Citing anonymous sources within the club and major league baseball, the News Tribune reported Tuesday that the Mariners have agreed to extend the expiring contract of general manager Jack Zduriencik for one year through 2014. Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, traveling with the team in Oakland, declined comment on the extension.
The futures of Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge have been the objects of speculation since the winter, when both were denied extensions beyond the 2013 season. Beyond locking up Felix Hernandez with a $175 million deal, the Mariners also made no big commitments to new players.
Instead, the club pushed some of its premier prospects to the big club earlier this season in hopes of staying competitive; critics said the moves were born of job-saving panic. While Brad Miller, Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino have shown positive signs, the record before Tuesday’s game against the A’s was 57-67. At the same point year ago, the Mariners were 60-64.
While numerous injuries have compromised progress, the Mariners are headed for their fourth losing season in a row and eighth in the past 10. The club has only 11 winning season in its 36-year existence.
The one-year extension can be seen as a tepid endorsement by ownership for Zduriencik’s work. And there was no report on the fate of Wedge, who is set to return Friday to the dugout after a month-long recovery from a minor stroke suffered at the park July 22.
Replacing the disastrous Bill Bavasi in 2008, Zduriencik is in the fifth year in Seattle with “the plan” to restock the farm system, which is plainly better than when he took over. But his major-league level deals, particularly the Doug Fister trade with Detroit, the Michael Pineda trade with New York and the free agent signing of Chone Figgins, have done little to move the needle.
Despite a ticket-price increase, Mariners attendance average is 23,134 through 63 home games, 23rd among MLB’s 30 teams and ahead of the Safeco Field-low in 2012 of 21,258. A chunk of the increase is attributable to the season’s only sellout, when Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted Aug. 10 into the club’s Hall of Fame.