Zduriencik chasing wins, not big-money fix

‘We want to build this thing the way we are doing it,’ Mariners GM says

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.comDecember 4, 2012 

NASHVILLE, tenn. — Jack Zduriencik knows there’s no guarantee that he will be the general manager of the Seattle Mariners after the 2013 season.

He knows he’s in the final year of a two-year contract extension. He’s more than aware that under his watch the Mariners have produced just one winning season – 2009 – followed by three consecutive losing seasons. He understands the team must show significant improvement in his fifth season.

There has been no mention of an extension for Zduriencik from team president Chuck Armstrong or CEO Howard Lincoln. The team ownership may be taking a wait-and-see approach.

Regardless of his current contract, Zduriencik insists he will not approach the offseason with the idea of maintaining his employment. Nothing he does this week at the baseball winter meetings at the Gaylord Convention Center will be done in an effort to save his job, he says.

“I can’t do that,” he said early Monday morning. “I don’t want to chase that. You always keep the organization’s best interests at heart and I’m going to do that.”

If that means passing on a splashy big-name bat at the expense of mortgaging the Mariners’ future, then that’s what he will do.

“We want to build this thing the way we are doing it,” Zduriencik said. “If we can augment it, we will. But I’m not going to chase my tail and do something that is not in the best interest of this city, this organization, this fan base, despite the fact that there might be some people that wish I did it yesterday.”

The example would be his predecessor. Lincoln went on record that former general manager Bill Bavasi was “on the hot seat” after the 2006 season – the Mariners’ third losing campaign in a row. The 2007 team produced a winning record (88-74) and was competitive until an August meltdown. But it was enough for Bavasi to return for the 2008 season. In that offseason, Bavasi made drastic moves to try to make a run at the playoffs, including trading Adam Jones and four other players for pitcher Erik Bedard and signing free agent Carlos Silva to a four-year, $48 million contract. Both moves backfired like many of Bavasi’s previous moves.

Injuries limited Bedard to 15 starts each in 2008 and 2009, while Silva compiled a 5-18 record in the two seasons he spent in Seattle.

The 2008 team was a disaster and Bavasi was fired midway through the season.

Bavasi later admitted that his shaky job security affected his decision making.

Zduriencik was brought in to repair the damage done by Bavasi, with a first priority of restocking a ravaged farm system and modifying the player development system.

“I was brought here for a reason at the time,” Zduriencik said. “I was brought here for my skill set – building an organization and bringing in players and trying to get this thing going. Player development and scouting has been what I’ve done. You stay true to who you are.”

Still, the big league club greatly overshadows any of Zduriencik’s prospect-restocking and minor league rebuilding efforts. There is a demand for improvement in the majors, pressure for an abysmal offense to become successful.

Zduriencik is trying to do all that. But there will be no 5-for-1 deals to get a hitter and appease impatient fans.

“I can’t do that because it’s not the right thing to do,” he said. “If we cut this thing off right now, this organization will suffer for years.”

So, while fans are clamoring for the Mariners to sign Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher or trade for Justin Upton, Zduriencik is trying to do the prudent thing. He is trying to add offense and will part with a prospect or two to get it. But he won’t overpay.

“I know our fans would love us to make a big splash, that’s kind of fun,” Zduriencik said. “Sometimes you just have to let it happen. There’s a few pieces I would love to get to augment the big league club. At the end, I’m going to make the most sound decision going forward.”

Zduriencik keeps the Mariners’ future in mind when he makes deals, but what about his future?

“If they would like for me to be here for a long time, I’d love to be here a long time,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not the decision I make. It’s those above me that make it.”

Ryan Divish, 253-597-8483 ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @RyanDivish

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