M’s Extend Jack Z
Since this broke yesterday, we’re a little late to the party, but the Mariners announced that they’ve extended the contract of Jack Zduriencik for “multiple years” to keep him and his staff in place and continue the work that has been building since he was hired three years ago.
Plenty of other of people have weighed in on Jack’s extension and have talked about the focus on the farm system, development of talent through the draft, and how the M’s have begun to really build from within for the first time in 15-20 years. That’s all true, and is certainly one of the main reasons why the M’s decided to keep Jack around even though there hasn’t been a lot of winning going on since he took over. Everyone can see the ground work being laid for a bright future, and it was the right call to keep the current front office in place to continue the work they’ve been doing.
However, at some point, the front office is going to have to pivot, and my guess is that point is going to come within the next 12 months. While Jack got a “multi-year extension”, he didn’t get a lifetime extension, and I’m pretty sure that the ownership will eventually demand that all the ground work produce wins on the field at the Major League level. It’s one thing to see the fruit of guys like Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager, but it’s another thing to have a competitive roster full of guys who can go toe to toe with the Texas Rangers.
The Mariners have a few guys who can do that. They have more coming. But there’s also still quite a bit of dreck on this roster. The team’s primary setup guy right now is Jamey Wright. The entire bullpen is really a bit of a disaster, if we’re being honest. After trading away Doug Fister and Erik Bedard, the rotation is no longer a strength – you could argue that the M’s really only have a couple of Major League starters right now. And, you know, the offense still isn’t great. Miguel Olivo hits fifth on most nights. Casper Wells isn’t yet showing that he’s an everyday left fielder in the big leagues. Franklin Gutierrez’s power is still completely MIA.
For all the good work that has been done on the farm, the big league team is still not very good. And yet, in the not too distant future, it needs to be good, and the M’s can’t count on all of the necessary talent coming from guys already in the organization. Danny Hultzen and James Paxton might help a lot, or they might be Gil Meche and Joel Pineiro. The M’s can’t depend entirely on the wave of talent coming to fill the holes.
For the last few years, the focus has been on the farm system. Sure, the M’s “pivoted” somewhat when they made the Cliff Lee trade and the Chone Figgins signing, but even while they were making those moves, the focus was more on giving the team a chance to be good rather than making themselves the favorites in the division. It didn’t work, so they pivoted back towards building for the future.
I don’t know that the point has to come this winter, but the time is going to come when the team has to go back to focusing more on adding to the big league roster than the farm system. They’re going to have to get more guys like Franklin Gutierrez, Russell Branyan, and David Aardmsa – useful, present Major Leaguers who just need a better chance to show what they can do – rather than just sit around waiting for the minor league kids to be ready for the show.
The farm system is now in good shape – certainly better shape than the big league roster. The groundwork has been laid for a strong future, and that work needs to continue. But, pretty soon, the M’s need to put together a roster that can win 90 games in a season. Even with his contract extension, the ownership isn’t going to give Jack a free pass on 90 loss seasons forever.
I’m glad Jack is sticking around, and I do believe in what they’ve been doing to lay a foundation for the future. Pretty soon, though, I believe that the front office’s priorities will have to shift to a degree, and the organization will have to focus on building out the Major League roster to compete with what the rest of the division has to offer. How Jack does at that kind of GM’ing will determine whether or not he’ll get another contract extension in a few years.