The culling of General Managers continues. Today, the Mariners announced that Jack Zduriencik is joining the ranks of Doug Melvin, Dave Dombrowski, and Ben Cherington as executives who lost their jobs because of their team’s 2015 struggles. Coming off an 87 win season and significant off-season expenditures the last few years, the Mariners expected to win this year, and another disappointing season proved too much for Zduriencik to outlast. With five losing seasons in seven years and no playoff berths in either of his two winning years, plus a farm system that looks like one of the worst in the game and a history of mishandling the young talent they did get to the big leagues, the Mariners have decided it’s time for a change in direction.
Zduriencik took over after the 2008 season, bringing now-FanGraphs author Tony Blengino with him from Milwaukee to form a front office that looked like it would attempt to blend scouting and statistical analysis. The first year was a wild success, taking the team from 61 to 85 wins, but it was almost all entirely downhill from there. After the 2010 team flopped, the front office fractured, and the organization pivoted away from valuing defense and began a multi-year obsession with trying to stack the line-up with power hitters. Not surprisingly, that plan never worked particularly well.
The Mariners finally got back to the winning side of things last year, after spending $240 million to lure Robinson Cano away from the Yankees, but down years from Cano, Kyle Seager, and Felix Hernandez this year exposed a group of role players that still weren’t up to contention-level, and the team’s inability to put reasonable backup plans in place for the predictable struggles of guys like Logan Morrison forced the team to deal with replacement level production at a large number of positions.
So now the Mariners will search for a new leader, but like in Boston, it seems more likely that they’ll be looking for someone to turn the ship around quickly rather than lead another rebuild. With Hernandez, Cano, and Nelson Cruz all declining assets, there is likely to still be pressure to try and win with this core before those contracts go south and a rebuild is necessary. Bob Nightengale reported that the team may have interest in White Sox president Kenny Williams, while Ken Rosenthal notes on Twitter that they’ve reached out to former Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd. While the team would likely do better to hire a younger, more forward-thinking GM rather than go with another old-school scout, it seems more likely that the team will hire an experienced executive who will promise to turn this ship around fast.
It’s an organization in an awkward position, not setup well to either win next year or long-term, so the new guy will have their work cut out for them. But the fact that the team is struggling and the farm system is in shambles is why the job is open in the first place.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.