Homage to the Mariners Offseason
The Seattle Mariners hold a special place in my heart, even as a Giants fan. They may not have the history we have, but they sure do have the heartbreak. Living in Seattle and talking with their fans, it’s easy to see similarities in the pain we mutually suffer through on a daily basis. Before 2008, it could be argued that their GM Bill Bavasi was one of the worst of the last two decades, namely when he shipped out Adam Jones, George Sherrill, and Chris Tillman to the Orioles for Erik Bedard. And then something interesting happened.
The powers that be had enough of Bavasi’s front office shenanigans and cut him loose after the 2008 season. As a replacement, they brought in a guy with a long track record of successful talent evaluation, Jack Zduriencik (pronounced Zer-ren-sik in case you were wondering). Quickly he got to work completely reshaping the organization from the top down. He unloaded popular but oft-injured closer J.J. Putz in a deal that landed them Franklin Gutierrez (who incidentally was locked up to a long term deal after this last season). Then he went to the reliever scrap-heap and traded a spare part for David Aardsma, who became one of the top closers in the AL.
After a tumultuous 2009 season that saw definite improvements, Jack Z got to work again this last offseason. First he signed Chone Figgins, which is largely accepted as a steal for the Mariners. Then he managed to trade three B-grade prospects for uber-ace Cliff Lee, and then locked up Felix Hernandez for lots of years and lots of money. After this, it was hard to imagine how he would top himself. Then he topped himself, unloading the hellish contract of Carlos Silva on the unsuspecting Cubs for the much more useful Milton Bradley. Admittedly, trading Brandon Morrow for Brandon League was a curious move, but at this point it’s hard to doubt Zduriencik’s ability to scout out talent.
After these major moves, a series of minor but equally as important ones followed. The M’s picked up Eric Byrnes for the league minimum. Then they signed Ryan Garko for a shade over the minimum after the Giants inexplicably cut him loose on the basis of 130 isolated at-bats.
If your head’s not spinning right now trying to keep track of all this, it should be. The M’s front office spent a whole offseason dictating the terms of the market. Brian Sabean spent it reacting to smarter GM’s like Jack Zduriencik. That said, the aftermath of the 2009-10 offseason has seen a stark contrast in competent front office management between the Giants and Mariners. The Mariners are ready to compete now, but still managed to keep their farm system’s prized gems intact. The Giants are blocking younger, better players with veterans who will break down midway through the season but still receive playing time.
So to you pained Mariner fans, I say congratulations; you have a smart GM calling the shots who likely has vaulted your club into AL West contention in a few short months. To Giants fans, I say stay strong; Brian Sabean can’t be around forever. Can he?