Seattle Mariners: Jack Zduriencik’s Best and Worst Trades

Jack Zduriencik’s tenure in Seattle wasn’t the most successful. While he was able to sign Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and managed to hang on to Felix Hernandez¸ he never guided the Seattle Mariners to the playoffs.

A lot of this—well, most of it—has to do with personnel changes. Zduriencik made few trades where he was considered the outright winner. In that vein, he lost a number of trades. Here are some of his best (and mostly) worst trades.

We’ll start with the good news before delving into the bad.

Best—Acquiring Cliff Lee

Zduriencik did extremely well to bring in Lee to pair with Hernandez at the top of the rotation. In fact, he was very Dombrowski-esque with his fleecing of the Phillies. He unloaded three prospects (Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez) who failed to make much of an impact in Philadelphia and are no longer with the team. Aumont posted a 3.42 FIP in his first two seasons (40 appearances) with the Phils, but then posted an ugly 11.71 FIP in his next seven appearances. Those seven appearances spanned last season and this season. He’s with the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate. Gillies never hit well in the minors and was out of the organization before he could reach the majors. He’s currently with the Padres Double-A team. Ramirez has actually made a positive impact in Major League Baseball this season—with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He owns a 4.11 ERA in 12 relief appearances. See folks, something positive did come out of this.  

Lee was exceptional during his short stay in Seattle, earning All Star honors while going 8-3 with a 2.34 and an even more generous 2.16 FIP. He posted a 14.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio. No, that isn’t a typo. Lee was later traded, which will be touched on later.

Best—Trading Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales

Very rarely do division rivals make trades magnitude, but that’s what Zduriencik did with the Angels. He flipped Vargas, who was a serviceable, middle/ back-end of the rotation starter in Seattle, to Anaheim for Morales.

Vargas posted a respectable 4.09 ERA/4.36 FIP in 702.2 innings for the M’s, but only managed a 36-42 record over that span due to poor run support. He was never a prolific strikeout pitcher (5.7 Ks per nine innings as a Mariner), but he did post a cumulative 6.6 WAR during his time in Seattle. As dependable as he was, Zduriencik needed a bat, so he acquired Morales.

In his first season in Seattle, Morales drove in 80 runs, hit 23 home runs and hit .277. He also smacked 34 doubles over 156 games. Exactly what the M’s needed, however the team failed to make the playoffs, finishing 71-91.

Now for the bad trades…

Worst—Reacquiring Morales and Russell Branyan

The Mariners traded for Morales (from the Minnesota Twins) and Branyan (from the Cleveland Indians) less than a season after letting each walk in free agency. At the end of the day, the team lost Stephen Pryor, Ezequiel Carrera and Juan Diaz in the deals. While none of the three have gone on to become world-beaters, it still begs the question, why didn’t you just re-sign Morales and Branyan in the first place?

To make matters worse, Morales only hit .207 in his second go-around with Seattle while Branyan managed a paltry .215 batting average.

Worst– Dealing Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans

Morse hit .300 in 107 games for Seattle from 2005 to 2008, but was never given much of a consistent opportunity. Seattle flipped him for Langerhans, a man who hit exactly .200 in 117 games for the M’s from 2009 to 2011.

From 2009 to 2011, Morse hit .295 with 49 home runs and a .889 OPS for the Washington Nationals, posting a 5.1 WAR. Langerhans’ WAR over that span? 0.8.

There goes four-plus wins.

Worst—Trading Cliff Lee to Texas

While Zduriencik pulled off a heist in acquiring Lee, he fumbled mightily when trading the ace.

For a half season of Lee, the M’s brought in Matt Lawson, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Justin Smoak.

Behold, the disappointment.

Lawson never made it past Double-A with the Mariners and was dealt to Cleveland. He last played for the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate in 2013.

The second prospect acquired in the trade, Beavan, was passable as a back-of-the-rotation arm in 2012, posting an 11-11 record with a 4.43 ERA. In 152.1 innings. However, in 2013 he put up a 6.13 earned run average in 12 appearances and was transitioned to the bullpen. Beavan made a spot start in 2014, but never pitched for the Mariners again.

Lueke posted a 6.06 ERA in 25 innings while wearing an M’s jersey, before being flipped to the Tampa Bay Rays for John Jaso. Jaso was fantastic in his only season in the Emerald City, hitting .276, driving in 50 runs and posting a 3.4 WAR. However, he too was dealt—this time for Morse, who had regressed from the home-run crushing Goliath form he displayed in Washington D.C. to more of a bench bat.

Justin Smoak’s time in Seattle can probably be summed up in one stat.

The current Blue Jay has accumulated a 0.9 WAR in five years with the Mariners. This season, his WAR with Toronto is 0.7. Smoak never quite developed into the middle-of-the-order masher the M’s envisioned.

Worst—Giving Away Doug Fister

This trade may be the worst of all.

Zduriencik dealt away Fister (and David Pauley) for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin.

Furbush has been about the only dependable (if at all consistent) player the M’s acquired. He owns a 3.53 FIP as a Mariner and has been worth a 1.2 WAR since touching down in Seattle. After that it gets sketchy.

Martinez struggled in the M’s minor league system before actually returning to the Detroit organization where he currently plays in the low minors. Wells has also returned to Detroit since the trade, but the outfielder has now become a bit of a journeyman. He played for three different teams in 2013 and hasn’t seen action in the majors since.

Ruffin threw 23.2 innings for the Mariners before abruptly retiring. He struck out 30, but also allowed 16 runs.

To make matters worse, Fister excelled in Detroit. He piled up 32 wins in three seasons in Motown while posting a sparkling 3.20 FIP while becoming a dependable/effective postseason pitcher. His WAR in three seasons in Detroit was 9.9.

Just to compare, the players traded for Fister collectively own a career 4.3 WAR.

The trade was so lopsided that the good people at Homer’s Apparel made a t-shirt about the deal.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

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