The results just were not there under Jack Zduriencik’s watch.
Plain. Simple. Telling.
It was not for a lack of preparation and effort on his part. With Zduriencik as the general manager, the Seattle Mariners attempted to sign big-time free agents, develop stars from within and trade for what they didn’t have, but nothing done by the man nicknamed “Jack Z” produced nearly enough wins in any of the seven seasons during which he was in charge of the roster.
Because of that, the Mariners unsurprisingly fired Zduriencik on Friday as the team, not an abnormal World Series pick entering the spring, started the day 10 games under .500 and seven games out of the lead in the American League West, gingerly flirting with last place. They never finished higher than third and never made the playoffs under Zduriencik.
He did not leave the cupboard bare, though, which is part of the reason the team was a disappointment. The Mariners won 87 games a year ago and appeared to be a better club in 2015, but the rotation has not lived up to expectations and neither have Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Austin Jackson and Mike Zunino, who was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma shortly after Zduriencik was canned.
The fact that the Mariners, with a core of promising young pitchers, an ace already in place with Felix Hernandez, some potentially productive hitters and a legitimate power hitter in Nelson Cruz, had those expectations in the first place means Seattle’s new front office vacancy should be a desirable one.
ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian said on Dan Le Batard’s radio show that many people are going to want the job:
There’s going to be a long list of general managers that want that job, Frank Wren, Jerry Dipoto. All sorts of guys are going to be lining up for that job because that team has good young pitching. It’s got a really good base of players. They should have been way better than this, and they weren’t. I like where the Mariners are going long term. I can’t believe they played this poorly this year, but the pieces are in place for them to be good someday and for quite a while. They’re not going to have any trouble finding a GM.
That is because Zduriencik, who was a significant part of a front office that returned the Milwaukee Brewers to the postseason in 2008, brought in stars (Cano and Cruz) and retained the one he inherited (Hernandez). His regime drafted the likes of Seager, Zunino, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton while signing gems like Hisashi Iwakuma. Zduriencik did a good job of putting together a major league roster mixed with veterans, players in their primes and those with massive upside. That is why the Mariners extended Zduriencik for multiple years almost exactly a year prior to his firing.
The team just did not win enough, and if the next GM does, he will likely be doing it with a group of players cobbled together by his predecessor.
Kevin Mather says the nucleus is there for the #Mariners to win now, and would lean towards an experienced GM.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) August 28, 2015
Zduriencik told reporters (h/t the Seattle Times) his time as GM didn't work out the way he hoped it would:
You have to be realistic about everything. You have to look at things the way they are. When things don’t work out and the performances aren’t what you hoped they would be, then things happen and there’s consequences that must be paid. When you take a job as a general manager, you take a job as a manager or you take a job as whatever, you’re accountable. At the end of the day, if it doesn’t work, there’s no excuses. You’re the guy as the general manager that is responsible for the club, no matter what. It just didn’t work out like we hoped it would.
Zduriencik did have his share of ugly misses in free agency—the sheer size and length of Cano’s contract falls under that category—and in the draft, which has left the farm system weak, though part of the reason is recently graduated prospects like Walker and Paxton. So there will be some work to do for the future GM, whom the organization wants in place before free agency, per Nightengale.
As to whom that might be, there is already a group of names being speculated. Wren and Dipoto are among them, as are Chicago White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams, Philadelphia Phillies president Pat Gillick and recently resigned Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington.
With an established core and a payroll that is not completely outrageous at $121.7 million, an old-school GM could work as well as a new-age analytical one. What is known is the team wants experience in that chair, per MLB.com's Greg Johns, and all of the mentioned names would fit.
Whoever might take the job will walk into a rebuild where much of the work has been laid. The only thing left to do, aside from some tweaking, is to win.
All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.