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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3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 8-2 Loss vs the Cleveland Indians

  • Zero

The number of at-bats by Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Miggy received a rare day off.

  • Three

The number of strikeouts by Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. With Cabrera getting the day off, everyone moved up a spot in terms of the usual middle of the order. This meant Cespedes hitting cleanup behind Victor Martinez. The outfielder had a single hit in four at-bats, striking out three times.

  • Five

The number of strikeouts by starting pitcher Buck Farmer. Farmer, making a spot start, allowed eight hits and two walks to go along with the five runs (all of which were earned). On the bright side, the youngster did strike out seven Cleveland batters.

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3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 7-3 Win vs the Cleveland Indians

  • Zero

The number of walks by Tigers starter David Price. The Detroit ace fanned seven batters, allowed one run and nine hits while handing out a grand total of zero free passes. He moved to 7-2 on the season with the win.

  • Five

The number of RBI by the middle of the Detroit order not named Miguel Cabrera. Victor Martinez, Yoenis Cespedes and Nick Castellanos combined to go five-for-twelve at the plate with five RBI and two runs scored.

  • 157

The total number of pitches thrown by the Tigers.  Included in the total number of pitches was 1.1 combined innings of relief from Al Alburquerque and Tom Gorzelanny. The duo didn’t allow a base runner and struck out one batter between them. Alex Wilson allowed three hits and two runs (both unearned) in one inning of relief.

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3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 8-1 Win vs the Cleveland Indians

  • Five

The number of strikeouts by Detroit’s hitters. Better things happen when teams strike out less. Case-in-point, Detroit struck out a dozen times in their last game versus Cleveland and lost, but this game they won by seven runs with (ironically) seven fewer strikeouts.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Tigers starter Alfredo Simon in five innings pitched. The former Cincinnati Red allowed a mere three hits and a walk on five strike outs. He only needed 75 pitches.

  • One

The number of runs allowed by the Detroit bullpen. In surprising news, Joakim Soria was the only reliever to allow a run, otherwise the bullpen was solid. Blaine Hardy bounced back with two shutout innings while Alex Wilson and Tom Gorzelanny also kept the Tribe scoreless.

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3 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 4-0 Win vs the Cleveland Indians

  • 44

David Price’s ERA after the game. The Detroit ace threw a complete-game shutout, limiting the Indians to seven hits while striking out eight. He threw an economical 93 total pitches.

  • Five

The number of hits by the top third of the Tigers batting order. Miguel Cabrera and Rajai Davis had two hits apiece while Ian Kinsler also had a base knock. The trio combined for the majority of the team’s total hits (nine) while driving in all four runs.

  • One

The number of Tigers starters after the game with a batting average below .272. Nick Castellanos’ average following the game was .227.

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5 Stats from the Seattle Mariners 6-3 Loss to the Cleveland Indians

  • Five

The number of hits by the Mariners in 12 innings. The M’s were lucky the game lasted as long as it did as Cleveland accumulated 18 hits and 25 baserunners total. Seattle had only five hits in 40 plate appearances.

  • Seven

The number of relievers used by Seattle after five solid innings from J.A. Happ. Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush, Carson Smith, Joe Beimel, Fernando Rodney, Mark Lowe and Dominic Leone all recorded outs in relief.

  • Three

The number of Mariners to reach base more than once. Nelson Cruz and his eyebrows had a hit and a walk, as did Logan Morrison. Kyle Seager drew two walks to round out the trio.

  • 17

The number of pitches seen by leftfielder Justin Ruggiano. He struck out three times in three at-bats.

  • 11

The number of strikeouts by the M’s as a team. Of the 13 Mariners batters to register an at-bat, Wellington Castillo, Richie Weeks, Willie Bloomquist and Dustin Ackley were the only Seattle hitters not to strikeout. Weeks and Bloomquist went a combined 0-for-2 and saw a total of four pitches.

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 8-1 Loss to the Kansas City Royals

  • Six

The number of runs allowed by Tigers starter Alfredo Simon. The righty also struck out six while allowing nine hits. It was his first loss of the season.

  • Two

The number of hits by Victor Martinez. V-Mart was the only Tiger with multiple hits. It was only his fourth multi-hit game of the season.

  • 10

The number of strikeouts by Detroit hitters. J.D. Martinez led the way with three while Yoenis Cespedes and Nick Castellanos each had two. James McCann, Rajai Davis and Miguel Cabrera each had one.

  • Zero

The number of runs allowed by Al Alburquerque and Angel Nesbitt in relief. Both threw scoreless innings. It was a particularly encouraging sign for Albuquerque due to some early struggles. He allowed seven runs over three innings in two blowout losses to Cleveland and New York. This was his second scoreless outing so it seems that the reliever is turning things around.

  • One

The number of runs scored by the Tigers. The lone run came on a Rajai Davis single which scored Jose Iglesias, who had tripled.

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 8-6 Win over the Cleveland Indians

  • Three

The number of runs driven in by Miguel Cabrera, who has continued his torrid start. Miggy went 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored to raise his average to .377. Cabrera also went deep. Additionally, Rajai Davis scored three runs on three hits.

  • Two

The number of hits driven in by Ian Kinsler. The second baseman had two hits in four plate appearances. He had an RBI, scored two runs, stole a base and drew a walk.

  • Seven

The number of innings thrown by Kyle Lobstein in a winning effort. Justin Verlander’s rotation replacement allowed six hits and three runs (all earned) in his seven innings. He only walked two and struck out four. His ERA on the season is 3.50.

  • 86

The number of pitches required by Lobstein to pitch seven innings. It was an incredibly efficient day for Lobstein, who picked up his second win of the season.

  • One

The number of runs, hits and walks allowed by Joakim Soria. This broke a stretch of six straight games in which Soria had thrown perfect innings—a stretch that lasted two weeks.

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 13-1 Loss to the Cleveland Indians

  • 13

The number of runs allowed by the Tigers. It matched a season high. It was also the second time in three games that the Tigers allowed 13 runs.

  • Four

The number of times Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler reached base. Kinsler went 2-for-2 with two doubles. Jose Iglesias was the only other Tiger to reach base more than once.

  • One

The number of RBIs from the Tigers. Nick Castellanos drove in the lone run. He’s hitting .259 on the year.

  • 11

The number of combined strikeouts by Anthony Gose (4), Alex Avila (3) and Miguel Cabrera and Castellanos (2 each). No other Tiger struck out more than once.

  • Eight

The number of runs allowed by Tigers starter Shane Greene. The former Yankee had only allowed two runs (one earned) all year.

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5 Stats from the Detroit Tigers 1-0 Win over the Pittsburgh Pirates

  • 10

The number of strikeouts by Tigers hitters. A 10/2 strikeout-to-walk ratio is never a good thing, but Detroit was able to pull out another win regardless.

  • Two

The number of hits surrendered by the Tigers pitchers. Detroit pitchers didn’t allow a walk either. Nick Castellanos also had two hits in three plate appearances, helping him break out of a mini slump that saw him put up a 3-for-17 line over his last four contests.

  • Four

This game marked the fourth save for closer Joakim Soria, who pitched a perfect ninth. This was Soria’s third straight perfect inning. The closer has faced 17 batters and only allowed two baserunners, both came in a 9-6 win over Cleveland. He’s only allowed one run on the season as well—that run also came in the 9-6 win over Cleveland.

  • 03

Starting pitcher Alfredo Simon’s ERA after the game. After allowing three runs on seven hits in 5.1 innings against the Indians in his first start, Simon rebounded with a spectacular effort. The former Cincinnati Red held the Pirates scoreless through eight innings while only surrendering two hits. He struck out two.

  • One

The number of runs needed to win the game. This came on a solo home run by Rajai Davis in the sixth inning. It was Davis’ first home run of the year and only his second RBI.

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