Monday, July 27, 2009

The Mariners, Jack Zduriencik. And the Benefit of Losing

Entering the all-star break, the Seattle Mariners were one of the biggest surprises in baseball. No one expected much out of the Mariners this season, especially after they lost 100 games last year, but during the first half of the season, their play had been stellar. By the time the all star break rolled around, the Mariners found themselves only 4 games back of the Angels in the AL West and only 1.5 games back of the second place Texas Rangers.

Now for most clubs, having a solid first half would be a very, very good thing. But for the Mariners, it put GM Jack Zduriencik in a very difficult spot. Do the Mariners play for 2009 and become buyers at the trade deadline or do the Mariners become sellers and try to acquire new building blocks that could make the team stronger in 2010 and beyond?

Zduriencik was stuck in a true dilemma. It would be very difficult to trade away players when the team is competing in 2009, but at the same time, I doubt anyone in the Mariners organization believed that this team has what it takes to compete in 2009.

So Zduriencik did the smart thing and sat tight. And you know what? The Mariners have made the decision much easier for the Mariners GM. After the all-star break, the team has played poorly and now sits 7.5 games back of first place after getting swept by the lowly Cleveland Indians at home this weekend. The M's have drifted out of the playoff race....and you know what that means....


The Mariners biggest trade chip right now is obviously Jarrod Washburn, who is sporting a 2.71 ERA and is having the best year of his career. Washburn, who is a free agent at the end of the season, could be a VERY ATTRACTIVE player for teams, who simply cannot afford the steep price for Roy Halladay. The Mariners could get back a few quality prospects in return, which should help them rebuild even further.

In addition, I know trading Russell Branyan would not be a popular move for Mariners fans, but I think the Mariners must explore the option. Branyan, who is also a free agent at the end of the season, is putting up the best numbers of his career at the spacious SAFECO Field and could help a number of teams down the stretch with his big bat and ability to get on base. I imagine that any team looking to acquire Branyan would have to part with some quality prospects, given how much power is in demand right now.

And finally, if the Mariners can find a taker for Johjima and his contract, they should make the move IMMEDIATELY.

While it sucks for the Mariners that Erik Bedard is hurt, the benefit of falling out of playoff contention is that management can now work towards building the Mariners into stronger competitors in the future. Zduriencik now has the freedom to explore his selling options on the market without the backlash from the fan base. For a 1st year GM, it's a blessing that he did not have to sell when the team was in contention and now he has the opportunity to advance the Mariners even more.

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