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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

Category: front office
November 20, 2013 at 9:19 PM

Mariners add four players to 40-man roster

The Mariners announced Wednesday night the addition of four players to the 40-man roster, thus avoiding them being eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The team added right-hander Logan Bawcom; first baseman/designated hitter Ji-Man Choi; outfielder James Jones; and outfielder Stefen Romero. These transactions puts the Mariners’ roster at 38 players. The team had until 9…

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September 24, 2013 at 4:45 PM

Chuck Armstrong confirms Jack Zduriencik back in 2014

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik (left) will be back as the GM next season, a fact that team president Chuck Armstrong (right) confirmed to the Times this afternoon. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik (left) will be back as the GM next season, a fact that team president Chuck Armstrong (right) confirmed to the Times this afternoon. Photo Credit: AP

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Would have posted this earlier, but we were breaking the Zduriencik story. Mariners pitching prospect Danny Hultzen is to see Dr. James Andrews at his Alabama clinic on Monday for a second opinion on his ailing shoulder. There is apparently an issue going on in his labrum area. This is not good news. 

Just got done talking briefly with Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, who confirmed that Jack Zduriencik is being retained as general manager for 2014.

“Yes, Jack will be back,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong declined to go into detail on the reasons behind continuing with Zduriencik or how long he’s been retained for, citing club policy. Club sources have indicated Zduriencik will be here on a short-term deal for now. Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln is expected to address the Seattle media at some point next week once it’s clear who the team’s manager will be.

Zduriencik said in an interview soon after that he’s pleased to be staying on beyond this year.

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Comments | More in front office | Topics: jack zduriencik; chuck armstrong; contract; eric wedge

September 24, 2013 at 4:16 PM

Sources: Jack Zduriencik back as GM of Mariners in 2014

Multiple sources confirmed today that general manager Jack Zduriencik will return to his post for the 2014 season. Zduriencik declined comment when asked this afternoon, but multiple team sources indicated he will be back next year.

As of today, manager Eric Wedge still does not have a contract for 2014.

Zduriencik has been the subject of intense speculation since late last month, when it was revealed that last year, he was quietly given a one-year contract extension through the 2014 campaign. The Mariners have declined comment on it throughout this losing month, fueling speculation that Zdurinecik might not be retained.

But that is apparently not the case and the Mariners plan to keep Zduirencik, albeit on a short-term leash.

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Comments | More in front office | Topics: jack zduriencik; general manager; eric wedge; contract

September 11, 2013 at 11:38 PM

Games and series like these by Mariners get people fired

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik (left) and manager Eric Wedge could be back on the firing line after a pitiful performance at home by their team against the lowly Houston Astros. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik (left) and manager Eric Wedge could be back on the firing line after a pitiful performance at home by their team against the lowly Houston Astros. Photo Credit: AP

We’ve been down this road with the Mariners before. Saw it in 2008 and 2010. Now, we’re seeing it again in 2013 and sooner or later, the question will have to be answered by somebody in charge of this Mariners franchise.

How are GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge supposed to survive this?

The Mariners just got swept three straight by the Houston Astros, far and away the worst team in major league baseball. They were outscored 25-7 and played in front of crowds ranging from 9,800 or so to 11,656 tonight. Those are the announced crowds. There wasn’t much of a line for garlic fries tonight.

Worse than the indifferent crowds is the seemingly indifferent play by the Mariners. The players insist they haven’t given up and manager Wedge does as well. Heck, he’d better hope they haven’t because that will reflect very poorly on a guy already in a heap of trouble as this season crawls to a devastating finish.

If they haven’t packed it in, the Mariners certainly look like a group running on empty. And that’s with more than two weeks of season to go. Tonight, they mustered four hits.

Right now, they are on pace for 90 losses. But that’s about to change with this road trip, where the Mariners play a taxing 10 games against two first-place teams and then the Angels. They can’t count on Felix Hernandez much anymore, so that’s already a blow. Play like this the rest of the season, the Mariners will be lucky to go even 3-13. That’s a 94-loss season, if you’re keeping score.

And that’s while playing 19 games against a 50-96 Houston squad. The Mariners finished just 10-9 against the Astros and that alone is an indictment.

The kicker now is, we’re starting to hear that a lot of that may have to do with how young the team is.

“We’re just younger,’’ Wedge said. “We’re a younger ballclub. The veterans were doing a little bit more for us in the first half. We’ve got young pitchers in the starting rotation. A lot of these kids are in September and they haven’t played in September before.’’

Remember back in July, when the team was hyping its youthful infusion to the hilt and folks were citing it as the reason the Mariners had won eight in a row? Wasn’t really true back then, either, if you check the stats from that streak. But now, it certainly isn’t the case. This team looks like it’s flatlined and you could actually see it coming because the minor league schedule would normally be done for many of these young Mariners by now and their bodies are into overtime. So now, the fact that they’re young is being pointed at as a reason the team is losing, instead of winning.

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Comments | More in front office | Topics: jack zdurienck; eric wedge; fired; astros

September 3, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Who is minding this Mariners store? Sadly, no one

Chuck Armstrong, Jack Zduriencik and Howard Lincoln, from left to right, have remained silent about reported plans to bring Zduriencik back for 2014. And two weeks after the news first broke, few in football-diverted Seattle are really paying close attention to a decision that could dramatically impact the team's fate in 2014 and beyond. Photo Credit: AP

Chuck Armstrong, Jack Zduriencik and Howard Lincoln, from left to right, have remained silent about reported plans to bring Zduriencik back for 2014. And two weeks after the news first broke, few in football-diverted Seattle are really paying close attention to a decision that could dramatically impact the team’s fate in 2014 and beyond. Photo Credit: AP

Woke up this morning to an interesting column by colleague Larry Stone, which I feel cuts to the very heart of how a team like the Mariners could stay so mediocre for so long. Simply put, Stone concludes that the Mariners have once again become irrelevant after Labor Day.

I’d set the Fourth of July as my point of no return, mind you, and I know some of you would like Memorial Day to be the crossover date, but that’s quibbling. The overall point is that no one is minding the store. Folks in Seattle are now focused on college and NFL football and will be until the frigid weeks of January when spring training is right around the corner.

And unfortunately, by then, it will be too late to alter the course of the Mariners in 2014.

This is how it has gone just about every year since I arrived in 2006. No one really knows who is running the Mariners these days, whether it’s Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo of America, Howard Lincoln, silent-as-a-mouse minority owners John Stanton and Chris Larson, Chuck Armstrong, Jack Zduriencik or all of the above. And none of the folks who should be minding the store and making sure there isn’t some three-card-monte game being run out the back entrance are really paying attention any more.

It’s been two weeks since Zduriencik was first reported to have received a contract extension for 2014 and yet none of the alleged “leaders” of the Mariners have come out in public to explain the rationale for that. Nor have they explained why, if they truly have confidence in the “plan” of a GM headed for another 90-loss season, they’d allow him to enter 2014 on a lame-duck one-year deal rather than fully commit to a real extension. And if the Mariners really have not decided on a course of action, why not just admit they are doing what any well-run organization would do and still evaluating Zduriencik before making a final decision?

Instead, the Mariners do what they always have done. They continue to duck and hide, hoping the scrutiny all goes away. They cite club policy as preventing them from disclosing Zduriencik’s contract status, ignoring the fact they put out a detailed press release two years ago in August when Zduriencik was last extended.

But again, they can get away with this when no one is minding the store. When bigger-voice media pundits drop in on the Mariners every so often between NFL exhibition games or bye-weeks. When radio talk show hosts wake up from another week out at the VMAC to proclaim how “interesting” they find the team’s latest batch of young players before returning to a debate about the merits of a third-string cornerback. When national media online or on MLB Network keep touting the Mariners as “up and comers” a few years down the road, ignoring that they did the exact same thing a few years ago. When fans and bloggers, with one eye on the halftime beer commercials, keep repeating the same “stay the course” mantra over and over, comparing the Mariners to teams like the Pirates, Rays and A’s without actually asking whether Seattle really has anything remotely in common with those franchises.

Do I blame all of those folks for turning away from the Mariners to sports that Seattle really cares about? Not at all. The media isn’t about giving free advertising to teams. Fans are tuning in to sports to be entertained, not bored beyond belief by a team that still can’t hit straight five years into a supposed rebuilding plan.

But the Mariners count on this. They count on the lack of scrutiny. They know that if they shut up about Zduriencik now, nobody in Seattle is really going to call them on it. There won’t be a daily feeding frenzy to force their hand in our quiet little town like there would be in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, or anyplace else where the store is being minded by somebody. Like there would be in most places where a team that headed into 2013 counting on a .500 season is now headed for 90 losses yet again.

And the Mariners will keep counting on this disinterest through the winter, when the real decisions are made that will impact the team in 2014 and ultimately decide how they’re going to finish.

I found it interesting yesterday when Eric Wedge made the comments about his players needing to learn what it takes to win games like the one his Mariners lost to the Royals. Interesting because Wedge, his bosses and his players have been saying the same thing in one form or another since 2010 and perhaps earlier.

Here’s a story from one year ago last August in which the Mariners won a fourth straight game in an eventual eight-game streak, and Brendan Ryan had this to say afterwards.

“It’s nice to win a close game,” Ryan said. “As a young team, we should be learning how to win these games.”

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Comments | More in front office | Topics: extension, jack zduriencik; howard lincoln; chuck armstrong

August 26, 2013 at 10:27 AM

Mariners special assistant to GM, Tony Blengino, looking elsewhere

Mariners special assistant to the GM (baseball operations) Tony Blengino, was told last week his contract would not be renewed in 2014. Blengino had become increasingly less visible within the organization the past year or two. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners special assistant to the GM (baseball operations) Tony Blengino, was told last week his contract would not be renewed in 2014. Blengino had become increasingly less visible within the organization the past year or two. Photo Credit: AP

Just a few years ago, Tony Blengino was seen as one of general manager Jack Zduriencik’s chief lieutenants, part of a three-headed team that included amateur scouting director Tom McNamara. Besides playing a key role alongside McNamara in helping with the team’s yearly drafts, Blengino, helped with scouting and also ran the team’s fledgling analytical department.

Blengino has always carried the title of special assistant to the GM, baseball operations, since coming to Seattle from Milwaukee along with McNamara and Zduriencik in late 2008. But now, as of late last week, he’ll be looking to ply his trade elsewhere.

The Mariners have sent an email out to other MLB teams telling them that Blengino requested he be released from the exclusivity restrictions of his contract so he can pursue other opportunities.

Reached this morning, Blengino confirmed that this was true.

“I just wanted the chance to see what was out there if it looked like I wasn’t going to be a part of the future here,” Blengino said.

Blengino added that he had nothing bad to say about the Mariners or the city of Seattle. He just sensed that his time here had run its course and that it’s time to look at new opportunities.

Despite reports that Blengino has been “let go” by the Mariners, that part isn’t entirely accurate.

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Comments | More in front office | Topics: tony blengino; jack zduriencik; scouting; sabermetrics

August 23, 2013 at 5:52 PM

Eric Wedge back, says he won’t need reminders about health

First things first, the Mariners are still not confirming that general manager Jack Zduriencik has been extended for 2014. Zduriencik once again declined to comment on it, citing club policy about contracts. But when Zduriencik was reminded that the club did indeed publicize his previous contract extension back in 2011 (see snapshot of top part of release below), A PR staffer intervened and said that was a question best directed at officials making those types of decisions.

This news release, from August 2011, announced the previous Jack Zduriencik extension along with quotes from team president Chuck Armstrong. The Mariners now say that club policy prevents them from commenting on the latest rumored extension of Zduriencik through 2014.

This news release, from August 2011, announced the previous Jack Zduriencik extension along with quotes from team president Chuck Armstrong. The Mariners now say that club policy prevents them from commenting on the latest rumored extension of Zduriencik through 2014.

So far, those officials have declined comment, citing the same policy they ignored two years ago when they were happy to announce Zduriencik was coming back.

Which makes you wonder, if Zduriencik does indeed have the extension — which I’m told he does — why is the team balking at confirming it? Is it because they may not be through their evaluation of Zduriencik yet? Perhaps there’s another candidate who might become available? Is it because manager Eric Wedge does not have a similar extension after this year?

As I said last night on the show, the big news here isn’t that Zduriencik has an extension, which can easily be tossed away and bought out money-wise if the team wants to go in another direction for 2014. The big news is whether ot not the team is prepared to allow Zduriencik to work through 2014 — and what the evaluation that led to the team’s decision was based on. So far, the team won’t say, though Zduriencik insists he’s “raring to go” for 2014. The question is whether the Mariners have already told him he will be, and, if so, why they’re so hesitant to explain the decision-making process.

As for Wedge himself, he’s back in the dugout tonight for the first time. You may have read our interview with him two days ago, so I’m not going to cover all that other stuff a second time around. But Wedge reiterated today how seriously he’s taking the stroke he suffered and the fact he’ll have to alter some aspects of his behavior and how he deals with stress.

That part won’t be easy, since managing baseball requires passion. But Wedge insists he won’t need any reminders.

“I think I’ve got one hell of a reminder now,” he said. “I’ve got a great reference point here. I did not like not being in control. And I didn’t have it there for a couple days. And that’s one hell of a scary feeling. So, then, once they all figured it out, this, that and the other, I’ll never need another reminder again.”

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Comments | More in front office | Topics: eric wedge; jack zduriencik; stroke; extension

August 21, 2013 at 5:41 PM

Coast is now clear for Mariners to announce Zduriencik extension

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong (left) and CEO Howard Lincoln (right) are expected to announce shortly that general manager Jack Zduriencik (center) is back for 2014. Zduriencik was quietly given the extension last winter, but team has been waiting for right moment to announce it. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners president Chuck Armstrong (left) and CEO Howard Lincoln (right) are expected to announce shortly that general manager Jack Zduriencik (center) is back for 2014. Zduriencik was quietly given the extension last winter, but team has been waiting for right moment to announce it. Photo Credit: AP

The Mariners are apparently going to make public before they play another game what they have known since a few months after last season ended.

That general manager Jack Zduriencik is actually under contract through 2014, and not 2013 as had been thought. It seems the team gave Zduriencik an extra year on his deal shortly after the 87-loss campaign in 2012 came to an end.

Why keep it a secret? Well, there could be several reasons.

One, they were too embarrassed to admit they had extended their GM after another losing season and were waiting for a more positive moment to tell fans. They may have assumed they’d get ample opportunity in 2013. But given how this season has actually gone, those “windows” of positivity have usually slammed shut before anybody could crawl through them.

Two, they actually wanted to judge Zduriencik’s performance this year before announcing he was staying, giving them the option of eating the final contract year and seeking help elsewhere if he failed to meet their expectations.

Three, they were worried manager Eric Wedge would be viewed as a lame duck and in trouble, since he doesn’t have an extension and Zduriencik does.

Four, there have been rumors in New York that GM Brian Cashman might want out of his Yankees deal before it expires — coincidentally, also after 2014. The Mariners tried unsuccessfully to interview Cashman five years ago before they hired Zduriencik. If he was to become available a year early — and he’s now denying that will happen — it would look awkward if the Mariners suddenly dumped Zduriencik this winter, having already announced him as their guy for 2014.

Perhaps, a combination of all four factors is at-play.

But even if so, now is still the perfect time for the Mariners to confirm Zduriencik will be back in 2014, if that indeed is their desire. It won’t get any better than now, not after the Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 5-3 here today to finish this tough, nine-game trip with a winning record. Seattle just beat two AL West contenders on the road. Looking ahead, life might never be this sweet again for a team still eight games under .500. If the Mariners were seeking another window of positivity — making a Zduriencik extension an easier “sell” for skeptical fans and media — this one just cracked open.

As for the other possible holdups, the timing might never be better than now to deal with them head-on.

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Comments | More in front office | Topics: jack zduriencik; howard lincoln; chuck armstrong; extension

April 25, 2013 at 8:00 AM

Thoughts on whether a sub-.500 season should be good enough for the Mariners

Glancing around the blogosphere last night and this morning, it seems like folks are in a firing mood when it comes to Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge.

And as I wrote for the paper this morning in a story about Franklin Gutierrez and the ripple effect of his health woes, there are indeed jobs at stake when a season goes off the rails. Both Zduriencik and Wedge know this all too well; Wedge because he’s been down this road before in Cleveland and Zduriencik because he fired his previous hand-picked manager during a 101-loss campaign three years ago.

The story about Gutierrez highlights how the team’s decision to stick with him as their everyday center fielder — rather than trade him and sign a free agent replacement — is coming back to haunt the ballclub.

Look, I do not want to pin this all on Gutierrez. He’s hurt and it’s not his fault. He doesn’t want to be that way. His teammates have to pick it up in any event because the level of their overall play has deteriorated well below their collective talent level. They can’t blame an entire season on Gutierrez going down, or Michael Saunders getting hurt. Neither can the guys in charge of the team. They all have to do a better job of getting the job done.

But that’s what I want to discuss further this morning. That talent level and where it’s headed. For me, as I wrote last night, this has always seemed like a team that should at least finish .500, especially with 19 games against the Houston Astros. Believe me, the Astros didn’t just become a championship squad. They have been getting pounded by every team other than the Mariners.

So, a .500 team at minimum with the ability to do more. That’s my minimal expectation for this team and still is, despite the 8-15 start. No, I won’t be throwing them any parades for it. Like I said, finish 81-81 and they will have met my minimal expectations.

But if we’re going to talk firings and stuff, let’s lay down some parameters.

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Comments | More in front office | Topics: franklin gutierrez; michael saunders; eric wedge; jack zduriencik