Seattle Mariners: Jack Zduriencik’s Best and Worst Trades

Jack Zduriencik’s tenure in Seattle wasn’t the most successful. While he was able to sign Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and managed to hang on to Felix Hernandez¸ he never guided the Seattle Mariners to the playoffs.

A lot of this—well, most of it—has to do with personnel changes. Zduriencik made few trades where he was considered the outright winner. In that vein, he lost a number of trades. Here are some of his best (and mostly) worst trades.

We’ll start with the good news before delving into the bad.

Best—Acquiring Cliff Lee

Zduriencik did extremely well to bring in Lee to pair with Hernandez at the top of the rotation. In fact, he was very Dombrowski-esque with his fleecing of the Phillies. He unloaded three prospects (Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez) who failed to make much of an impact in Philadelphia and are no longer with the team. Aumont posted a 3.42 FIP in his first two seasons (40 appearances) with the Phils, but then posted an ugly 11.71 FIP in his next seven appearances. Those seven appearances spanned last season and this season. He’s with the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate. Gillies never hit well in the minors and was out of the organization before he could reach the majors. He’s currently with the Padres Double-A team. Ramirez has actually made a positive impact in Major League Baseball this season—with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He owns a 4.11 ERA in 12 relief appearances. See folks, something positive did come out of this.  

Lee was exceptional during his short stay in Seattle, earning All Star honors while going 8-3 with a 2.34 and an even more generous 2.16 FIP. He posted a 14.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio. No, that isn’t a typo. Lee was later traded, which will be touched on later.

Best—Trading Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales

Very rarely do division rivals make trades magnitude, but that’s what Zduriencik did with the Angels. He flipped Vargas, who was a serviceable, middle/ back-end of the rotation starter in Seattle, to Anaheim for Morales.

Vargas posted a respectable 4.09 ERA/4.36 FIP in 702.2 innings for the M’s, but only managed a 36-42 record over that span due to poor run support. He was never a prolific strikeout pitcher (5.7 Ks per nine innings as a Mariner), but he did post a cumulative 6.6 WAR during his time in Seattle. As dependable as he was, Zduriencik needed a bat, so he acquired Morales.

In his first season in Seattle, Morales drove in 80 runs, hit 23 home runs and hit .277. He also smacked 34 doubles over 156 games. Exactly what the M’s needed, however the team failed to make the playoffs, finishing 71-91.

Now for the bad trades…

Worst—Reacquiring Morales and Russell Branyan

The Mariners traded for Morales (from the Minnesota Twins) and Branyan (from the Cleveland Indians) less than a season after letting each walk in free agency. At the end of the day, the team lost Stephen Pryor, Ezequiel Carrera and Juan Diaz in the deals. While none of the three have gone on to become world-beaters, it still begs the question, why didn’t you just re-sign Morales and Branyan in the first place?

To make matters worse, Morales only hit .207 in his second go-around with Seattle while Branyan managed a paltry .215 batting average.

Worst– Dealing Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans

Morse hit .300 in 107 games for Seattle from 2005 to 2008, but was never given much of a consistent opportunity. Seattle flipped him for Langerhans, a man who hit exactly .200 in 117 games for the M’s from 2009 to 2011.

From 2009 to 2011, Morse hit .295 with 49 home runs and a .889 OPS for the Washington Nationals, posting a 5.1 WAR. Langerhans’ WAR over that span? 0.8.

There goes four-plus wins.

Worst—Trading Cliff Lee to Texas

While Zduriencik pulled off a heist in acquiring Lee, he fumbled mightily when trading the ace.

For a half season of Lee, the M’s brought in Matt Lawson, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Justin Smoak.

Behold, the disappointment.

Lawson never made it past Double-A with the Mariners and was dealt to Cleveland. He last played for the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate in 2013.

The second prospect acquired in the trade, Beavan, was passable as a back-of-the-rotation arm in 2012, posting an 11-11 record with a 4.43 ERA. In 152.1 innings. However, in 2013 he put up a 6.13 earned run average in 12 appearances and was transitioned to the bullpen. Beavan made a spot start in 2014, but never pitched for the Mariners again.

Lueke posted a 6.06 ERA in 25 innings while wearing an M’s jersey, before being flipped to the Tampa Bay Rays for John Jaso. Jaso was fantastic in his only season in the Emerald City, hitting .276, driving in 50 runs and posting a 3.4 WAR. However, he too was dealt—this time for Morse, who had regressed from the home-run crushing Goliath form he displayed in Washington D.C. to more of a bench bat.

Justin Smoak’s time in Seattle can probably be summed up in one stat.

The current Blue Jay has accumulated a 0.9 WAR in five years with the Mariners. This season, his WAR with Toronto is 0.7. Smoak never quite developed into the middle-of-the-order masher the M’s envisioned.

Worst—Giving Away Doug Fister

This trade may be the worst of all.

Zduriencik dealt away Fister (and David Pauley) for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin.

Furbush has been about the only dependable (if at all consistent) player the M’s acquired. He owns a 3.53 FIP as a Mariner and has been worth a 1.2 WAR since touching down in Seattle. After that it gets sketchy.

Martinez struggled in the M’s minor league system before actually returning to the Detroit organization where he currently plays in the low minors. Wells has also returned to Detroit since the trade, but the outfielder has now become a bit of a journeyman. He played for three different teams in 2013 and hasn’t seen action in the majors since.

Ruffin threw 23.2 innings for the Mariners before abruptly retiring. He struck out 30, but also allowed 16 runs.

To make matters worse, Fister excelled in Detroit. He piled up 32 wins in three seasons in Motown while posting a sparkling 3.20 FIP while becoming a dependable/effective postseason pitcher. His WAR in three seasons in Detroit was 9.9.

Just to compare, the players traded for Fister collectively own a career 4.3 WAR.

The trade was so lopsided that the good people at Homer’s Apparel made a t-shirt about the deal.

All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted. 

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3 Stats from the Seattle Mariners 1-0 Loss vs the Tampa Bay Rays

  • Six

The number of hits allowed by Mariners starter J.A. Happ. The veteran lefty pitched well, but didn’t receive any runs support. He also struck out six batters in seven innings while only walking one Ray, Logan Forsythe.

  • One

The number of hits/runs/earned runs/home runs allowed by M’s closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning. In an otherwise scoreless game, Rodney blew the save and took his third loss of the season. Again, Forsythe was the exception, going yard in the ninth.

  • Zero

The number of hits by new Mariner Mark Trumbo. The former Angel/Diamondback went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, hitting fifth behind Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

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Seattle Mariners: Players the M’s Could Have Drafted Instead of Danny Hultzen

The Seattle Mariners have made their fair share of blunders over the years, namely letting numerous players leave for little-to-no return.

This long, illustrious list includes the likes of Carlos Guillen, Jason Varitek, Rafael Soriano, Alex Rodriguez—you get the point.

The M’s missed a big opportunity in the first round of the 2011 draft.

Danny Hultzen was drafted third overall by Seattle and immediately became part of the “Big Three” pitching prospects along with James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Hultzen showed immense potential, but has seen his career derailed by injuries.

The former first-round pick could still achieve the success he was projected to reach, but it will take time.

Hindsight is obviously 20-20 (stop me if you’ve heard that before), but the 2011 draft produced numerous first-round gems that the Mariners could have taken. Here are some of those players in order of draft position.

Dylan Bundy, Starting Pitcher: Baltimore Orioles, 4th Overall Pick

Bundy, only 22, made his major league debut in 2012. He made two relief appearances for the O’s, totaling an inning and two thirds.

However, the former fourth-overall shows the potential to be a front-line pitcher, if not an ace in the major leagues.

If nothing else, Bundy’s name appearing in trade rumors should speak to his value. According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles wanted Bundy in a trade for Matt Kemp while Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reported in July that Boston was interested in Bundy in a potential Jon Lester trade.

Anthony Rendon, Third Baseman: Washington Nationals, 6th Overall Pick

In a draft class loaded with talented hitters, Rendon has shown the most polish early.

The third baseman, who has also experience at second base, hit .287 in 153 games. The infielder also scored a major-league high 111 runs. In addition, he swatted 23 home runs, drove in 83 runs and swiped 17 bases.

He would have trouble finding at-bats with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager manning second and third, but teams can always use extra bats—especially quality ones like Rendon.

Archie Bradley, Starting Pitcher: Arizona Diamondbacks, 7th Overall Pick

Similar to Bundy, Bradley has future ace/front-line starter written all over him.

He’s been routinely ranked in the top ten prospects in the league and is probably on equal, and while his minor league numbers haven’t been overly impressive (4.45 ERA and a 1.506 WHIP in 18 minor league starts across three minor league levels) he still has a bright future.

Bradley is on similar or better footing than Taijuan Walker or James Paxton in terms of potential.

Francisco Lindor, Shortstop: Cleveland Indians, 8th Overall Pick

Lindor has skyrocketed through the minors and could be in Cleveland in the near future.

One of the top prospects in the game, Lindor is regarded as a top-notch defensive shortstop. He also managed a .273 batting average in 38 Triple-A, showing the potential to be more than simply a defensive wizard at the major league level.

His impending arrival also forced two-time All Star Asdrubal Cabrera out of Cleveland at the trade deadline. Incumbent shortstop Jose Ramirez could meet the same fate as Cabrera.

Javier Baez, Infielder: Chicago Cubs, 9th Overall Pick

Part of the Cubs’ first wave of impact prospects to make the majors, Baez shows tremendous upside. He has outstanding power and will drive in plenty of runs when he reaches his potential.

Baez can play either middle infield position and is part of a talented group of Cubs’ infielders that include Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo among others.

The infielder wouldn’t unseat Robinson Cano at second (duh), but he’d provide an upgrade over Chris Taylor and Brad Miller at shortstop.

Baez mashed 37 homers and drove in 111 runs in across multiple levels in the minor leagues in 2013.

George Springer, Outfielder: Houston Astros, 11th Overall Pick

While Rendon would have been blocked at multiple positions by the Cano and Seager, George Springer wouldn’t have been blocked in the outfield.

Part of the Astros’ next great team, Springer is a slugger in every sense of the word.

The outfielder swatted 20 home runs in a mere 78 games. He only hit .231 and struck out 114 games, but his power is undeniable.

Springer has a .303 career batting average in the minor leagues—or, in other words, he won’t be a .231 hitter forever. He’ll improve.

But instead of hitting bombs in Safeco Field as a member of the M’s, Springer will be hitting for the division rival Astros.

Jose Fernandez, Starting Pitcher: Miami Marlins, 14th Overall Pick

Jose Fernandez is one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball—a fantastic accomplishment considering he was only drafted in 2011.

The 22-year-old Cuban took home Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors in his first season in 2013. Only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright finished ahead of Fernandez in Cy Young voting that year.

The Marlins ace is one of the many exiting, young talents in Miami that have prompted the team to give Giancarlo Stanton a big contract and accelerate the rebuilding process so as to win as soon as possible.

Coming off of an injury shortened 2014, Fernandez will undoubtedly be Miami’s ace when he returns in 2015 and beyond.

Seattle is blessed in the pitching department with the likes of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, but adding Fernandez certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

C.J. Cron, First Baseman: Los Angeles Angels Anaheim, 17th Overall Pick

Cron can flat out hit. He may not be as dynamic as teammate Mike Trout, but he provides the Angels with another young player to build around.

The first baseman owns a .290 career minor-league batting average and can drive the ball out of the park. He slugged 11 bombs in only 79 games in 2014 and has the potential to do much more.

With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in decline, Cron will be counted on to help carry the Angels into the future. Don’t be surprised if Cron gets close to 40 home runs in a season at some point.

He would have been a nice fit at first base for the M’s.

Sonny Gray, Starting Pitcher: Oakland Athletics, 18th Overall Pick

While Bundy and Bradley are future aces, Gray (like Fernandez) is already there.

Gray has a 2.99 ERA in 283 innings pitched and posted a 3.2 WAR in 2014. That 3.2 WAR was higher than the likes of Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Anibal Sanchez.

Gray stepped in during his rookie season and started two playoff games for the A’s. Both times he went toe-to-toe with vintage Justin Verlander and didn’t blink, arguably pitching as well as the former Cy Young MVP.

Also like Fernandez, Gray would have been a nice addition to the M’s, but Seattle will have to settle for seeing him pitch against them a few times a year with Oakland.

Other Notable Names

In addition to the big names like Fernandez, Springer and Rendon, there were a plethora of players available later in the first round of the draft.

The Cardinals and Giants respective second baseman (Kolten Wong and Joe Panik) were taken 22nd and 29th overall. Jackie Bradley Jr. was taken with the 40th pick while fellow Red Sox youngsters, and current farmhands, Matt Barnes (19th), Henry Owens (36th) and Blake Swihart (26th) were also first-round picks.

While Danny Hultzen hasn’t reached the big leagues yet, the M’s clearly could have received more value out of all these players.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comunless otherwise noted.

Why the Vetoed Justin Upton Trade Was a Good Thing

Last offseason the M’s almost acquired Justin Upton. Almost. The Mariners would have sent Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush and Stephen Pryor.

Drink it all in.

That’s Seattle’s second baseman of the future, their two best bullpen arms, plus a potential ace.

Does that sound like the haul to give up for a player like Upton?

Justin Upton is not the player he was in 2009 or 2011. At least statistically he isn’t. He probably isn’t a threat to hit .300, but he will turn in close to a .270 batting average.  He may hit a lot of home runs, somewhere around 25 or 30, but that’s it. Also, he has never reached the 100 RBI plateau, an interesting fact considering the supposed stature of Upton as a hitter.

So, does a hitter with a .270 batting average, 20-30 homerun potential and less than 100 RBIs a year (last season he drove in 67 in 150 games) sound like the guy to trade for a future ace, second baseman, and two dominant bullpen arms?

The answer is a resounding, “No.”

I’m not disparaging Justin Upton’s talent as a player, I just think his market value at the time was overblown.

Put it this way, not only did the Mariners keep nearly a fifth of their future roster, they also found a suitable mish-mash of players to replace, and out produce Upton.

Meet Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, Michael Morse and the since-departed Jason Bay. Plans B, C, D, E, in no particular order. The M’s brought this group in to provide the same kinds of things Justin Upton would provide, a middle of the order presence. The team might have gone a different direction in filling out the rest of their lineup with Upton seeing as these four players are… four players, and Upton is just one. But at the end of the day, they play the same role.

And the M’s combination has done it better.

Justin Upton’s 2013 WAR with his new team, the Atlanta Braves, 1.9.

Kendrys Morales’ 2013 WAR, 2.9.

Raul Ibanez’ 2013 WAR, 0.8.

Jason Bay’s 2013 WAR, 0.5.

Michael Morse’s 2013 WAR, -0.6.

Collectively that spits out a WAR of 3.6. And while that may be four players’ output versus a singular player’s output, the different ways the M’s got that output is key. The price for Upton would have been two ace relievers, an actual ace and a second baseman. The price for the current M’s was a backup catcher, who was blocking the path of Mike Zunino, and a starting pitcher on an expiring contract who likely didn’t factor in the team’s long term plans.

It’s a good thing that Justin Upton vetoed a trade to Seattle. Yes, he would have brought star-power to the team, but since the veto, the M’s have found a much better solution for their lineup, statically and monetarily. Not to mention they keep the team intact for the long haul.

What Justin Upton Rejecting a Trade to Seattle Means for the Mariners


This is what the signs that are draped over every overpass on I-5 in Seattle read. The Mariners need offensive help and apparently Justin Upton is not interested.

The M’s supposedly agreed to send shortstop Nick Franklin, relievers Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and one of the pitching prospect trifecta of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen or James Paxton. Probably Walker.

The most interesting part to all of this is that Arizona actually agreed to it. I am in no way saying that these are going to be or are bad players, but if I was Arizona I would have tried to get one more of the “trifecta.”

Yes, all three are likely going to be starters in the Majors, but they all could be aces. I’m not overvaluing Upton or anything, but the asking price should be higher than stated for a few reasons. He’s young. He has the potential to be a dynamo offensive player, and Seattle is so very desperate for offense. We’re talking David-Stern-desperate-for-power-and-control desperate.

On the flip side of that is the fact that the Mariners could have potentially stolen Upton for cheap. Arizona probably should have asked more for Upton, but Seattle was going in not giving up too much in reality. Yes, Franklin could be special, but the M’s would have gotten a special player back in Upton. Yes, one of the “trifecta” could be special as well, but so could the other two. And if you haven’t noticed, the Mariners are starting to develop a very “Oakland A’s” kind of feel to them in terms of developing good relievers, so losing two wouldn’t be horrible.

It’s really a true shame that Upton didn’t accept the trade. I’m not sure why he doesn’t want to come to Seattle. It’s honestly one of, if not the best city in the world (I’m a tad bit biased seeing as I was born and live in the greater Seattle area.)

Can you imagine the Mariners’ offense had he accepted the trade? Upton, Morales, Seager and Montero are a pretty fantastic middle of the order. Add in Raul Ibanez, Dustin Ackley and a possible resurgent Franklin Gutierrez and you have the makings of a legitimate offensive team. Something we haven’t seen in Seattle in a very long time.

It is disappointing that the trade for Upton didn’t work out, but the big positive here is that the Mariners know that they have a package of players that would have acquired one of the premier players in the game. If that group of players could have brought in Upton, then they can certainly bring in someone else of his caliber.

What do you think about all this? Was Upton smart to stay in Arizona? Should the Mariners go after another player of his caliber?

Tell me in the comments section.

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