Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has had a tough time of things this year, with much of his plan for the season going up in smoke. But today, that plan is looking up in Smoak, as in Justin Smoak, the primary player acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Cliff Lee deal.
The Rangers had been in serious discussions with the Mariners for about a week, but balked at putting the switch-hitting first baseman on the table. That changed today, when reports surfaced that the Mariners and Yankees were close to a deal.
“We had had a lot of talks with Texas and this is the player that we desired,” Zduriencik said. “And they threw different things around and yes, there was a point in time this morning when, through the conversations, I said ‘Look, there are other opportunities. If you want to do this deal, this is the player we want.’ And they said yes.”
From what I was told, that original deal with the Yankees stalled after the Mariners got hold of medical reports on the secondary component to the Yankee package, Class AA infielder David Adams, who sprained his ankle nearly seven weeks ago and hasn’t played since. Now, did the M’s have big-time concerns? Or was the medical excuse just a stalling tactic to get a deal done with Texas? We may never know.
“There are issues here and there, we certainly do it,” Zduriencik said of running medicals on players right before a trade, without specifically confirming he’d done it on Adams. “You never do a deal without exchanging medicals and that was certainly an issue in this deal.”
I also pulled Zduriencik aside afterwards and asked him about Class AA left hander Josh Lueke, 25, who faced rape charges last year after a woman told police she was unconscious in a house with some ballplayers and woke up with her pants down. Tests later showed signs she had engaged in sexual activity, but she told them it was not consensual.
Lueke later pleaded down to a lesser charge of false imprisonment with violence, which limited his prison time to 40 days. Since he’d already served the equivalent of that while awaiting trial, he was let out of jail with no further time behind bars.
“We take this stuff very seriously,” Zduriencik said. “And all of the questions that we asked all of the (Rangers) officials over there, they assured us that the issues were none that they had any concern about as they moved forward and for the last couple of years, he’s been a model citizen.
“And that, at that moment in time, whatever happened, he’s been cleared. According to everything they told us and everything they’ve given us…it’s an issue that’s cleared and it’s behind him.”
Just to be clear, Lueke was not “cleared” of criminal charges. He pleaded down from a far more serious charge of rape to a lesser one. He did walk out of jail, but not because he was found innocent or anything. He decided not to contest a lesser criminal charge that he’d already served the required jail time for. There is a difference. When Zduriencik says “cleared” I assume he means Lueke faces no future problems in the matter. He pleaded down and the case is now behind him.
So, that’s what we know on the Lueke front.
Smoak gets here tomorrow and will be the everyday first baseman.
Luke French has been called up for tonight’s game, providing bullpen depth because David Pauley will be starting.
Mark Lowe was not at the ballpark. Cliff Lee did arrive, came in to get his stuff and was to fly to Texas later today. Expect him to start for the Rangers this weekend. Lee did speak briefly to the media.
Lee said he suspected a deal was close last night. Then, this morning, he phoned former Cleveland Indians teammate C.C. Sabathia to get the lowdown.
“Obviously, when I woke up this morning, the media had kind of caught on to something,” he said. “It was all over Sports Center and everything. I saw the Yankees and that it was on the verge of happening. Obviously, I called C.C. to see what he thought and if he knew anything. I called my agent and stuff like that.
“It seemed like it was real close,” he said. “It nearly happened. But it’s not what happened. It’s definitely not what happened. I’m a Ranger now.”
Lee joked about how the summer weather has finally arrived in Seattle, and now he has to leave. He spent a good deal of this afternoon lounging by a pool with his kids in the house he rents in Magnolia, the one owned by former M’s pitcher Jamie Moyer.
As for the M’s, he says he regrets that things didn’t go according to plan this season, but that he enjoyed his time here.
Speaking of his time here, and whether it could have been extended by the M’s, Zduriencik did explain today why the team did not reach a long-term deal with Lee this past spring after the pitcher asked if the M’s would explore one.
Zduriencik explained, much like we did in this morning’s blog post, that Lee’s injury back in mid-March prevented any talks from getting beyond the exploratory stage.
“Unfortunately, midway through spring training, Cliff got hurt and missed the first month of the season,” Zduriencik said. “So, during this whole process, did we have discussions? Yes. Did we talk about parameters? Yes. At the moment in time, when these things were unfolding, I think you had to look at the process and weigh the big picture. And again, we had a guy who was injured and a guy who sat out the first month of the season. And I think we were in a pretty difficult position. And again, you guage parameters,you look at where you think this thing is headed and you make your decision.
“And I think, from our perspective, we got a very clear message it was going to be difficult to consumate a deal. That was our opinion.”