The Inconsistency

Jeff Sullivan · June 12, 2013 at 10:17 am · Filed Under Mariners 

So you already know the Mariners promoted Mike Zunino from Tacoma. On the off chance you didn’t, I suppose this is a pretty casual way of breaking the news. Zunino arrived yesterday afternoon and it shouldn’t be long now before he makes his big-league debut. It’s exciting, because Zunino is a top prospect, and therefore this is another chance to see a top prospect blossom and drive home the point that the Mariners might actually be going somewhere. It’s easy to assume they’re lost and going in circles, given what’s happened with Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero, and Dustin Ackley. Zunino could indicate direction.

Dave’s written about the move twice. It’s curious because of the timing. Zunino, at one point, was lighting the PCL on fire, but that was a while ago, and a lot of secondary pitches ago. Offensively, he’s been in an extended slump, and now he’s been given a promotion to a more challenging level. Now, in the past, the Mariners have talked about how they wanted to see a prospect dominate his level before promoting him. That’s an organizational statement, and Zunino most certainly hasn’t dominated Triple-A. But, that was Chris Gwynn talking, and Chris Gwynn doesn’t make the decisions. He only participates in the chat, and sometimes people might get overruled.

There was a quote from Jack Zduriencik. I spent an hour looking for it before giving up. I took that long because I wanted to copy and paste his exact words, and now I’m frustrated, but I don’t know what else to do. Somewhere over the past few weeks, Zduriencik said he wouldn’t deviate from the long-term organizational plan in response to short-term big-league roster needs. That is, he wouldn’t rush a prospect before his time just because the big club had a hole. This is the best I can do, and it’s from Eric Wedge, and it’s only a half-decent approximation:

“He’s where he needs to be right now,” Wedge said of Franklin. “He’s a young player. Needs to keep playing every day. It’s not just about hitting; it’s about every aspect of the game. We want him to be the most complete player he can be when he does get his opportunity.”

Zunino’s promotion is a response to a major-league need, for a catcher who isn’t whoever Brandon Bantz is. The Mariners have admitted that, and Zduriencik has admitted that Zunino’s timeline was sped up. This seems to be in direct opposition to what Zduriencik said earlier, and I wish so badly I could track that quote down. I guess you’ll just have to take it on faith. I swear it was there, unless I was dreaming a really ordinary dream.

In the past, the Mariners have suggested it was potentially dangerous to promote a prospect too soon. They claimed to have a policy against that, but they’ve hurried up some guys and Zunino is the latest. Of course every prospect should be treated on a case-by-case basis, but it’s not like the Mariners are claiming that Zunino is ready — they’ve acknowledged that he’s a work in progress. So there’s an inconsistency here, where either the Mariners think this is dangerous or they don’t. Jack Zduriencik:

“But when you look at we had an injury right now, there’s no harm in bringing him up. Let’s see where we’re at.”

“No harm.” If there’s no harm in rushing Zunino, what’s the harm in rushing anybody? What’s an acceptable degree of rushing? What would be too aggressive a rush? Brandon Maurer was promoted straight from Double-A. Zunino came from Triple-A, but he was struggling. Would the Mariners promote a position player from Double-A? Would they promote a guy from Single-A? What is the function of the minor leagues, and what is the function of the bigs?

I don’t really have a position here, because like with so many things, I don’t know enough. The fact of the matter is that we don’t know how much it matters when a prospect comes up too early. We don’t know what this could mean for Zunino’s future, or for anyone’s future, and as easy as it would be to suggest that struggles could be a career setback, one could alternatively claim that Zunino won’t learn to hit big leaguers against minor leaguers. To learn to beat the best you have to face the best, right? Where are the best, if not in the major leagues? Zunino’s career hasn’t been destroyed, presumably, by an aggressive promotion. We don’t even know if he’ll still be around once Jesus Sucre is healthy. Struggles could mean a demotion right back to Tacoma, and while one can’t ignore the fact that now Zunino is occupying a 40-man roster spot, that was going to happen soon regardless, and the roster casualty won’t be a great player.

So, in the big picture, this is a move I wouldn’t have made that I also don’t think is a horrible mistake. Zunino is one of the two best catchers in the organization right now, and they’ve decided he’s mature enough to handle the stress and the challenge. Defensively, he’s fine, and he’ll learn, and maybe he’ll run into a pitch or two. What’s most interesting to me is the thinking. According to the Mariners, Bantz came up under the assumption that Sucre was a day-to-day thing, but once Sucre went on the DL, the team had to think longer-term. I don’t understand why Bantz couldn’t have just screwed around for a couple weeks, since, whatever. Bantz isn’t a big-league ballplayer, but the Mariners are hardly a big-league ballclub. But suppose Wedge wanted better than that. Why not go get one of the discarded veteran backstops? Why not grab Chris Snyder or John Baker, or why not call up Jason Jaramillo since he’s somewhat experienced and a complete non-prospect? You might say it’s not that easy to swing a transaction. I’d counter that it can be, especially when you’re talking about nothing catchers that other teams don’t want. The Mariners made a conscious decision not to go that route. They chose, in this case, to speed up a prospect’s timeline, even though in the past they’ve said they didn’t want to do that.

That’s what makes this most interesting to me. That’s a part of why Dave sees this as an attempt to save jobs. If the Mariners got by with John Baker, no one would care. If Zunino impresses, well, Zunino was a Zduriencik get, and that would reflect well on the state of the system. Of course, if Zunino struggles, that won’t accomplish anything, but the Mariners could say it was a temporary response to a need, and then they’d have a better idea of what Zunino needs to work on. The downside here isn’t enormous, assuming Zunino isn’t prone to crippling self-doubt.

I don’t understand the inconsistency, is all. I don’t think Zunino is ready, and I don’t think he’ll be badly hurt by a bit of a slump against advanced competition. He’s a leadership sort, he’ll survive. What do the Mariners actually believe? Under what circumstances are they willing to compromise their beliefs? What we know is that Zunino is only up because of a desperate situation. What we don’t know is the extent of that desperation.


46 Responses to “The Inconsistency”

  1. terry on June 12th, 2013 10:44 am

    The extent of the deperation is extensive.

    One can smell the desperation like stink on a skunk.

    It’s trying times in Safeco, toubling winds are troubling the waters of the Puget Sound.

    Oh, ya. And Eric Wedge stinks.

  2. _David_ on June 12th, 2013 10:45 am

    There was a radio interview with Dave “Softy” Mahler where Z might have said the quote. It might have been in late April -it followed an extra potent strain of losing.

  3. _David_ on June 12th, 2013 10:55 am

    This could be it: -Around the 6 minute mark, also perhaps at 8:45.

  4. maqman on June 12th, 2013 11:00 am

    This is not going to alter the orbit of the planet, it’s just a AAA baseball player called up to meet an unexpected need on his parent club. It probably won’t be fatal.

  5. _David_ on June 12th, 2013 11:05 am

    This seems like the time to mention that Jaso has been 1.0 fWAR (catcher defense WAR disclaimer) better than Morse so far this year.

  6. Glen on June 12th, 2013 11:09 am

    Same system says Morse has been about -2 WAR in the field, which I have a hard time believing. He’s not good even, but he’s not worth -6 WAR in the field over a season.

  7. lesch2k on June 12th, 2013 11:18 am

    Jaso has a better OBP than all mariners except Nick Franklin (45 ABs) and Carlos P. (6 ABs)

  8. terryoftacoma on June 12th, 2013 11:32 am

    This is a “meh” decision. I don’t see the desparation that others appear to see unless you think one player will turn this team around and I don’t believe Z thinks that.

    But once believers have become doubters than every decision is wrong no matter what it is.

    I haven’t been a Z supporter in years. He has too many weaknesses to be a good GM IMO but then how would I know that I’ve never been a GM.

    Personnally, I am SO tired of the Jaso, Wells, Garland and others if’s and maybes. They are not part of this current team. Use them has an example of bad management if you want but they’re gone. Crying every blog entry about their loss isn’t going to change anything.

  9. Paul B on June 12th, 2013 11:48 am

    It probably won’t be fatal.

    Now there is a glowing vindication of a move!

    Same system says Morse has been about -2 WAR in the field, which I have a hard time believing

    Yeah, but I have no trouble believing he is a negative WAR in the field, we could just quibble on the magnitude of that negative number.

  10. bluemoonking on June 12th, 2013 11:57 am

    I believe that this is a desperate move. This organization is a mess and this is what poor organizations do.

    This is typical Mariners.

    You see teams like the Dodgers hit it big with Puig and wonder why a team developing players don’t seem to have anything close to him.

    They bring up a prospect and he will do ok for the first week or two and then he sinks like a rock… Why????

  11. evolvingcaveman on June 12th, 2013 12:37 pm

    We said we wanted a .500 season and we’re freaking out a little bit early as fans. With the number of names potentially joining us for august/september (erasmo, hultzen, miller, romero, guti, ackley, smoak, montero) it makes sense that we will have some choices and can play who’s hot. I’m not sure why we’ve decided they won’t play better the 2nd half then they have the 1st half. Zunino seems from everything that’s been written that he’s mentally tough and a leader and is in fact excited to be up in the bigs to soak some shit up even if it means he gets sent back down in a couple weeks. I wonder what his dad, the professional scout thinks because I remember him taking a cautious approach in previous comments.
    The 40man roster changes/losses have been a little rough this year though I agree. Get them to 81 wins and I’m on board with jackZ another year.

  12. Seattleken on June 12th, 2013 12:59 pm

    I think the risk of the move is that likely negatives out weigh the positives. The M’s aren’t going to contend for a wild card or even be .500. Why make a move that puts your best prospect at risk even if its quite small and more importantly costs you a 40 man spot.

    Zunino has shown hes not ready for AAA yet, hes only had 12 months of proball. There was no reason to burn a 40 man spot until next April and only if hes ready then.

  13. MrZDevotee on June 12th, 2013 1:01 pm

    But situations evolve (devolve?)… In a reverse manner of thinking, imagine you have a policy of NEVER eating any food after it’s “best by” date, because you risk illness. And no one likes spending the night throwing up.

    But it’s 3 o’clock in the morning, you’re starving, you forgot to go to the store, and the only thing in your fridge is moldy peaches (ie, any other catcher but Zunino) and a cup of yogurt that expired yesterday?

    Do you go without food? Eat the yogurt? Or let Eric Wedge seductively push peaches down your throat?

    Z just ate the yogurt until he can get something better, or his buddy (ie, the DL) brings back his half eaten bag of Cheetos (Sucre) or the frozen hairy seal’s liver thaws out and can be cooked (Montero).

  14. nwade on June 12th, 2013 1:07 pm

    MrZD – How rough is the neighborhood you live in? Do you live in fear of going outside? Can you not walk to your next-door neighbor to borrow a couple of eggs? Or maybe you just don’t have any clothes to put on, before going outside? Or is this a Zombie-apocalypse scenario?

  15. MrZDevotee on June 12th, 2013 1:13 pm

    You can go to your neighbors house at 3am to ask for a snack? I don’t live in THAT neighborhood. *laugh*

    But to use your point– do you get dressed and go to 7-Eleven and buy a whole bag of something just to tide you over till the morning (Baker) or just eat the yogurt and go to Safeway tomorrow?

  16. downwarddog on June 12th, 2013 1:16 pm

    Just another ill-conceived move by a front office that is becoming more of an embarrassment each day. Jack Z seemingly has no standards, no grand plan. He is a blind captain of a ship swirling in a garbage gyre of his own making.

  17. nwade on June 12th, 2013 1:26 pm

    MrZD – I’m tempted to try to draw this out; if only to see how more and more ludicrous your analogies get. Please don’t take this as a personal attack or anything; you seem like a decent person. But _you_ shouldn’t have to be coming up with excuses or convoluted scenarios to explain the M’s Front Office. That in and of itself is a sign things are messed-up.

    Dave may sound a bit like Chicken-Little – but even if it isn’t the world’s worst move, there is no way to paint it as a _good_ one.

  18. msfanmike on June 12th, 2013 1:27 pm

    “Swirling in a garbage gyre of his own making.”

    Nice! … the keys of your keyboard were probably beginning to smoke from that line.

  19. Seattleken on June 12th, 2013 1:36 pm

    I imagine Zack would have said when he was being interviewed to get the job.
    “It’s going to be tough, but I have the experience to build a mid market club though the draft. Just look at Milwaukee we made the playoffs and that was from building through the draft.”

    “All it will take is patience and in three years we will reach .500 and then in year five we will be in the playoffs.”

    – Well its now five years into the plan, and he has nothing to show the owners that his plan is working. All he has is Baseball America loves our farm system.

    – his top prospects have been poor to awful at the major league level. This puts the rest of the farm system in question.

    – only has two surprise positives – Seager and Iwakuma. Both nice but not a star potential guy.

    – he has no deal that he can say look at the great move I did.

    – he has no free agent signing to show what a great signing that was.

    – he has no increase in fan support, attendance has dropped like a rock.

    So I think hes looking for something/anything to tell the owners to trust him for two more years. If I’m an owner I say thanks but no thanks, my choice would be fire him now or at the end of the season.

  20. Don Money on June 12th, 2013 1:37 pm

    I guess this is the place the Chicken Little types hang out. Who is responsible for resigning Felix, bringing in Kuma, Wilhelmson, Capps, Pryor, Perez, Morales? Oh, it’s the blind captain! The same guy that turned a handful of prospects who all washed out into a half of a season of Cliff Lee. Say what you want about Smoak and Beaven but they have produced a lot more than the group the Phillies received. Injuries alter team plans every year in sports and require less than ideal steps to be taken but Jack Z isn’t panicking, he’s making the best use of the talent available to him.

  21. deadmanonleave on June 12th, 2013 1:52 pm

    I’d been toying with it for a while, but there’s a meme doing the rounds this side of the Atlantic that I thought might be appropriate for the M’s leadership…I finally snapped and did it after the Zunino decision.

    I loved what Z has done in general but…. let me know what you think!

  22. Seattleken on June 12th, 2013 1:59 pm

    That was awesome deadmanonleave, I’m still laughing/crying.

  23. deadmanonleave on June 12th, 2013 2:01 pm

    It’s hard to shout at the team/management from England…. especially when you’re setting your alarm for 3am to watch them suck while trying not to wake your other half!

    After years, tonight I feel I sort of got even lol!

  24. Seattleken on June 12th, 2013 2:14 pm

    Being chicken little type, seriously read what the great successes have been listed? Resigning Felix at market value is fine and good, but its not great move any GM could have done that.

    Bullpen guys come and go, once again not a franchise rebuilding acquisition. Z’s given up a number of relief pitchers who went on and did well.

    Morales is one season, and he wasn’t without cost. Net positive on this deal is likely one win.

    If he kept Cliff Lee then I’d say it was a good deal, but he didn’t he got a negative value 1B and a replacement level pitcher in return.

    Sorry these moves don’t even balance his free agent signing of Figgins. Never mind the long list of losses in value on his poor roster management, signings and trades.

    I would say the sky already fell, and it will take 3-5 years to clean up the mess by a quality GM.

  25. nwade on June 12th, 2013 2:19 pm

    “best use of the talent available”.

    Really? Really????? The _best_ use of talent is to rush it into the major leagues? That’s the _best_ thing? Not surviving for a few more days with Bantz? Not signing a free-agent backup? Not trading for someone? All those players are also “available” to Jack Z, don’t forget.

    The organization _had_ another option besides bringing up Zunino to cover an “emergency”/”short-term” spot and spell Shoppach for a few games, his name was Brandon Bantz.

    READ THIS, it is both touching _and_ has Eric Wedge saying that he’s OK with Bantz covering for Sucre until Sucre heals:

    Let me remind everyone that Bantz did not run out onto Safeco field and murder a bunch of puppies. There is literally no major impact that this spot is going to have on the overall win/loss record of the team for the year, even if he _singlehandedly_ caused the M’s to lose 2 or 3 games over the next 2-4 weeks.

    This was, without a doubt, *NOT* the best use of the talent available.

  26. scraps on June 12th, 2013 2:19 pm

    but Jack Z isn’t panicking, he’s making the best use of the talent available to him.

    Hello: Jack Z created the talent!

  27. deadmanonleave on June 12th, 2013 2:20 pm

    I’m not sure I agree on the 3-5 years clean up…. Other than signing Felix long term, I can’t think of any big commitments that are gonna hamstring the next guy.

    M’s have drafted well, I think, under Z, but maybe they have lost their sight on everything over triple A, and exacerbated that by employing a dinosaur as manager.

  28. PackBob on June 12th, 2013 2:24 pm

    Some of the writers have said that we need to wait until the M’s let us all know what the reasoning was before jumping to conclusions. That sounds good, but all we’ll ever get is a statement that satisfies the media’s need for a story. Who knows how close or far it will be from what they really think?

    What it boils down to is that Jack is GM and will do as he sees fit without any obligation to bare his soul. He can spin it any way he wants to because the spin stops (and starts) there.

    Maybe Jack saw Puig dazzle and thought maybe Zunino…naw, no way…but maybe…hardly likely…but if he did…stranger things have happened…but developing prospects until they are ready…but what if?…Oh, hell, why not?

    Maybe he just flipped a mental coin and it came up Zunino.

  29. scraps on June 12th, 2013 2:24 pm

    And you say he’s not panicking; well, he sure looks like he’s panicking.

  30. Seattleken on June 12th, 2013 2:29 pm

    The Jack has had great draft pick positions (two #2 overall picks in the draft), and owner support to spend money on the draft. He hasn’t had a contender to trade minor leaguers away for either.

    So he had better have built a top farm system, its been five years of pain to do it.

  31. deadmanonleave on June 12th, 2013 2:29 pm

    @seattleken Feel free to share my Mariners meme

    Even I, Mr Optimistic lost faith at some point and thought it might be amusing! Sigh…

  32. deadmanonleave on June 12th, 2013 2:32 pm

    Would it be contradictory to say he’s built a decent looking farm without achieving success?

    That’s how it feels to me, but I could be irrationally optimistic.

  33. Seattleken on June 12th, 2013 2:39 pm

    As an M’s fan I have to hope his draft picks preform, as the prospects he traded for are busts.

    Maybe that part I’m being irrational on, but if Ackley, Zunino and Hultzen all fail as top three picks then my 3-5 year clean up is going to be 5-7 years.

    Then the one homerun GMZ hit was Braun, and that was with Milwaukee a decade ago.

  34. deadmanonleave on June 12th, 2013 2:45 pm

    I guess I’ve only been following baseball a relatively short time…but Ackley looks repairable, and will at least end up a decent MLB player….Zunino and the pitchers…I’m sure a few come through from there….

    But I guess I’m concentrating on the present and maybe there’s an arguement for looking at the rest of Braun’s draft and the others while Z was at Milwaukee to get a feel for his strength.

    I have got the impression, maybe wrongly, that the real brains is McNamara when it comes to drafting, would I be wrong?

  35. MrZDevotee on June 12th, 2013 3:08 pm

    Hey Deadman-
    What show is that in your link? Isn’t it on every night of the week– usually around 7pm. 1pm on Sundays?

    I swear I’ve seen that before. A lot. Like a LOT alot.

    Only I remember a fat bald guy with glasses playing the lead role.

    I hate that show.

  36. deadmanonleave on June 12th, 2013 3:12 pm

    Lol – it’s an old film, and there’s a tradition over here of using it to rip other football teams (usually when they’ve sold a good player or been relegated).

    I do try and catch Baseball Tonight, and the odd LL or USSM podcast but other than that my exposure to the M’s is a three AM alarm or catching up early morning.

    Mind the vid shows, I hope…I still feel the pain!

  37. deadmanonleave on June 12th, 2013 3:14 pm

    Mr Z… you know that bit when you get the irony a minute late……

    That. lol

  38. Jake on June 12th, 2013 3:18 pm

    Tonight’s lineup (check this mess out):

    Chavez, Bay, Seager, Ibanez, Franklin, Zunino, Saunders, Ryan, Liddi.

  39. Westside guy on June 12th, 2013 4:25 pm

    deadmanonleave – that video of yours was hi-freaking-larious!

  40. eponymous coward on June 12th, 2013 4:42 pm

    Chavez, Bay, Seager, Ibanez, Franklin, Zunino, Saunders, Ryan, Liddi.

    Wow. What a friggin’ train wreck.

  41. deadmanonleave on June 12th, 2013 4:44 pm

    @Westside – Once they promoted Zunino, I just figured I’d do it, and I knew I wouldn’t be short of bad moves to stick in there. That’s so not a good thing!

  42. kinickers77 on June 12th, 2013 4:55 pm

    deadmanonleave – it seems like your video is funny. Although, maybe I’m a slow reader, because I can’t finish any of the captions before they disappear to the next ones. Can’t keep up.

    Still, awesome that you made that. I’ll watch it a few times to try to catch it all.

  43. casey on June 12th, 2013 5:04 pm

    Inconsistency is a good way to describe it … for me Bavasi was clearly a bad GM. Z has been some good and some bad but still thinking an upgrade and potential to get better. Clearly his biggest error this year was not recognizing that Montero was dh vs. a catcher. An off season was spent signing dh types and trading our only decent catcher left most scratching their heads about what Z and Wedge saw that we were missing.

    Desperation I guess in that the management group created a hole at catcher and are now ahead of their schedule having to do something to fill it. I am still in the camp of liking Z more than some of the alternatives (certainly more than we had in Bavasi). But also agree with Seattle Ken (who is really a Manitoba Ken I believe 🙂 in that it is easy to be good at the draft picking in the top 10 year after year. If Z was a player he is Dustin Ackley – time is running out and show me some production.

    All this it is going to be fun (which baseball is) watching the other Z make his debut tonight.

  44. mca on June 12th, 2013 5:21 pm

    I don’t really understand all the people who say “this is just one move.” Isn’t the point of USSM to analyze every little move? That analysis is why I read. I don’t always agree with what they say, but I don’t disagree with Dave, Jeff, Marc, et. al commenting.

  45. goat on June 13th, 2013 8:34 am

    Inconsistency: Dave Cameron writing a post about how it would make sense to have Dustin Ackley play outfield.

    Things change: give the M’s front office the same degree of ability to adapt to that as you give yourselves. This is the third article in less than a week decrying the same marginal roster move. If anyone is desperate here, it’s the USSMariner writers attempting to make the front office look bad.

  46. scraps on June 14th, 2013 2:08 am

    As though Dave didn’t write about his opposition in his first paragraph. That’s not inconsistency; things change, as you say in the next sentence. If Dave didn’t change, you would say he’s stubborn.

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