BY Art Thiel 06:14PM 07/31/2013

Mariners let deadline pass quietly. Well done

GM Jack Zduriencik, who is nearly 0-for-the-trade-deadline, was wise to try to win a little with what he has. Mid-season is a lousy time to build a team that isn’t a contender.

Doug Fister - Seattle Mariners - 2010 - 2

Imagine if Doug Fister were still in the Mariners’ starting rotation. / Ben Van Houten, Mariners

Congratulations to the Seattle Mariners. The annual non-waiver trade deadline came and went Wednesday, and no roster injuries were reported. While that is not exactly worthy of a hearty backslap, in the world of diminished expectations in which the Mariners reside, doing no harm becomes a big deal.

ESPN.com recently surveyed in-season deadline deals for each team and declared that the Mariners’ trade of Doug Fister in 2011 was the best July transaction in the history of the Detroit Tigers.  In case your memory banks scarred over, for a premium young pitcher the Mariners received four players: relievers Charlie Furbush and Chance Ruffin, backup outfielder Casper Wells and minor league third baseman Francisco Martinez.

Only Furbush remains on the major league roster. Nice lefty middle reliever, but the guys alleged to be the key parts, Wells and Martinez, have washed out of the organization and Ruffin has pitched 13 innings for AAA Tacoma.

In July 2012, the Mariners traded former school teacher Steve Delabar, a relief pitcher, to Toronto for outfielder Eric Thames, waived this year. Almost no one remembered that deal until Delabar showed up in this year’s All-Star Game. The Mariners also swapped Ichiro to the Yankees for two minor league relievers, only one of which, Danny Farquhar, made it to Seattle.

So approaching this year’s deadline, the discerning Mariners fan offered a shudder that could be registered on the Richter scale.

It’s not that general manager Jack Zduriencik is incompetent, although he owns all the above deals, plus the Michael Pineda-for-Jesus Montero swap with the Yankees that is helping no one at the moment. But Zduriencik and his scouting peeps have done some good work in the draft and with the MLB discard pile.

But as was mentioned here recently, he’s working for an outfit that has been in nearly perpetual dither for a decade, trying to catch up from past mistakes while uncertain whether to be buyers or sellers at the end of July. Same this time around: The recent uptick put the Mariners on the outskirts of the last wild-card spot, but realistically, they have no shot, and would do well to get to .500.

So this time, Zduriencik stood pat. That took some guts. On the other hand, to deal any of his front-liners means he would be walk away from part of his oft-derided “plan.” For the final two months of the season, he decided to walk his talk with this team,  even though he has a passel of players on one-year contracts who may opt to depart, leaving the Mariners with little to nothing.

But Zduriencik is gambling that keeping the team together is worth something to those players.

“I hope that this message –  the fact that we kept this group of guys together — they  realize that, ‘OK, so we believe in what you’re doing. We believe that you guys can compete. And let’s continue to do that,’” Zduriencik told Seattle reporters at Fenway Park before Wednesday’s game between the Red Sox and Mariners. Whether these particular guys — Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez, Brendan Ryan and pitchers Joe Saunders and Oliver Perez — go along with the hand-holding is anyone’s guess, but Zduriencik made a key point that informed his decision-making on whether to let someone go that he may want back after the season.

“When you let a guy leave, it’s harder to get him back,” he said. “Once you break your marriage up, and all of a sudden you want to go back and ask that player to come back, at the end, that’s much harder to do. He probably feels somewhat betrayed, and now you’re basically starting all over again.

“The fact that the guys are here — certainly, they have the right to walk. But we also have the right to have the first opportunity to sign them if we choose. I think that’s important to a player, especially if they like Seattle. (If the player says) ‘I’d like to be a part of this thing. I like what’s going on here. Man, it would be great!’ Who knows what’s going to happen? We’re going to be able to maybe have the inside track.”

There’s certainly some wishful thinking there. But among those six players, the only one who would seem to be worth more than a middling prospect in a trade is Morales. And the Mariners throw middling prospects off the 40-man roster like wilted salad. But keeping Morales for the final two months is worth a little something toward building a winner because he makes the lineup effective. How much is impossible to quantify, but Morales at least knows Seattle could have thrown him away, and did not.

Morales is represented by agent Scott Boras, who knows how to drum up a market for his clients better than anyone. At 30, Morales will be in his prime for awhile, so he should fetch big coin in a diminished market for quality veteran hitters.

But for another year or two, the Mariners won’t have to pay big coin to their young crew of hitters. Why not make Morales the beneficiary?

Sure, it’s a gamble. What personnel moves aren’t? Zduriencik has put his stake in the ground with these guys. They’ve shown enough to suggest he isn’t crazy. And if he’s wrong, he’s wrong with whom he brought.

Fishing in the middle of the season and ending up with Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Eric Thames suggests staying away from the pond, lest there is a deep passion for taking home old tires.


YourThoughts

  • SandlotSam

    No deal = good deal. At least in this case. With the numerous things that have gone wrong this season, and at past trade deadlines, a bumbling trade just for show would have made it even worse.

    • art thiel

      In the winter free-agent signing period, some Mariners fans will grumble when players walk, but it’s the right move at this juncture.

  • Tian Biao

    Yes! I totally agree, plus, it’ll be more fun to go to the park over the next couple of months, if Morales and Ibanez are still around. The season has been a mildly pleasant surprise, though the wheels could still fall off at any time. but yeah . . . not bad so far.

    • art thiel

      Fans do grow weary of churn, especially after 10 years that has led to little. There’s no metric for that except the turnstile, which may have contributed to the decision to pause in the madness.

      • Will

        True enough about the churn but the M’s continue to be stuck in a Twilight Zone of minimal improvement.

        I think they whiffed by not making a few trades … a small win streak with slim or no chance for the playoffs is not enough reason for standing pat.

  • Marcus

    It’s good that we didn’t enact another incompetent trade, full agreement. Of course that’s like complimenting the kid that can’t spell not entering the Spelling Bee yet again. It’s still a wart on the current GM that his trades and supposed evaluation of talent have been much more miss than hit. The one quasi stroke of brilliance (although it may have been accidental) was trading Pineda (seeing his wind up and delivery, regardless of the nice results, showed him as an injury risk for those in the know). And it was only half-brilliant since we didn’t get much of value back.

    • art thiel

      Pineda is said to be throwing well in AAA and is expected in NY this season. Which doesn’t mean your point about delivery isn’t right. And Jack Z’s other whiffs stack the criticism fairly high. That 8-game win streak and Franklin were job-savers.

      • maqman

        A point not mentioned is that Z had no knowledge that Montero was juiced at the time of the trade, only that he had made a very impressive debut with the Yankees, which he never came close to duplicating with us. Why does everyone remember Fister (who became better after the trade) than the Lee or Putz trades?

        I think Zunino, Franklin, Miller and Seager and the arms on the farm prove his approach/plan is better than what came before, the 8-game streak was just coincidental. The mini-stroke may have saved Wedgie’s job, the love level it generated, especially among his players, increased his appreciation. I believe the ownership, Lincoln and Armstrong get what Z was doing and how his value was coming to fruition and his job wasn’t in need of saving. That’s nothing more than my opinion.

        Lincoln and Armstrong deserve kudos for hiring Z and for re-configuring their regional media deal to give the Ms majority ownership of the network and increasing their annual income from it from $45MM to $115MM (According to Wendy Thurm of Fangraphs, Forbes said it was $117MM). They have given Z the financial under pinning for much larger payrolls going forward. They messed up with Bavasi big time but they have not been all bad.

  • Marcus

    In better news, Wii U is tanking, perhaps giving a little more motivation to the majority owner to hit the road. :)

    • art thiel

      Something tells me the leadership is well insulated from the vagaries of the stock market.

  • Leon Russell

    How pathetic can a baseball team be, when they are congratulated for not making trades — which obviously should have been made — because they are too incompetent to make good trades.
    Ibanez, Ryan and Joe Saunders should have never been signed by the M’s, since they will never be part of the M’s future. So, they should be traded. But, the M’s’ GM is too stupid to make good trades, so he makes no trades, to protect himself from making more stupid mistakes.
    Are the M’s the epitome of incompetence, or what?

    • maqman

      No, not the Ms but you’re in the running.

    • art thiel

      11 winning seasons in 36, four postseasons but no World Series appearance (one of two such teams) and last-place finishes in seven of the past nine years in a four-team division. The facts speak.

  • jafabian

    I’m a bit surprised that no team gave the M’s an offer that the M’s would take for Morse, Morales, Saunders or Harang. IMO, all could help in a playoff race. Raul, despite his numbers, usually cools off in the second half of the season though his year in the playoffs with the Yankees is well chronicled. I’m wondering if Jack Z. was asking for a high price for the players he has.

    I’m also wondering if Morse is better suited at 1B than at OF. Not currently happy with Smoak but I remember it took some time for Tino Martinez to develop. And Tino had to share time at 1B and DH with Alvin Davis and Pete O’Brien just like Smoak, Morales and Morse are splitting time.

    • art thiel

      I’m sure Z wanted a difference-maker in return, otherwise he’s just rearranging furniture.

      Morse keeps getting hurt, and he’s a liability anywhere in the field. Smoak at 1B won’t surrender nearly as many runs.

  • just passing thru

    I would like to see the Mariners make a strong play for Morales. I’m “meh” on Morse, Ryan, J Saunders, and Harang after the season’s over.

    Franklin, and now Miller and Zunino, all give me more hope than a long Smoak foul ball, that’s for sure.

    • maqman

      I agree.

      • art thiel

        Morales is a hitter worth the investment, although it does lock up a lot of money in 4 ABs a night.

        • just passing thru

          I’d offer Morales 3 or 4 years at $12m. doubt he’d take it tho…