(Here’s a new wrinkle from Ben Badler of Baseball America, who reports that Patrick Guerrero, the team’s Latin American coordinator and Engle’s right-hand man in Latin America, was fired by the Mariners).
Bob Engle, the Mariners’ vice president of international operations and the man responsible for signing Felix Hernandez, among numerous others, is leaving the organization.
Engle has informed the team that when his contract expires on Oct. 31, he will not sign an extension. I just got off the phone with Engle, who confirmed that he was offered a new contract from the Mariners. He’s going to take the rest of October to decide whether to retire (he turns 66 on Nov. 1) or take another position, either as an advisor or in some other capacity, with another club.
“It was a tough decision, something I’ve been going over and over in my mind,” Engle said from his Tampa, Florida home. “I think it was the right decision. I’ll take time off and decide what to do next. I’ve been going up and down highways and getting on and off planes since 1974. It was about time to step back and re-assess where I’m at.”
Engle was vague about the reasons for cutting his ties with the Mariners, a team he has worked for since Jan. 28, 2000, when he was hired as senior advisor to then-GM Pat Gillick. Engle and Gillick had a long and fruitful 24-year relationship in Toronto, where many players drafted by Engle in his stint as scouting director helped lead to two World Series titles.
After Gillick left, Engle continue to work under his successor, Bill Bavasi, as well as current GM Jack Zduriencik. He was named director of international operations in October of 2004, and promoted to the vice president level in Sept. 2007. Engle has been responsible for a steady stream of international players that have helped the Mariners (and other teams), from Hernandez to Asdrubal Cabrera to Michael Pineda to Jose Lopez to Shin-Soo Choo. Between the Mariners and Jays, he is responsible for signing or drafting four Cy Young winners: Felix, Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter and Pat Hentgen. In 2011, he was named MLB’s Scout of the Year.
As for his reasons for leaving the Mariners, he said, “Sometimes, organizations want to change or re-align. Perhaps it was time for them. It’s a perfect time to step back and step away for a little.”
In the Mariners’ press release announcing the move, Zduriencik said, “I want to thank Bob for all of his efforts on behalf of the Mariners. He, and the Interntional group that he led, has done important work in identifying and signing players from around the world for the Mariners, including Felix Hernandez, Jose Lopez and many others that have made an impact on our Major League roster.”
Engle said in the release: “This was a very tough decision for me. I have had a great time in Seattle and am proud to have served with so many fine people in the international department. I cannot thank the scouts and field personnel enough for their dedication and hard work.
“I have to thank Howard and Chuck as well as ownership and the many people behind the scenes who are never recognized for their efforts and support. In addition, I want to thank Pat Gillick, Bill Bavasi, and Jack Zduriencik for allowing us to expand the international program since my arrival.
“This was a most difficult decision to make and am planning to take the remainder of October to spend time with my family and assess my future and if I want to retire or remain in the game.”
In our phone conversation, Engle said his fondest memories of his Mariners time are the relationships he developed, particularly in establishing academies in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.
“We had such a great group, such a tremendous group of scouts, particularly the people in the two academies,” he said. “You don’t hear much about them, but they did yeoman’s work. That, to me, was the must fulfulling, the business relationships that grew into friendships. You can’t measure that.
“In terms of players, Felix was by far the highlight, but there are many other players I’m proud of. I think we placed 15 players out of our two academies on the 40-man roster. I think it’s great Carlos Triunfel got an opportunity. I’m always with those kids. It’s a business, but it’s tough to separate your personal relationships.”
I asked Engle if the new restrictions on international spending, as well as the prospect of an international draft, has lessened his potential impact.
“I think scouting will always remain the same,” he said. “Obviously, there are different strategies with the bonus ceiling, but scouting is scouting. That’s not going to change.”
The Mariners have lost one of the best scouts in the business.
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