BY Art Thiel 08:13PM 07/28/2014

Indecisive? Zduriencik denies critical Fox story

A Fox Sports story, citing anonymous baseball executives, casts Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik as indecisive and a vacillator, reluctant to conclude deals that are causing delays around the Major League Baseball’s trade market, which closes at 1 p.m. PT Thursday for non-waiver deals.

Reporters Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi quoted executives who said Zduriencik is among the most difficult in baseball with whom to deal because he often inquires about players but shifts his aim before trades are concluded. The executives asked not to be identified because of anti-tampering rules and the ongoing trade discussions.

“He has made offers and then pulled back after we have said, ‘This is something we would do,”’ one executive was quoted as saying. “He responds (by saying) it wasn’t an offer and that he will need to discuss it with his guys.”

Said another: “I don’t always get the sense that he knows what he wants to do. One day, he’s interested in one thing. The next day, he’s interested in another. That’s what makes it challenging.”

Zduriencik did acquire last week DH Kendrys Morales from Minnesota for injured reliever Stephen Pryor. Morales was Seattle’s leading hitter last year but spurned at least two offers as a free agent to rejoin the team. The Mariners are obligated for the balance of his Twins salary, $4.3 million, for the final 60 regular-season games.

A third executive said: “They (the Mariners) don’t set out on a trade saying, ‘Here’s what we need. Let’s do what we can to get him.’ They think, ‘Who can we give up that will never be any good?’ They don’t want to give up anyone who will haunt them. That’s just flat-out fear.”

Zduriencik responded with a lengthy E-mail to FOX Sports:

“There are many discussions that take place throughout the year, and I am open in my dialogue and intent. I have not had an offer on the table and pulled it back. I have been clear in my discussions and often express my intentions.

“I have done enough deals, signed enough players in my history, that this alone should speak to this subject. Inquiries, discussions, dialogue, and even the exchange of names does not mean a deal will get done, and all GMs realize this. Many times there are varying points as names go in and out from both parties. There are so many factors that go into any trade that most clubs realize how hard and sensitive this subject can be.

“If any trade or discussion does not get consummated, it is simply that we did not agree on the exchange. As a general manager, I have had my share of deals turned down, and I have turned down deals as well. It simply works both ways.

“As far as the fear factor of a player doing well elsewhere, that comment is ridiculous!  I would hope that every GM wishes his players the very best and success as they move on to other ballclubs.  It’s just part of the business of baseball.  It is my job to do what is best for the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners haven’t been to the playoffs in 12 years and are one of two teams never to have made the World Series. They have seen a 50 percent falloff in attendance, the biggest free-fall in pro sports, in the past decade.

Contributing to the plunge were a series of mediocre to poor trades, some by Zduriencik, that have produced eight losing seasons in the past 10, including four in a row. This year’s team reached a season-high nine games over .500 before going 3-7 after the All-Star break to fall behind in the wild-card playoff race, ratcheting up the deadline pressure.

Zduriencik is said to be in the final year of his contract, but the club has yet to confirm that.

The rival execs complained that the Mariners have been active in several conversations, including pursuits of Rays pitcher David Price, Rangers outfielder Alex Rios and Phillies outfield Marlon Byrd, but the lack of decisiveness is stalling the entire market.

Whatever is impeding the Mariners, it isn’t money. They own and control their regional sports network, Root, in a 2013 deal that the club bragged was in the same lucrative park as other deals that have enriched several franchises. New club president Kevin Mather has been quoted as saying that the Mariners have “payroll flexibility” and seemed to back the claim with the Morales acquisition.

The Fox story follows by seven months a scathing story in the Seattle Times that quoted former manager Eric Wedge and other former staff members on the record describing the front office as “total dysfunction and a lack of leadership,” according to Wedge.


  • RadioGuy

    I’ve been hard on Zduriencik at times, but I don’t blame him for not wanting to pull the trigger just yet. It’s a decades-old practice for GMs to toss in and pull back players’ names during trade talks…it’s a poker game in which every player at the table can see what everyone else has, meaning you REALLY have to know how to bluff and not let your eyes dilate. Plus, let’s face it: Howie keeps the FO on a short leash, which hampers a lot of things.
    Still, there are three days left to trade and a lot can happen in 72 hours.

    • Trygvesture

      The record doesn’t back Z. Jacks’s record doesn’t back Z. Lincoln’s record doesn’t back Lincoln. Jack’s proven to be a terrible and indecisive trader. His excuses for his poor execution of real deals, beneficial deals, ring as hollow as the rotten logs the Mariners bats are . The other execs NEVER trash one of their own for being incompetent or just a nincompoop… it must be born of a legit and uncomprehending awareness of this enigma in their midst, this small-ball player in the homerun derby. Surely this speaks to an extraordinary and small-potatoes lout in their club, the guy they can’t trade with with; the guy who won’t bet at the table of paid-to-be poker players. He does behave like he’s driven by fear– fear of trade sfailure, fear of transgressing the yessir line of Lincolnland. His results argue for the Rosenthal-sources’ assessment. Who on this planet ever thought Z was otherwise?
      Again– he’s great at striking those no-immediate-consequence minor league deals, but like most of his players have turned out, a no-go-showboat when it comes to playin with the Big Boys.
      Rosenthal is not exactly a lowlife — he’s not likely to get those guys to speak out unless thasy have something to speak out about, either. This is just another affirmation of the Lincolnland grip demanding the MLB rules to play by be as Lincoln demands rather than as they are, and local franchise is forever wearing short pants among ther Big Boys as a result.
      This isn’t a surprise by any stretch– it’s just another apt assessment and description of the clowns behind the curtain.

      • art thiel

        The panic and dread that governs the franchise is the cumulative weight of so many previous mistakes with talent. Just as the Cano signing. You can’t fix a mediocre team by guaranteeing that much money for so great a time. Even with parity throughout MLB, the Mariners have become success-resistant.

        • Trygvesture

          success-resistant? And the Pacific Ocean is kinda big and sorta deep. To steal from Roseanne Barr, “light from success resistant went by here about a year ago”. The M’s are a baseball failure, but Lincoln doesn’t measure success the way the top dog of a BASEBALL franchise might– he’s said as much and so have his Lincolnland lackeys. By his standard of measurement, he is a Grand Sand enobled Success– consistant operating profits, no cash calls and franchise equity-appreciation slinging he and the board towards the furthest reaches of the 1% universe– in a venture conducted in the our stadium, not his. A baseball stadium built for the public benefit, btw. (They ain’t the public).

          A Lincolnland biz model success, yes–It’s just that he’s a downer-cow failure in the baseball universe.

          And so we wait, knowing that like all despot-monarchies with a cow-towing court that sustains the emperor’s love of his new clothes, this reign, too, will end in time.

      • Effzee

        LOL. Lincolnland. I like it.

  • Matt712

    This smells like calculated negotiation through the press and JZ is a pretty ripe candidate to fall victim of such a tactic.

    • Rupe & Bochte

      Totally. One GM is stalling the trade market for 29 other teams? Complete BS, and probably a deal killer for whatever GM Jack suspects planted this story.

    • art thiel

      Going public with a denigration of a colleague is a very poor tactic. I think they were sincere.

  • jafabian

    To me Zdruriencik is GMing in a panicked state. He knows he’s under fire. He’s rolling the dice on roster moves and hoping he hits the right combo. When he says he needs to check with his people I think he’s referring to Howard and Kevin Mather. He can’t do a move without consulting them which is not how Beane, Cashman and other playoff tested GM’s operate. The fact that he has to respond via email to Fox proves that desperation. Pat Gillick would have ignored the story and when asked would have simply said it was off base.

    Reacquiring Morales is a desperate move. And his “show me the money” attitude IMO isn’t what you want in a young, impressionable clubhouse like what Jack has put together. Ditto on Price since he doesn’t want to be here. You can say winning could take care of that but it’s not like the M’s are known for their winning ways since Lou left.

    I’m hoping Kim Ng gets the Padres GM job, just so Mariners brass can see the candidate they passed over in favor of Zdruriencik succeed, proving that they themselves need to change how they do things.

    • Trygvesture

      perfectly put. His emailed, too long, pathetic response here, like the one to Geoff’s piece last year belies his wealthy-franchise GM status: he’s way out of his depth, a desperate man with a bad bluff.
      But, unlike Ng, he is Howard’s dream GM: doesn’t spend more than it takes to buy ticket-sellers, doesn’t talk back, doesn’t speak anything but the corporate scripted-line—ever– and never, ever, allows the organization to be blamed in any way for what the organization has done to itself. Mealy-mouthed disingenuous Z talk we’ve heard way too much to stomach any longer; now we know he inflicts it on his professional ‘peers’ as well.

      • jafabian

        When you look at how many managers and GM’s the M’s have had under Howard’s watch, as well as their record, that speaks volumes. How many Manager of the Year awards does Bob Melvin have? I’ve wondered what Howard thinks when he sees Melvin in the A’s dugout with a club on top of the AL West.

        • Trygvesture

          Howard? Think about others, even their success? Not likely. If at all, probably thinks it’s either Lou’s fault of maybe Hargrove’s, possibly Gillick’s: they all wouldn’t stomach his uberego and walked. Then again, on consideration, I’m guessin he blames Art, Geoff or Rudman, and also finds the A’s to be living in an alternate reality– proven by their lesser profits.

          • jafabian

            I’m just wondering what his thoughts are. Does he get mad at himself for firing him or does he blow it off? Has he learned anything from it? Would he be willing to swallow his pride and re-hire Melvin? When he was here I loved hearing his thoughts on game preparation. Until Lloyd I haven’t been too impressed with the M’s managers prep and decision making. Lloyd has learned in his time at Detroit.

  • jimc

    I wanted to read this column, but the font and line spacing are all wrong, dammit!

    • art thiel

      Looks good from here Jim. Try refreshing/rebooting.

  • Effzee

    This is so totally not surprising. Is it just me or does it seem like the M’s are always trying to defend against colleagues and ex-employees discussing the franchise’s general incompetence? This is what, at least the third story with tales of front office buffoonery since JZ took over?

    What part of this: “I don’t always get the sense that he knows what he wants to do. One day, he’s interested in one thing. The next day, he’s interested in another… He will need to discuss it with his guys. They don’t want to give up anyone who will haunt them. That’s just flat-out fear,” does NOT scream ‘Everything goes through Howard.’

    On the very dimly bright side, being afraid to give away another future All-Star is something, right?

    • art thiel

      Wedge, on the record, said the shop was dysfunctional. And he was an eyewitness. Bitter? Maybe. But he carried water for JZ a long while before quitting without a job in hand.

    • Trygvesture

      We all used to read about Steinbrenner being a whack-job– but the kind that demanded winning. And paid for it. Happily. A fun train wreck to watch.
      Our whack-jobs are just, well, typical corporate-style conformist whack jobs yessiring themselves into riches and ridicule at the same time. But the ridicule comes from merely the baseball community of owners, fans, execs, players and sports media people: the no-count and unenlightened as seen from the Lincolnland universe.

  • Carkeek

    So, Tampa Bay is holding back on trading David Price while they see whether they are back in the race, and Marlon Byrd wants his expensive option picked up in exchange for taking the Mariners off the no trade list, and Jack Z gets blamed for holding things up.

    Why does stuff that doesn’t make sense become a news story?

    • art thiel

      The exec quotes certainly could be seen as self-serving, trying to push JZ into a move. But going public to embarrass a colleague is s bad tactic in negotiations. My guess is the execs were sincere.

  • maoling

    It can’t be all sour grapes regarding the way Z does business. In the recent past, he has been skewered by former staff, scouts, a former manager, baseball executives…as well as reporters and fans. For his part, Z has continually deflected any criticism and the people who disagreed with him are no longer a part of the M’s organization. To me, the proof is in the pudding. If he has made a consequential trade since the deal that brought in Cliff Lee (which he later blew on Smoak, Beavan and Lueke), I don’t know what it is. He has been GM for nearly six years and the M’s remain near the bottom of the league in critical offensive statistics. Whatever modest improvement the M’s have shown this year is not enough to warrant his return, given the time he has had in the job and the dreadful offensive malaise that continues year in and year out.

  • zblows

    Sell the team, Nintendo, and maybe we’ll start giving a sh*t