Evidently pleased with the state of their organization, Mariners team president Kevin Mather announced Tuesday the team extended general manager Jack Zduriencik to a multi-year contract.
Terms of the deal were not made public per club policy, it is clear, though, that Zduriencik will remain with the club through at least the 2016 season. General manager of the Mariners since October 2008, the 63-year-old Zduriencik was in the final year of his contract.
It has been a tumultuous six seasons for the Mariners during Zduriencik’s tenure. After a winning season in 2009, the team has floundered with four consecutive losing campaigns through a tedious rebuilding process. However, Seattle currently holds a 72-59 record and the American League’s second wild card spot with a month to play, largely because of the home-grown players procured through the rebuilding process Mather noted.
“When I took this job, I said, ‘Boy, what a great time for me to step in,'” Mather said. “Because we’ve got talent coming . . . We’ve got young kids that are starting to play, it’s taken them awhile, but they’re starting to play and it’s fun to watch.”
Staying the course and adhering to Zduriencik’s plan has taken a large degree of trust, as well as a huge dose of patience from the M’s ownership amidst heavy scrutiny, something not lost on Zduriencik.
“There’s no question,” Zduriencik replied. “For ownership to be patient, because it’s been a tough couple of years, let’s not kid ourselves . . . I appreciate that.”
The timing of the move comes as a bit of a surprise for a team in its first pennant chase in over a decade with five weeks of the season left on the calendar. Regardless, Mather said it was simply the right time to do it.
“It was as simple as I had lunch scheduled with him and we were talking about 2015,” Mather said.
Getting a deal done now, though. does give Zduriencik the kind of peace of mind a GM needs to do their job most effectively. In a lame duck season, it can be hard for a GM to walk the fine line that balances winning in the present with future success. Often it leaves organizations in dire straights after a desperate GM makes risky moves to save their job with one late winning season. Zduriencik showed all year through offseason dealings up through the recent trade deadline that was not an issue for him.
“My job . . . was always to do the job day in and day out,” noted Zduriencik. “When you sign a contract, the contract says you work from the day you signed it to the day it ends. You don’t take a day off, you don’t expect anything. You’re expected to do the job that you’re paid to do.”
To be frank, Zduriencik has done it quite admirably. He’s had his failures the same as any other general manager who has sat the desk of one of the 30 major league baseball organizations. It’s impossible not to considering the sheer number of transactions that an organization makes on a yearly basis across all levels. Some signings (Chone Figgins in ’09), and a few trades (Doug Fister to Detroit, Cliff Lee to Texas) did not produce the results the organization and its fan base hoped for. But others, like the signing of Hisashi Iwakuma on the cheap, acquiring Chris Young and Tom Wilhelmsen off the scrap heap, and acquiring Danny Farquhar for Ichiro Suzuki, less notable acquisitions at the time, have paid off in spades. Of course, so have the large contracts to Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez and Fernando Rodney.
And at the end of the day, it has been that eye for talent that has moved the rebuilding plan along and positioned Seattle, as well as Zduriencik, in the place they currently reside. Mather pointed to those adept talent evaluation skills, a large component to the rise of a farm system Zduriencik inherited ranked as low as 29th by Baseball America in 2008 to as high as second according to Jim Callis at MLB.com in 2013. Mather doesn’t see any reason to halt that growth now.
“I hope Jack’s my general manager 10 years from now, because we’re going to get on a roll here and have a pretty good baseball team,” Mather said.
As Mather questioned Zduriencik over an informal lunch Tuesday afternoon, he wanted to know how Zduriencik felt in his position. Had the organization given him every ounce of support he needed? Was he content in this city, working for this franchise?
For Zduriencik, the response was easy. Yes.
“I’m happy, my family’s happy and I’m looking forward to seeing this thing through,” said Zduriencik.