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July 13, 2011 at 6:00 AM

Mariners have to do a better job at this trade deadline than in 2009

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Two years ago, the Mariners were in contention through mid-July, but, having not added needed offense via trade, ultimately fell out of the race. They got hammered three in a row at home by Cleveland and fell 7 1/2 games back.
They were that same 7 1/2 games back when, on July 29, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik acquired shortstop Jack Wilson and pitcher Ian Snell from Pittsburgh for catcher Jeff Clement, shortstop Ronny Cedeno and three minor leaguers.
Two days later, he shipped off Jarrod Washburn to Detroit for minor league pitchers Luke French (had just been called up) and Mauricio Robles.
Now, at the time, Zduriencik told reporters that he wasn’t “buying” or “selling” but merely trying to make the team better.
Well, maybe, but that doesn’t seem to have been the case with the Washburn deal. Teams don’t get better right away by trading a guy with the third-best ERA in the league for minor league projects. Maybe down the road they do. But not present-day. Some even assumed French would step in and do right away what Washburn had achieved to that point in the season. Instead, French has never come close to doing what Washburn did in even his “off” years with the M’s — deliver 150-190 major league innings with a mid-4.00 ERA.
For the Snell and Wilson deal, you could argue that Zduriencik was trying to get better in the moment, though the team’s biggest need was offense at the time and neither player offered anything to boost that — Snell being a pitcher and Wilson being a light-hitting gloveman.
And now, two years later, in analyzing the deals, it’s tough to make the claim they made the Mariners better at all. The 2009 Mariners were five games over .500 the day the Wilson-Snell deal went down. They played three games above .500 the rest of the way.
So no, the deal did not make the team better in 2009.
Did it make the team better going forward? Which, let’s be honest, seems to have been the plan all along since Zduriencik had the option of not re-upping Wilson for two more years at $10 million after an injury-filled two months in Seattle in 2009, but chose to anyway. With Snell, the big price wasn’t going to be in 2009 — with the Pirates taking on most of that money — but in 2010.
So, how did that work out? Not well.
The team lost 101 games in 2010 with Snell playing his part in those defeats and Wilson hurt most of the year. Wilson is now the lone survivor in Seattle, but glued to the bench and not contributing anything.
So, no, neither player has made the Mariners better since the trade.
Zduriencik has got to do a better job at this year’s deadline, now that, for the second time in three seasons, the Mariners did not add a bat via trade to help an offensively-challenged team avoid falling out of contention.
Photo Credit: AP


Plenty of fans and quite a few pundits in Seattle are OK with that. They say they would rather see the Mariners continue to build towards the future. And that’s OK, I suppose, as long as that is what actually happens.
Two years ago, the moves the M’s made in lieu of “buying” and taking a shot did not make the team better in either the short or long term.
There is still some hope that French and Robles pan out, though left hander French has a 5.90 ERA in Class AAA and his strikeouts-to-walks ratio is nothing special. The M’s opted to ignore Super 2 status arbitration implications and stuck with rookie Michael Pineda out of spring training because he was clearly heads and tails above French. Turns out that was the right call.
Robles had arm surgery and is in AA trying to work his way back. But even before that surgery this spring, there was a lot of talk about the Mariners converting him to a relief role. That’s a far cry from some of the Jair Jurrjens comparisons being made two years ago when the deal went down. To be fair, it wasn’t the M’s making those comps, but, safe to say, that deal has not worked out quite the way Seattle hoped, other than some minor league depth.
The fact Washburn bombed with the Tigers has nothing to do with this discussion. The M’s landed French and Robles for a guy with the third-best ERA in the AL at the time. That’s what the judging has to be based on. What the M’s took home with their best trade asset.
So, those are two mediocre trades at best. At worst, the Wilson-Snell deal cost the M’s some significant money for a whole lot of nothing.
And it cost them time. Two years, to be exact. Two years in which neither player helped the Mariners get any closer to achieving their contention goal.
Hey, these things happen. No GM gets every trade right and Zduriencik did help the team last summer with his pre-deadline deal of Cliff Lee. But that was also under different circumstances, where the M’s were in last place and didn’t have to think about buying or selling or whether to move prospects to get better right away.
Things are a little different this year because the Mariners were contending last week and, for whatever reason, did not get a deal done to better the team. Maybe there really were no deals to be had. The Dodgers made a move to get outfielder Juan Rivera from Toronto yesterday at a cost of just future considerations or cash. Rivera would not have put Seattle over the top, but he would have been at least a minimal upgrade in left field, especially against left-handed pitchers. If you really wanted, you could have platooned him with Carlos Peguero and kept Greg Halman as mainly the backup center fielder.
I’m in no way advocating Rivera and preferred a much better addition. But if nothing else, he was out there and acquired for something considerably less than “mortgaging the future”. And his ho-hum numbers were still better than what this team has gotten in left field. Maybe he was part of a right-handed DH solution? Who knows? At that cost, he’s still better than playing Peguero every day in left the short term.
Like I said, I was looking for much more than Rivera. But the M’s did not go that Rivera route or any other. And now, at 7 1/2 games out, it’s time to move on past 2011 and focus elsewhere.
But here’s the deal.
It’s one thing to write off a season by standing pat rather than going for it when you think you’re a longshot without much chance of winning.
But it’s another thing when the moves you do wind up making ultimately do next to nothing to improve your team.
So, this year, Zduriencik has got to get better results than in 2009. .
Whether it’s to help for 2012, or 2013 or whatever. The results will have to start bearing fruit a lot quicker than they did after contention fell apart in 2009.
Because these Mariners, you may have noticed, don’t contend a whole lot. If you’re going to write off their chances when they actually do contend — even if you believe the contention thing would have only lasted for a short time more — you’d best be making significant progess on the long-term front.
Instead, any real progress we’ve seen since by this team had very little do do with moves made or not made back in late July of 2009. The progress came much later, with the Lee acquisition and subsequent trade for Justin Smoak and others. It came prior to 2009 with the trade for Franklin Gutierrez , Jason Vargas and Mike Carp.
For all the good the 2009 deadline moves did the M’s, they might have been better off dealing for a rent-a-bat or two and just taking their shot earlier on in July. Maybe they could have contended longer. Maybe what some of you considered an extreme longshot could have caught fire and panned out.
Two years later, none of the moves made in July 2009 have helped this team anyway. The best chance of them ever panning out now seems to rely on Robles getting healthy and turning into something better. With results like those, the team might as well have rolled the dice. Might as well have given fans a few weeks more of excitement. What would it have cost? Clement, Cedeno and some low level prospects? Not like the M’s have much to show for those guys right now.
Like I’ve said, the future is never guaranteed, even when a team appears to be making the “smart” and “prudent” moves. For every Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo that blows up one way, you can have a Wilson-Snell that never goes anywhere the other way and you’re still left with no playoffs.
Zduriencik doesn’t get all his deals wrong. He gets quite a few of them right. But July 2009 wasn’t part of those good ones.
Let’s hope the July moves the team makes this time around end up producing tangible results. Let’s hope the decision to wait and not “go for it” earlier on this month pans out in the long run. Because good intentions and “process” only gets you so far. In the end, the results are all you can be judged on.
And, of course, the non-playoff years that keep piling up in the interim.

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