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.