The Mariners just sent out a release announcing a multi-year contract extension for general manager Jack Zduriencik.
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The announcement is somewhat of a surprise since the Mariners refused to make public the one-year extension that Zduriencik had received before last season, citing their long time policy of “not commenting on contract situations.”
“I’m excited and happy to be able to be here for a couple more years,” Zduriencik said. “I believe in what we’re doing. I believe in the people we have in place. It hasn’t always been easy. I think we put a plan in place and you do what your gut instincts tell you to do. Where we’re at right now is a good spot as an organization.
“Our fans have been very, very patient and I really appreciate that. And I thank ownership for the vote of confidence. I’m happy and my family is happy and we’re looking forward to seeing this thing through. We have a goal in mind and we’re on our way to doing it.”
Of course the Mariners are sporting a nice 71-59 record and in the midst of a playoff run, so that policy can obviously be amended.
“Since Jack took over after the 2008 season, we have been building toward our ultimate goal, which is to win the World Series,” team president Kevin Mather said in a press release. “We believe, with the efforts of Jack and his staff, we are now well-positioned as an organization to be a contender for many years to come.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon was more than pleased for Zdurienick.
“I think it’s well deserved,” McClendon said. “Jack has done a tremendous job of putting this club together and making the necessary acquisitions to make us better. I just think he’s done a tremendous job all around, starting with Spring Training, and getting the pieces that we needed to be competitive. Hopefully this continues to build.”
There was some speculation that Zduriencik might not return for this season and his status as general manager beyond this season was dependent on success this season. But he confirmed at the winter meetings that he signed a one-year extension.
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There was no grand plan. Zduriencik and Mather had lunch today downtown, the possibility of staying arose, and Mather asked Zduriencik if he would like to stay.
“It was literally that simple,” Mather said.
Of course, the Mariners’ success and being 12 games over .500 made that decision a little more simple.
“It didn’t hurt,” Mather joked. “It was an easier conversation.”
Mather said that when he interviewed for the job as team president he was asked about Zduriencik and his future.
“My answer was I think Jack is the guy that should evaluate this baseball team,” Mather said. “I said your general manager is a critical piece of you baseball department and if he’s your guy, get behind him and support him. I think he’s done a great job. Regardless of his contract status, he’s always looked long term.”
Zduriencik was hired after the 2008 season. The Mariners had fired then-general manager Bill Bavasi midway through that season. They brought in Zduriencik, who was the assistant GM for the Brewers, to help rebuild the franchise from within by restocking the depleted minor league with talent while also helping to reduce major league payroll. His resume included a productive stint as the Brewers’ amateur scouting director where he drafted Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Corey Hart.
Zduriencik has done those things in Seattle. With the help of some high draft picks from multiple losing seasons, he has helped to rebuild the farm system. In 2013, the Mariners farm system was ranked No. 2 in all of baseball by Baseball America, but dropped to No. 25 in 2014.
“This is one of the finest farm systems in all of baseball,” McClendon said. “I don’t think you’ll find anybody that would tell you different. We’re tremendously talented in the middle of the field, we’ve got some tremendous arms in the Minor Leagues and certainly some real nice bats at the lower levels. I’m excited about what the future holds for this club. I said it in my initial press conference, this is a golden era for the Seattle Mariners and it’s only going to get better.”
The current 25-man roster has nine players that are homegrown from the organization under Zduriencik’s regime, led by third baseman Kyle Seager – a fourth-round draft pick in 2009.
There have certainly been failures in that rebuild. Injuries to top draft pick Danny Hultzen and the failures of supplemental first round picks Nick Franklin and Steve Baron have not helped. The team has been unable to draft and develop a middle of the order power hitter. Dustin Ackley, the second pick of the 2009 draft, has yet to blossom into the players he was expected to be. But he’s showing signs of getting there this season.
Zduriencik has come out on the short end of trades. After making a blockbuster three-team trade at the 2009 winter meetings that netted the team Franklin Gutierrez and Jason Vargas, Zduriencik made a regrettable trade that sent Doug Fister and David Pauley to the Tigers in exchange for Casper Wells, Chance Ruffin, Francisco Martinez and Charlie Furbush. Only Furbush remains on that team.
During his tenure, Zduriencik has made three managerial changes, first firing Don Wakamatsu during August of the 2010 season. He hired Eric Wedge that offseason. Wedge then resigned at the end of last season, citing a difference in philosophy with upper management. Zduriencik hired Lloyd McClendon in the offseason.
McClendon had a little fun in discussing his relationship with Zdurienick.
“We talk every day on a lot of different subject,” McClendon said with his face breaking into a sly grin. “We’re probably as dysfunctional as dysfunctional can get. It’s a pretty good relationship.”
For those not getting the joke, it was nod to former manager Eric Wedge’s assertion of dysfunction in the organization in Geoff Baker’s big story this offseason. But McClendon did expound.
“Seriously, and this is a real important point, when you talk about dealing with someone on a daily basis, the one thing you have to understand is the first thing you need to do is agree that sometimes you’re going to disagree, to make your organization better,” he said. “It’s not always about ‘I love you’ and ‘You love me.’ There’s some days when he leaves this office with a bandage over his head and other days I leave the office with a bandage over my head. But our relationship is one of mutual respect. I think he’s tremendous at what he does and I hope he’s proud of the job I’ve done for him. It’s pretty good. It’s very dysfunctional.”
The Mariners’ record under Zduriencik
- 2014 — 71-59
- 2013 — 71-91
- 2012 — 75-87
- 2011 — 67-95
- 2010 — 61-101
- 2009 — 85-77