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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Seattle Mariners: Why the Team Should Trade for Matt Kemp

The Seattle Mariners reportedly had conversations with the Dodgers about incumbent outfielder Matt Kemp.

Kemp is reportedly not being moved, but the M’s should maintain interest in the two-time All-Star.

After the ambitious, low-buy acquisitions of Logan Morrison and Corey Hart, the team’s lineup will look something like this-

  1. CF Dustin Ackley
  2. 3B Kyle Seager
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. DH Corey Hart (he only wears sunglasses when it’s sunny, just so we’re clear)
  5. 1B Logan Morrison
  6. LF Michael Saunders
  7. C Mike Zunino
  8. SS Brad Miller
  9. RF Abraham Almonte

That’s a pretty solid lineup. In terms of the division standings, that group would probably get you higher than the Astros, and should the pitching hold up, above the Angels. If Hart and Morrison can have bounce-back years, and (again) pitching forbid, the team has a good chance to surpass Texas.

Acquiring Kemp would vault them past Texas and the Angels. Something that seemed absurd four months ago. Oakland may be out of reach, but bringing in Matt Kemp would put the Mariners in a position to legitimately contend for a Wild Card berth.

The Dodgers’ outfielder would bring a perfect blend of, well, everything to the Mariners. Kemp’s defense would shine in still-spacious Safeco Field. Hitting him cleanup in the lineup listed above could be potentially lethal. Imagine this-

  1. RF Abraham Almonte
  2. 3B Kyle Seager
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. CF Matt Kemp
  5. DH Corey Hart (he still only wears sunglasses when it’s sunny)
  6. 1B Logan Morrison
  7. LF Michael Saunders
  8. C Mike Zunino
  9. SS Brad Miller

Almonte is the “projected” leadoff hitter only based on the fact that he has the foot speed to create at the top of the order, and Ackley can’t play right field. A leadoff hitter would probably be the next item on the Mariners’ to-do list. Ackley could be traded in an effort to get one.

The Yankees, among others, have inquired about the former first-round pick.  Ideally, Seattle could flip Ackley and one of their lesser relievers for one of their incumbent outfielders, Brett Gardner. Here’s another lineup prediction with Gardner (bear with me on this)-

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Kyle Seager
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. CF Matt Kemp
  5. DH Corey Hart
  6. 1B Logan Morrison
  7. RF Michael Saunders/Abraham Almonte
  8. C Mike Zunino
  9. SS Brad Miller

That lineup would contend with Oakland for the division. Not only could that lineup, coupled with the Mariners’ underrated pitching staff, contend with Oakland, but they could compete with the best of them. Outside of Detroit, St. Louis, Los Angeles and a regressing (for the moment) Boston, Seattle could have the most talented team.

This isn’t even mentioning former top-prospects Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Nick Franklin, all of whom could be shopped to add to the M’s bullpen or rotation.

Getting to this point won’t be easy. Seattle’s going to have to take on some money as well as give up a solid player or two to acquire Kemp. The other trades won’t be cakewalks, but should the Mariners do it, they could be looking at a playoff berth for the first time in a long, long time.


Tim Lincecum to the Mariners Proposition

The San Francisco Giants currently sit in fourth place in the NL West.  Six and a half games back in the division. That includes an astonishing multi-game deficit to the Colorado Rockies and only a few games separating them and the Swiss Cheese Baseball Team San Diego Padres.

Maybe this is all a continuation of the Giants’ master plan to win a World Series, flop the next year, and then win the next year’s title with another smorgasbord of bit players and trade deadline acquisitions.

Tim Lincecum currently sits fourth in the Giants’ hierarchy of starting pitchers. One spot below Barry Zito. Not an amazing place for a former Cy Young winner. Should San Fran look to offload their former ace in an attempt to gain pieces for next year, Seattle could be the place to look.

The Giants could do with upgrades in left field, right field as well as finding a suitable long term replacement for Marco Scutaro at second base. The defending champs also could use another starting pitcher, even if they decide to keep Lincecum.

The team could be intrigued by any of the Mariners’ young players who have yet to live up to their potential. Justin Smoak could apply, as well as Dustin Ackley, should he fail to establish himself as the Mariners’ everyday center fielder.

San Francisco could also have interest in Joe Saunders, or Aaron Harang. Saunders has provided a steady back-end-of-the-rotation presence while Harang has previously proven himself in the NL West the past two seasons, compiling 24 wins and posting an ERA that hovered near 3.50.

The Giants don’t want Smoak unless they are parting with Brandon Belt in a bigger trade, which is unlikely. Ackley and Saunders for Lincecum though, could entice the Giants to pull the trigger, but might not be enough. Should the Giants up the ante and ask for one of the Mariners’ “Big Three” pitching prospects, the M’s should think twice. I don’t think Seattle would sacrifice one of their young pitchers for Lincecum, even in a one-for-one swap.

Ackley, Saunders and a prospect somewhere between mid-level and blue-chipper for Lincecum seems an ideal trade for both sides. The Giants and M’s both get players who seem in need of a change of scenery, San Francisco gets a sturdy replacement for Big Time Timmy Jim as well as a prospect while Seattle gets a redo on the 2006 draft.

Why Michael Saunders Is the Most Important Player in the Seattle Mariners’ Lineup

Big name additions Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales might be viewed as the most important players in the M’s lineup. It might be the development of budding stars Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager. Or it could be Michael Saunders.

Michael Saunders who hit .727 (that being 8 for 11 for all of you who didn’t major in some sort of math at MIT) in the World Baseball Classic. Michael Saunders, who I gave the nickname Grand Torrido to despite “Torrido” meaning torrid in Italian and the M’s having one of the more prominent Italian players in the game of baseball in their organization: Alex Liddi. Whatever, Saunders is the most important player in the lineup and this is why.

He extends the lineup. Continue reading

Projecting the Mariners’ Opening Day Lineup

Due to the Mariners hot start in spring training, it makes it just about as easy to predict a lineup where the whole team struggles. None the less, the M’s will likely feel good about themselves going into the season thanks to their torrid spring offense and lack of a terribly-long flight to Japan.

The Mariners have a lot to look forward to this year. They will likely contend for a playoff spot, or at least a seat at the final table to determine that spot. They will unveil a new, slugging-based offense. They will play in the same division as Houston. And they will play in the same division as Houston. Continue reading

Hey, the A’s Did it, How About Us?

The Oakland Athletics had an extremely successful season last year. Maybe you didn’t notice. In a discussion where the A’s were probably relegated to the kiddy table, while big-boys Texas and Anaheim were supposed to contend for the division, the A’s won it. LA of Anaheim missed the playoffs all together, and Texas went out in a pretty unceremonious way against Baltimore in the new-fangled one-game playoff.

The team’s supposed strengths going into the season were pitching and, well, pitching. Albeit in an enormously large ball park where a game of cricket can be played down the right field and left field foul territories.

Oakland’s strength ended up being not only pitching, but also a tendency to hit home runs. And lots of them. The A’s were one of the better teams at the art of the long ball (7th in baseball last year.)

Last year as well, the A’s got the bulk of their power from their first base/ corner outfield/DH spots from a mix-matched group of role players and journeymen.

(Sensing a theme?) Continue reading