Jack Zduriencik Rumors

West Notes: Kemp, Cabrera, Kendrick, Upton

With the Winter Meetings beginning in San Diego, this could be the week the Dodgers finally deal from their glut of outfielders, writes Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. The Dodgers would prefer to hang onto Matt Kemp, according to Shaikin, but Major League players are not being offered for either Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford.

Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports the Mariners were close to a deal for Kemp with Seattle paying roughly half of the $107 million remaining on his salary over the next five years, but things fell apart when the Dodgers insisted on the inclusion of either Taijuan Walker or James Paxton. In a second article, Dutton lists the Padres and the Orioles as the Mariners’ primary competition for Kemp, with Shaikin adding the Giants are a possibility, if they fail to sign Chase Headley. With Nelson Cruz now in Seattle, Dutton opines the Mariners’ interest in Kemp will depend on what other offers the Dodgers receive. Those other offers may not be to the Dodgers’ liking, as Shaikin notes the Braves (Justin Upton and Evan Gattis), Red Sox (Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig), and Phillies (Marlon Byrd) also have right-handed power bats available to trade.

Elsewhere in baseball’s West divisions:

  • Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman says the constant rumors that come with running a major market team are “comical,” but he doesn’t necessarily mind it, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. “Misinformation can be a powerful tool,” Friedman said.
  • The Mariners are reluctant to part with their young pitching to acquire an outfield bat, according to Dutton. “That’s a little bit of a dangerous road,” said GM Jack Zduriencik. “You look at our pitching staff, and when you analyze it, a couple of those young starters didn’t pitch a lot of innings last year.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets the Mariners are very serious about their pursuit of Melky Cabrera. Last week, it was reported the M’s are believed to be willing to offer something similar to the four-year, $57MM deal that they used to sign Cruz.
  • In a separate tweet, Rosenthal posits the Angels are reluctant to trade second baseman Howie Kendrick because of offensive concerns including uncertainity about Josh Hamilton, an unsettled DH situation, and no clear backup catcher.
  • Sources tell ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter) the Giants and Reds are great fits for Justin Upton, but neither match up well with the Braves and may need to involve a third team to swing a deal.
  • Olney also tweets the Astros continue to pursue closer David Robertson and his most lucrative offer might come from Houston.
  • Rockies GM Jeff Bridich tells Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post there has been interest in catcher Wilin Rosario, but Colorado “could very easily go into the season with Wilin.

Mariners’ President: Payroll Will Increase In 2015

Earlier this week, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said that he felt he would have more financial resources to work with, and today Mariners president Kevin Mather confirmed as much in an appearance on 710 ESPN’s Brock and Salk show (Brady Henderson of 710 ESPN has transcribed some of the highlights). Mather explains that the Mariners spent $16MM more than they had budgeted for in 2014 (a total payroll of $107MM), but ownership has no intention of scaling that back after seeing the team’s performance this season:

“They’re fans and they seemed extremely pleased with the competitive nature of the games and September, meaningful baseball, and not one of them has said, ‘What are we going to do to get that $16 million back?’ They were all saying, ‘What are you going to do to get us six more wins next year?'”

Fresh off the signing of Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240MM contract, the Mariners posted an 87-75 record — their best since 2007 — and cleared two million fans at Safeco Field for the first time since 2010, which Mather says will help him to acquire more resources for Zduriencik.

If you have time to listen to the audio of the full interview (it’s roughly 21 minutes long), Mather’s interview is well worth hearing in its entirety. The first-year president was insightful and candid throughout as he discussed the extension of Zduriencik, the relationship between Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon, his own role with the team and the club’s approach at the trade deadline as they weighed a run at David Price.

Mather feels that Zduriencik’s contract extension was turned into a bigger deal than he’d expected. He echoed a story told by Zduriencik shortly after the extension, stating that he simply broached the topic casually at the end of a business lunch, asking the GM, “Does your wife like it in Seattle?” Zduriencik responded that she loves it, and Mather recalls, “I said, ‘Well, your contract’s up at the end of the year. Why don’t we talk about getting that extended?'” Mather does admit that Zduriencik’s rebuilding effort took longer than it should have, but he called the decision to extend him after the club’s success an “automatic.” Asked about Zduriencik’s best ability, Mather did not hesitate to say “personnel evaluation,” referring to evaluating young players.

Beyond that, he recalled his first test as a president — asking ownership for increased funding to sign Fernando Rodney late in the offseason. Unhappy with the asking prices of remaining starting pitchers and bats, Zduriencik suggested the idea of shortening the game. “The first thing I really tried to sell to ownership was, let’s take the ninth inning off the board,” said Mather, adding that he received little resistance on that front.

The team’s biggest desire moving forward, Mather says, is to avoid going through a “dip” like the Mariners went through from 2004-14:

“We need to be 85 to 95 wins every year, which means we need to draft well, we have to get our draft picks signed, we have to be strategic with our free agent signings, but we need to be competitive year-in, year-out. And you don’t do that by signing broken-down, middle-of-the-road free agents and hoping.”

Regarding the club’s summer interest in Price, Mather emphasized that with the team looking at a Wild Card spot, it was too difficult to mortgage the future. “Will you give up — and I shouldn’t use names — but will you give up [James] Paxton, or [Taijuan] Walker, or [D.J.] Peterson for David Price?” he asked, rhetorically. “…I want to be competitive in 2015, 2016, 2017 — these are young players that we control.”

Lastly, he discusses the impact that the team’s strong performance will have on attracting free agents. While he says it’s a selling point, the biggest red flag for the Mariners in attracting free agents, in Mather’s opinion, is the team’s travel schedule. Mather says he’s been assured by new commissioner Rob Manfred that MLB will look at the travel schedule in order to avoid scenarios like the one that came up this year where the team went from California to Houston to Toronto and back to Seattle without an off-day. He’s reminded Manfred about it multiple times, though he acknowledges that it may take a year or two in order to truly alleviate that pain for West Coast teams.


Mariners Extend GM Jack Zduriencik

The Mariners have agreed to a multi-year contract extension with general manager Jack Zduriencik, the club announced via press release. Precise contract terms were not made available.

Zduriencik has been in charge of Seattle’s baseball ops since 2009, and now seems likely to continue in that capacity for the foreseeable future. Last August, we learned that a seemingly vulnerable (and oft-criticized) Zduriencik had previously been given a one-year extension, covering the present season.

Perhaps down to his last chance to build a winner, the GM made the league’s boldest free agent signing last offseason when he landed Robinson Cano for ten years and $240MM. The risky, win-now move will take years to evaluate fully, but it certainly has played a big role in turning Seattle into a legitimate post-season contender this year.

While several of Zduriencik’s other recent MLB-level acquisitions (Corey Hart and Logan Morrison, for example) have proved less impactful, others (e.g., Fernando Rodney and Chris Young) have made important contributions this year. Most recently, of course, Zduriencik managed to turn a valuable, but blocked, prospect (Nick Franklin) into quality center fielder Austin Jackson, addressing one of the club’s major holes heading into the fall.

Even with his new deal, and in spite of the team’s recent performance, “Jack Z” figures to continue to enjoy his fair share of detractors. Ultimately, his legacy seems destined to depend on whether he is able to maintain and enhance the quality of the supporting cast surrounding Cano and ace Felix Hernandez during the earlier years of their sizeable contracts.



West Notes: Jack Z, Angels, Padres, Dodgers

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has exasperated many trade partners with his negotiating style, executives tell Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.  Those execs say the M’s frequently inquire on a number of players, only to shift direction when a deal appears within reach. That’s not unusual for teams to do, but rival officials say Jack Z has become one of the most difficult GMs in the sport with whom to do business.  In a lengthy email to FOX Sports, the Mariners GM responded by saying that the in-and-out nature of his trade conversations are typical of those that occur throughout the industry.  Meanwhile, other teams are confused by the club’s recent acquisition of Kendrys Morales given the way Zduriencik has intimated that the club has limited financial breathing room.  Here’s more out of the AL and NL West..

  • If the Angels do add a starting pitcher, a rental probably makes more sense for them, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.  The Mike Trout extension counts towards their competitive balance tax payroll next season, so they won’t have much wiggle room. Meanwhile, one industry source sees the Angels as more of a player for a starter in August when they take take advantage of available money without dealing prospects (link).  The Angels have $15MM in breathing room before they surpass the tax threshold, but they are hesitant to deal more prospects after dealing six to land Joe Thatcher and Huston Street (link).
  • Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego looks at Padres GM candidates A.J. Preller and Billy Eppler.  Preller, an assistant GM with the Rangers, isn’t afraid to go against the grain with one exec referring to him as “eccentric.”  Preller also has a rep as a grinder though his aggressiveness in signing talent from Latin America has rankled some competitors.
  • The Dodgers shouldn’t trade for David Price or Jon Lester, argues Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.  The Dodgers already have a strong mathematical likelihood of making the postseason and it doesn’t appear that the cost to land either of the star pitchers would be worth it for them, in Cameron’s view.
  • The Giants‘ interest in Ben Zobrist of the Rays could be deepening, writes Chris Haft of MLB.com.  The Giants’ pickup of Dan Uggla hasn’t moved the needle so far and Marco Scutaro is unable to play everyday due to his lingering back issues.

Quick Hits: Commissioner, Rollins, Diamondbacks

Now that Bud Selig has announced he will retire following the 2014 season, speculation has already begun about who will be Major League Baseball's next commissioner.  ESPN's Jayson Stark thinks it would be "a monumental upset" if MLB doesn't go with an internal candidate, and the favorites are league executive vice-presidents Rob Manfred and Tim Brosnan, and MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman.  Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan hears that Manfred is the safest and most well-rounded pick, though some sources consider Brosnan to be the better candidate.  Stark and Passan list such names as Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, Mets GM Sandy Alderson, Indians president Mark Shapiro and Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall as other possible choices.

Here are some notes as Yankee Stadium says goodbye to Mariano Rivera

  • Jimmy Rollins is confident that the Phillies already have the pieces they need to succeed thanks to their emerging youth, CSNPhilly.com's Corey Seidman writes.  “That old window's closed," Rollins admitted. "This is a brand new thing. You've still got the pieces, but this is a brand new thing going forward. Obviously we would love to have that right-handed bat, but Darin Ruf has come up and done that so far. We're going to get Ryan [Howard] back, hopefully a healthy Ryan back on his legs and strong."
  • Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers will recommend to ownership that manager Kirk Gibson be retained for next season, Towers told reporters (including MLB.com's Steve Gilbert).  Gibson has a 289-277 record since taking over as Arizona's manager halfway through the 2010 season and he led the team to an NL West title in 2011.  Both Gibson and Towers are only under contract through the end of the 2014 season.
  • While Brad Ziegler has enjoyed being the Diamondbacks' closer, he tells Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that it doesn't matter if he's closing or in his usual set-up role next season.  Ziegler has a 2.28 ERA and 12 saves over 71 IP and a league-best 76 games this season.  He's going into his third and final year of arbitration eligibility though there has been talk that Arizona will try to work out a contract extension.
  • Jack Zduriencik's mistakes as the Mariners' general manager are recapped by Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times in a piece that chronicles the team's strategies and major transactions over the last several years.  While Baker holds Zduriencik accountable for his own mistakes, he also points the finger at the club's upper management for the larger issues surrounding the Mariners' lack of recent success.
  • John Danks is "embarrassed" by his performance since signing a five-year, $65MM extension with the White Sox before the 2012 season, the southpaw tells MLB.com's Scott Merkin.  "The goal is always to throw 200-plus innings, take the ball every day and give us a chance to win. I've got three years to make everyone believe it was worth it," Danks said.  "That's part of my motivating factor. I want to be the productive player I'm expected to be."
  • "The Cubs are the last-place team poised to contend the soonest. The Astros are the one with the brightest future," Jim Callis writes for MLB.com in his analysis of both teams' young talent.

MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post


Mariners To Retain Jack Zduriencik For 2014

The Mariners will bring General Manager Jack Zduriencik back for next season, team president Chuck Armstrong confirmed Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times.  Armstrong, citing club policy, declined to say how long Zduriencik has been retained for.

Zduriencik declined to say how long he's known that he'll be safe in Seattle but he did say that he'll be deciding on the M's managerial situation once the season is through.  The Mariners finished in last place in 2011 and 2012 under skipper Eric Wedge, but they avoided the AL West cellar this season thanks to divisional newcomers Houston.

An extension for Zduriencik was first reported in August, though this is the first time that there has been an official acknowledgement from Seattle brass.  Jack Z hasn't delivered a playoff team to Seattle during his tenure but he has managed to stockpile young pitching talent and today's news indicates that he'll at least get a chance to see that result in wins.


Quick Hits: GMs, Comp Picks, 2013 Free Agents

On this day in 2007, Terry Ryan announced that he would step aside from his post as the Twins general manager at the end of the season. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted, Ryan's history was checkered at best at the time. Of course, as a read through this site's most recent post would indicate, Ryan is now back at the helm. Though the team has yet to post more than seventy wins in a season since Ryan returned in November of 2011, Minnesota stands at 15th in ESPN's latest future power rankings on the strength of its minor league system. While Ryan has long been said to have his job as long as he wants to keep it, some other GMs may not be so lucky …

  • There are four general managers around the league who could soon be replaced, writes Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. According to Gammons, two of those — Jerry Dipoto of the Angels and Larry Beinfest of the Marlins – have arguably been undone by meddling owners. (Gammons cites Arte Moreno's $365MM investment in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, and Jeffrey Loria's propensity for "whimsically run[ning] everything.") Meanwhile, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik may not survive to see whether the team's top young pitching talent can drive a winner. And Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd — the game's fourth-longest tenured GM — has yet to figure out how to craft a squad that can win away from Coors field. (For what it's worth, O'Dowd was in charge for the franchise's lone season with a winning road record, when it posted a 41-40 mark in 2009.)
  • It would be ridiculous to consider Rangers GM Jon Daniels among those at risk, writes Baseball Nation's Grant Brisbee. While he surely could have sacrificed future value to win at all costs this season, says Brisbee, Daniels was prudent not to and still delivered a team that should qualify for the post-season.
  • Teams must determine whether to make outgoing free agents a qualifying offer just five days after the conclusion of this year's World Series, and those decisions will play a major role in setting the stage for the 2014 free agent market. For non-obvious candidates, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs, an important part of the equation lies in valuing the compensation pick that the team would receive if the player declines the offer and then signs with another club. Working off of a rough valuation of international signing slot dollars, Cameron opines that teams could value the dollars spent on a comp pick as much as three-to-four times higher than money the team could spend outside the draft. As he explains, this would imply that there is substantial excess value in obtaining non-marketable draft picks, which could move the needle in favor of making qualifying offers in marginal situations.
  • As we prepare to weigh a new class of free agents, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman ranks the best signings of 2013. His top three are a collection of veterans whose contributions have vastly outweighed the relatively meager financial commitments that they received: Pirates starter Francisco Liriano, Red Sox reliever Koji Uehara, and Athletics starter Bartolo Colon. Next on his list is Boston's David Ortiz, who as Heyman notes was the only player to accept a qualifying offer in the first year of the system.

Passan On Dipoto, Zduriencik, Anthopoulos

Here's the latest from Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan:

  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Mike Scioscia are separated by a "rift" despite Scioscia's recent denial, Passan writes. Since Scioscia's contract runs through 2018, and since his influence throughout the organization is strong, Dipoto is more likely to wind up on the chopping block if the Angels do indeed decide to fire one or the other.
  • General managers suspect that Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners needed to have his superiors approve potential trades at the deadline, Passan writes. He also says that the Mariners have checked to see whether former GM and current Phillies advisor Pat Gillick might be interested in coming back to Seattle. Still, now that Zduriencik is apparently under contract through 2014, it appears he'll get more time to see if the Mariners' new core of young players (which includes Kyle Seager, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller, Mike Zunino and Taijuan Walker) can come together.
  • Despite the Blue Jays' extremely disappointing season, GM Alex Anthopoulos should get more time, Passan argues, noting that Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion's contracts have been terrific.

AL West Notes: Angels, Rangers, Matsuzaka

The Angels' apparent dysfunction seems to stretch back years, judging from a report by Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Miller reports that, in 2011, owner Arte Moreno threatened to fire then-GM Tony Reagins if he couldn't trade for outfielder Vernon Wells within 24 hours, effectively backing Reagins into a corner. That might partially explain the remarkable, and disastrous, result, which had the Angels taking on $81MM of the $86MM remaining on Wells' contract, while also giving up Mike Napoli in the process. The Jays, meanwhile, traded Napoli to the Rangers for Frank Francisco and cash.

Miller reports that Moreno's motivation for the Wells ultimatum was that he was upset that Texas had acquired Adrian Beltre weeks earlier. As a result, not only did the Angels take on $81MM in salary, they also set in motion a chain of events in which their division rivals also ended up with Napoli, who was one of the best hitters in baseball that season. Here are more notes from the AL West.

  • The Rangers were interested in Daisuke Matsuzaka, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes. Matsuzaka, who had previously been released by the Indians, recently signed with the Mets, with whom, Heyman notes, he could receive more playing time.
  • Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik still won't confirm recent reports that he has received an extension for 2014, MLB.com's Greg Johns tweets. Zduriencik does, however, say he's "raring to go" for 2014. Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, meanwhile, tweets that there's "some debate" about whether team president Chuck Armstrong ever confirmed the extension.

Quick Hits: Biogenesis, Abreu, Mariners, A’s

Major League Baseball considers the Biogenesis investigation closed in terms of looking into players, but they're still investigating the possible involvement of some agents, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter).  Here's more from around baseball..

  • Speaking of Biogenesis, MLB released a statement saying that Miguel Tejada did not warrant any discipline based on what they uncovered in the investigation, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.  Of course, Tejada will still have to serve his 105-game suspension for amphetamine use.
  • Jose Dariel Abreu is working on establishing residency in Haiti and there isn't an open showcase scheduled yet, according to Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com (on Twitter).  Abreu has drawn interest from several clubs so far including the Red Sox, Orioles, Pirates, and White Sox.  
  • The status of Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik is expected to be updated if not entirely clarified within the next few days, people familiar with the situation tell Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  When asked about speculation that the M's could make a play for Brian Cashman, club president Chuck Armstrong spoke positively of the Yankees GM but wouldn't discuss him in context.
  • The Athletics continue to look for catching help as they have been for the past couple of weeks or so, tweets Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • In retrospect, the Cardinals really could have used Kyle Lohse this season, writes Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.