with the M’s probably has a lot to do with the people above Jack. But I wish they were a bit more bold and creative. Jack isn’t bad in that area (getting Austin Jackson was pretty shrewd), but he’s not making brilliant, creative moves like Boston, Chicago, and Oakland. Regardless of what happens for the rest of this season, this offseason is the time to be bold. Two years ago, Jack nearly swung a trade for Justin Upton. He needs to do something like that this year. There will be a few really good players traded this offseason (I think this is the year Stanton finally goes). If Jack shows that last offseason (and this year as well) are his new normal, we’ll be in good hands. I’m not a huge Jack fan, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

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    In full disclosure I was in favor of getting rid of Jack last offseason. However I didn’t trust the people above him to hire the right guy, so I was OK with bringing Jack back. My fear was he would pull a “Bill Bavasi” and sell off all our assets in an attempt to win this year and save his job. I had ZERO expectations that we would compete this year with just too many holes to fill in one offseason. The fact that Jack was spot on with regards to most of his moves in the offseason and at the trade deadline changed my opinion of him. Do I think he is a top GM in baseball? Hell no!!! But he has done enough for me to forgive him for the past awful trades he has made. The present and future of the team looks bright, and he deserves credit for that. It is really up to ownership now to increase payroll in the offseason so we can go out and add to what we have (1st base, DH, and outfield). My hope is winning this year will fill the stands and show ownership enough to spend more money.

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    I think Z is in the process of becoming a good GM. I think he has been learning on the job. If things are trending positively (which they are this season) and if the decision is based on “what have you done for me lately” (which is generally good things this season), then he gets the extension. See what he can do over the winter.

    It has taken him longer to rebuild the team than a lot of us would have liked, but he has done it from scratch. And now he has assembled a bunch of players who are pretty decent and he has hired a fairly good manager to work with them. I agree that he is not a good GM yet. I also agree with anyone who says he is not a bad GM. Let’s see what he can do over the winter.

    I don’t think he is holding the team back or hindering it at this point.

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    Overall, I think I’m ok with keeping Jack Z. He has done a decent job and if he was let go, who would the M’s get to take his place? We could have another Bill Bavasi come in and absolutely obliterate the franchise. I also think Jack is hamstrung a bit by the budget. I’m hoping ownership allows him to get another piece or two for next year. Trading for a big bat in RF might be enough. Maybe the M’s and Blue Jays can make a deal – Bautista would be nice in RF for a couple years.

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    So a good move is a good move until it becomes a bad move. I see what you’re saying Jerry, and I don’t disagree, but at the end of the day if the process doesn’t result in progress — again, that’s situational — then it can’t be said it was a good process. A lot has to do with luck and the right things happening at the right time, see the 2013 Boston Red Sox, but one of the great things about baseball is that trying to quantify predictability is near impossible. Look at the A’s picking up Lester and Samardzija, they should be laughing all the way through September, right? Well they aren’t, yet.

    Every GM makes good trades and bad trades. Jack Z has been heralded for signing Chris Young and Joe Biemel, but signing Hart was a huge mistake? IMO, getting hits on two out of three one-year free agent deals is really darn good. As I recall, there weren’t many people dumping on the Hart signing at the time. Was it risky? Sure. Was there room for a good return? Yes. Did it work out? No. It happens.

    A ten-year deal is a loss at the get go, and Jack Z and co. knew that before the ink dried on the contract. But, he proved that he could get a big fish to come to Seattle after several big name players turned them down, and Cano has helped revitalize baseball in the Pacific Northwest, or at least the interest in it. The M’s are absolutely Felix’s team, but Cano’s presence adds so much more than just what his batting stats look like.

    The way free agency works is you pay for past performance. Do I like that? Not particularly, but that’s the way the market works right now, and it doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.

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    “If we don’t use results when grading a GM, what are we supposed to use?”

    The process.

    Here’s a silly hypothetical to illustrate te point:

    If Jack traded Kyle Seager for Mike Trout, that’s a great deal, right?

    If Trout then blew out his knee in year one, and had a series of injuries that derailed his creer – sorta like what happened to Grady Sizemore – while Seager kept getting better and turned into an elite player, that would be bad for the Ms.

    In that example, the trade was a good idea (good process), but it turned out poorly (bad result).

    The issue is that you can only really judge a decision based on the information available at te time it was made. You evaluate the process. Any decision that involves projecting human performance is inherently volatile. Thus, a great process can sometimes have a bad outcome.

    In aggregate, a good process should create good results. Your example of the Red Sox is a great one: their front office has adopted a good process. They’ve built a perennial contender with that process. But sometimes things go sideways anyhow, like 2012 and 2014. The Rangers this season are another example.

    More examples from the M’s:

    Chone Figgins: people often list Chone Figgins as one of Jack’s worst moves. But at the time, that move made perfect sense. He was coming off multiple good seasons, and his specific skill set – 3B who does everything well except hit for power – was one that was undervalued. It was a smart move. And it ended up being a complete failure. But nobody could have predicted Figgins’ downfall. He had a good track record, wasn’t old, and has a skill set that tends to age well. It just didn’t work out.

    Good process, bad result.

    Others that fit into this category: the Cliff Lee Rangers trade and the Cory Hart signing

    The Mike Morse Trade: we dealt a guy with a very unique skill set – good hitter with excellent plate discipline who can fill in at C – for a guy with one skill. Morse had one year of team control. Jaso had two. Morse also had major health question marks and a spotty track record. The trade was a huge failure.

    Bad Process, Bad Result.

    Others hat fall into this category: the Brandon Morrow and Doug Fister trades

    One final note: people seem to be counting the Cano deal as a huge win for the Ms. That’s WAAAAAY premature. Robinson Cano is a great player, and he’s having a characteristically good year. But the risk in that contract is the length. If Cano has five consecutive seasons like this one, then falls off a cliff (not unlikely for a guy past 35), it’ll likely be a bad contract. Evaluating a 10-year deal after less than one year is ridiculous. Case in point: the Richie Sexson contract looked great after year 1.

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    If we don’t use results when grading a GM, what are we supposed to use? Now, everything is relative: a rebuilding team will look for different results than a contending team, same as a team with a huge payroll and a smaller payroll. The Red Sox have one of the highest payrolls in baseball and are at the bottom of the league, did Ben Cherington get fired? No. The Rangers are the worst team in baseball, did Jon Daniels get fired? No. A big part of the GM’s job is to have his team prepared for those unforeseen circumstances and bad luck. When the Blue Jays entered the season without a second baseman and lost Izturis and Lawire, the team was forced to rely on Tolleson et al since they weren’t prepared. They didn’t do anything at the trade deadline to supplement a club that was fading fast out of first. Does that mean Alex Anthopolous gets fired because of unforeseen circumstances?

    Look, I felt that Seattle shouldn’t gotten a new GM after the 2013 season so they could have a fresh start, and Jack Z has done well to prove me wrong here. Some of his draft picks are finally turning into legitimate MLB players, his courtship of Cano was unexpected and the fact he was able to pull it off was astounding. Yes, money talks, but it took more than just that to get him to Seattle.

    As for the dysfunctional front office, I think you’d be surprised to hear that this isn’t the organization where everybody doesn’t always see eye to eye, it just happened to get reported on. And I’m going to disagree with your take that GM’s aren’t like players. It’s far easier to go through players than it is executives. If your team’s left fielder sucked last year you replace him with little consequence. Replacing a general manager can completely change the complexion of an organization — it’s not an easy thing to do. GMZ probably gets a couple million dollars a year so his salary isn’t substantial, but actually removing him and then finding someone else who’s capable isn’t an easy process. That’s why more often than not we see a GM that *should* get fired not, because there simply isn’t a *better* alternative. Same with any kind of management or executive.

  12. Avatar

    Three comments:

    1. Focusing entirely on results when grading a GM isn’t smart. Some bad GMs get lucky and win, or are in charge of big revenue clubs that give them an advantage. Some moves are great ideas, but just don’t work out due to unforeseen circumstances or simple bad luck. I think it’s best to focus on the process. Jacky’s process shows some troubling tendencies.

    2. Jack isn’t a good GM. He isn’t a terrible GM. He’s very much average. He’s built a good system for the draft, and has done well acquiring cheap bullpen arms. He’s undermined the Ms international scouting advantage, and has made a lot of really strange decisions in terms of roster construction (especially the recent focus on guys who can hit HRs, but nothing else). And you can’t ignore the frequent comments and stories about the caustic internal dynamics in the front office. He’s not Ruben Amaro or Dan O’Dowd. But he’s also not Theo Epstien or Billy Beane.

    3. Contract extensions don’t mean shit for General Managers. The only positive is that it might make Jack feel a bit more secure, and shift his focus from short term to long term goals. But if he makes shitty decisions, he’ll still get fired. GMs aren’t like players. Their contracts aren’t substantial, and are easily terminated. This only tells us that Jack won’t get canned this offseason. Beyond that, it’s not that meaningful.

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    Jack deserves this…finally his chosen players are playing well. Ackley especially. If Ackley was not playing so well the M’s would not be in the playoff hunt.

    How did Jack get Austin Jackson out of Detroit? I guess Rays wanted Franklin so bad that they would not relinquish Price without him in the deal. Think Jack got lucky there. Franklin who had no place, for Jackson an established leadoff CFer whose absence is hurting Tigers.

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    Extension deserved I would have waited to see if there ius a September melt down. I think people will say we have produced big league guys but how many have produced? We our fooled by some because we have been so bad for so long that we except guys Taylor and Miller our both 2b there arms and glove don’t work at SS. just one mans opinion..

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    Hopefully, this will end the “he’s making changes to keep his job” speculations.

    I agree, it’s deserved. But, some will disagree.

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    Extension well deserved, congratulations Jack!!!

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