By Shannon Drayer
General manager Jack Zduriencik will get one more year to show that his plan can put the Mariners back on the winning path. Team officials confirmed Tuesday that Zduriencik will be back in 2014.
Zduriencik was considered by many in the national media to be on the proverbial hot seat. Four losing seasons in five years and a step backwards in 2013 in terms of wins and losses will do that. Add this to the fact that a true star has yet to emerge from the farm system and it is understandable why there are questions being asked.
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik (left) will be back in 2014, but manager Eric Wedge's status is still up in the air. (AP)
Twenty-six of the 32 players currently on the roster were acquired by Zduriencik either by draft, trade or free agency. These are his guys. A good number will not be back next year but the young core is almost completely his. That group is one loss away from losing 90 games this year. Yes, there are young players developing at the major-league level but there are question marks about those who have now had two or more years to get that experience. How much patience is enough patience?
Perhaps one more year. The one thing we haven't seen is what this team looks like with the Big Three. That three is most likely two now with the news about Danny Hultzen's shoulder troubles, but still, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton are a significant piece of what Zduriencik has been trying to construct. It may be the most important piece.
Gary Hill brought some interesting numbers to the roundtable segment of Tuesday's pregame show. Four of the teams that made the biggest jumps in wins and losses and put themselves either in playoff contention or in the postseason this year saw dramatic drops in their starting pitchers' collective ERAs. The Red Sox, Royals and Indians all saw drops of over a full point. With a solid No. 3 and two of the Big Three, the Mariners have a chance to see their starting staff do something similar.
There have been complaints that this group has failed to produce a young star. Are we sure about that? Maybe we just saw him. Maybe he was shut down two weeks ago. We could know as early as April or May of next year and Zduriencik will be around to find out with the rest of us.
The next question is whether or not manager Eric Wedge will be here as well, and as I mentioned in my earlier post there has been no indication that his contract has been extended. This presents a huge problem for the organization. With Zduriencik on a one-year "show-me" deal, should Wedge not be back, how will Zduriencik be able to entice a new manager to come to Seattle knowing full well that if his general manager is out the following year, he could be, too?
One-year deals for managers or front-office personnel are tricky situations at best and the Mariners have elected to go with that heading into what could be one of the most pivotal offseasons in club history. There is a fan base that has been absent and needs to be won back over. There is the possibility of big dollars being available to spend in the offseason with the majority of the roster under club control and the rest aside from Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma on one-year deals.
The next step must be taken and it must be dramatic.