Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik had a very busy 2010 off-season. Many thought of it as the best in baseball. If you look at it on paper, the moves he made seem outstanding:
· Resign All-Star P Felix Hernandez to 5-year deal
· Sign All-Star 2B Chone Figgins
· Acquire Cy Young P Cliff Lee from Phillies
· Sign 1B Casey Kotchman
· Sign OF Milton Bradley
· Sign DH Ken Griffey Jr.
Such an aggressive off-season, many critics believed the Mariners would be a major contender for the AL West title. But, what if the moves made where only to rebuild a sub-par Seattle team?
I look at the 2010 Seattle Mariners off-season and see it as a different approach than an attempt at a World Series trophy–I see it as an aggressive way to initiate a complete remodel of the M’s as we know them.
When the Mariners lost third basemen Adrian Beltre to free agency, it was absolutely critical of Zduriencik to find a replacement. It was already known that 2B Jose Lopez had experience at third, so it opened up some more options. Instead of attempting a trade or free agent signing of a third basemen, Seattle went with the best rout for their team, signing All-Star 2B Chone Figgins to a long-term deal.
A fast lead off hitter like Figgins was an obvious fit with Ichiro at the top of the lineup.
Going into the 2010 off-season, Seattle’s #1 priority was resigning ’09 AL Cy Young runner-up to a long-term deal. Jackie Z pulled through, locking in the face of the Mariners rotation for 5 years. A move required for any future success in the Seattle Mariners organization.
The acquisition of Cliff Lee is a topic argued over and over in Seattle. Many argue that if the M’s where trying to rebuild, they wouldn’t buy into a star pitcher who is destined for free agent megabucks after his contract expires the next season. I disagree.
Look at what the Mariners traded for Lee. OF Tyson Gillies, P Juan Ramirez, and P Phillippe Aumont. Aumont is a very valuable prospect, but look at it this way. They keep both of the Mariners most valuable prospects, Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley. And, they don’t have to give up anybody on their Major League roster.
The deal was just so easy, I think Zduriencik went for it because it was there. How often do opportunities to bring a Cy Young winning pitcher to your ball club for so cheap appear? Almost never.
Not to mention, just think of what the Mariners will be able to for Lee in a trade at the trade deadline! A proved playoff winner (went 2-0 in ’09 World Series vs. Yankees) like Lee could turn any borderline contender into a major threat to make a run in the playoffs.
If a team like the Detroit Tigers got their hands on Cliff Lee, you could see them contending with anybody in the American League. Just imagine the players some teams would be willing to offer for Lee.
Zduriencik isn’t stupid. He knows you cannot win when your team leader in HRs has 6 on the year. If he wanted to create a division contender, he would not have been okay with Rob Johnson as their starting catcher, who is batting .163 on the year.
EVEN IF the whole team batted to their fullest potential, they would not win as many games as they did last season at 85.
Franklin Gutierrez, the M’s only legitimate power hitter, (who isn’t true power hitter), has but 25 runs batted in on the year.
Zduriencik saw this coming; he knew his team would not be a top team in the MLB right away without a real threat to hit 40 HRs a year. All of the moves he made last off-season where moves to build for the future, not to fight for an AL West title right now.