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Zduriencik Still The Right Man

Since the Mariners are off today, I want to try to push something out to think about. I could count the podcast (and you should listen if you are interested in getting another take on this team's struggles), but we might as well make today a double feature.

It has become apparent that the 2010 Mariners aren't as good as the 2009 Mariners. Considering how much worse they are, and all the new faces, it is easy to presume that some moves made by Jack Zduriencik have backfired badly. In fact, it is logical to presume that.

So, what if Jack Z hadn't made any moves this offseason? Would this team be in better shape? Time for some bullet points...

  • Kenji Johjima would still be catching - Is there much doubt that Kenji would be the best catcher on this team right now, or at least giving Josh Bard a run for his money? Hard to argue against that, offensively and defensively. However, is it fair to pin Kenji's sudden retirement on Zduriencik? I don't think so, and it did free up some money. It might be fair to criticize Z for not replacing him, but I still think Josh Bard was the right type of guy to target. The real problem to me is trotting out Rob Johnson so often because A) he isn't that good and B) it did Adam Moore's development no favors before he got hurt (though admittedly he looked totally lost at the plate). I think Don Wakamatsu shares some of that blame though.
  • Russell Branyan would still be at first base - The team seemed concerned about Branyan's back, and their concerns were warranted. Guess what? He wouldn't have made much of a difference because he missed the first month of the year. Since coming off the DL, he has a .219/.301/.438 line, which is definitely better than what we've seen, but noticeably below his production from last year too.
  • Bill Hall would still be on the bench, or maybe playing regularly somewhere - Who would you rather have, Bill Hall or Casey Kotchman? So far, Hall has accumulated a .188/.282/.333 line in Boston, though with only 79 plate appearances. However, his combined line last year was .201/.258/.338 with the Brewers and M's, and in 2008 he batted .225/.299/.396. I don't think his production will get much better with more time. Granted, Hall brings some defensive versatility, and a little more thunder in his stick, but it's hard to argue this offense or defense is in better shape with him over Kotchman.
  • Adrian Beltre is still at third base - This is another obvious spot where things would be better if they had stayed the same. Beltre is having his best season so far since his massive NL campaign that netted the big contract from the M's. However, is it really Z's fault that Beltre moved on? He offered Beltre arbitration, and I wrote about how Beltre would have earned more by accepting it. There is nothing more Zduriencik could have done to keep him around, so I have a hard time pinning this one on him. It's hardly like Beltre was just shown the door.
  • Carlos Silva is in the rotation - ...and we don't have Milton Bradley. Even with as surprisingly good that Silva has been so far, is this team better with him? With the hot starts by Doug Fister and Jason Vargas, I don't think so. Furthermore, is this offense worse with Milton Bradley? Again, I don't think so. Bradley is one of the better hitters in the lineup, even with his slow start. As much as the national media has some fun with this deal at the M's expense, I wouldn't ask for a mulligan.
  • Miguel Batista is still around - ...and I'm guessing that means Kanekoa Texeira or Jesus Colome is out. Texeira has been inconsistent, but that beats consistently horrible. Batista versus Colome...yeah, I'll admit, that's a tougher call.
  • Brandon Morrow is still around - ...and Brandon League is not. Certainly, League has been inconsistent, but is he really more inconsistent than Morrow? So far, in 9 starts with the Jays, Brandon has averaged exactly 5 innings a start, and sports a 6.80 ERA. He strikes out almost 12 batters per 9 innings, but almost walks 6 at the same rate. There are some numbers (particularly a high BABIP) that suggest he will get a little better, but you would hope so with those horrendous numbers. Would the current M's be better if they didn't make the deal? I'm going to say no. Besides, even with some anticipated regression, Morrow is still the maddeningly inconsistent Morrow we loved and hated the past couple seasons.
  • No Cliff Lee - Zdurienciek didn't give anyone up on the 25-man roster for Lee, so he was simply added to the roster (for the sake of what this post is exploring). This team is better with him, and I don't think I have to build much of a case for that.
  • No Chone Figgins - This is the fairest move to criticize. Figgins has clearly been a bust to this point, and the contract may lock the M's in to several more years of this. Especially with other, cheaper alternatives like Kelly Johnson and Orlando Hudson doing better, this does not look like the move that was best for the ballclub.
Where did Jack Zduriencik fail? For the most part, the moves he made still look neutral or like improvements, even with this team falling well short of expectations. The DH slot is the easiest to pick on, and I missed it with the way I looked at things in this post, but would a guy like Edgar Martinez in his prime solve all the offensive woes?

For all that Jack touched that turned to gold last year, the same kind of breaks haven't been there this year. I don't see any catastrophic moves made by Z as of yet though. Maybe one bad one (the Figgins signing), but when put in the context of all the great ones he made last year, and the promising talent quickly accumulating the farm system, I still see a process heading in the right direction.