Well, it's never dull with Jack Zduriencik. Just when you think you have a read on what the Mariners GM is going to do, he does something a little unexpected.
With the deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players at 9 p.m. on Thursday, Zduriencik went beyond what most expected. Coming into the day, it seemed likely that the Mariners would tender contracts to relievers David Aardsma and Brandon League and starter Jason Vargas. It was reported that Jose Lopez would be non-tendered, while it was a toss-up with Ryan Rowland-Smith.
It seemed like a pretty standard day. But Zduriencik and his magic blackberry had other things in mind.
It started with the first announcement - the signing of Erik Bedard to a one-year contract.
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I will admit that I was a little surprised when I saw the press release on my Droid.
When the Mariners declined Bedard’s $8 million option for the 2011 season for obvious reasons, I thought they were parting ways with the oft-injured left-hander for good. It seemed like the right thing to do. Maybe it was time to just move on. Bedard never lived up to the lofty expectations when the Mariners gave up five players to get him, largely due to health issues. He’s had multiple shoulder surgeries since he’s joined the Mariners, including one to repair a torn labrum after the 2009 season.
The Mariners signed Bedard to a $1.5 million contract with lots of incentives for last season, hoping he might find his we back into the rotation and compliment Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee. But he never threw a single pitch in a major league game. He made three rehab starts, filling the Mariners and fans with hope that he might pitch. But setbacks and another surgery to remove a bone spur shut him down again.
But Seattle wasn’t ready to give up on Bedard.
“With the time and investment that this organization has put into Erik, we are pleased that Erik felt he wanted to come back here,” Zduriencik said. “He felt he owed the organization and the city something.”
However, Zduriencik wisely signed Bedard to a non-guaranteed contract, meaning if he does not make the team out of the spring training, the contract will be terminated.
Of course, Zduriencik hopes that won’t be the case.
“All the reports we have is that he’s ready to go,” Zduriencik said. “He says he feels great right now, and he’s looking forward to be on time for spring training. We expect him to come in and compete for a job at spring training.”
I guess I'm going to have to update the Erik Bedard timeline.
A little while later, the Mariners announced that they had traded Lopez to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for minor league starting pitcher Chaz Roe.
On Wednesday, it was reported that Zduriencik would simply non-tender Lopez and let him walk away a free agent. Instead, he did what he hasn’t been able to do for the better part of the last year and a half – trade Lopez.
Zduriencik had tried all last offseason to move Lopez after he hit .272 with a career-high 25 homers and 89 RBI in 2009. But he couldn’t find the right deal.
Any value Lopez may have had from his career year in 2009 disintegrated early in the 2010 season when he struggled mightily at the plate. His numbers never improved and he finished the season hitting .239 with 29 doubles and 10 home runs and 58 RBI in 150 games this season.
Lopez was once viewed as the second baseman of the future for the organization. But his defensive skills regressed and forced him to third base, while his propensity to swing at everything at the plate gave him a career on-base percentage of .297
“There would have been some things I’d like to have seen a little differently out of him,” Zduriencik said.
The team declined a $4 million option on Lopez after the season. And it seemed like an early signal that his time in Seattle was done.
“I’m very fond of him as a person,” Zduriencik said. “There were spurts here where Jose was a very nice player. I think you get to a point where as you go through the ball club, you look at what you can afford to keep and what you can’t afford to keep.”
And Zduriencik couldn’t afford to not pick up a starting pitcher – even a minor leaguer – in exchange for Lopez.
"Chaz is a former first-round pick with a nice arm, a 24-year-old sinker ball pitcher," Zduriencik said. “We scouted him a little this year.”
The 24-year-old Roe was taken with the 32nd overall (sandwich pick) selection in the 2005 draft out of Lafayette High School in Lexington, Kent.
He spent all of 2010 in Triple A with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, making 27 starts and posting a 9-13 record with a 5.98 ERA. He struck out 115 batters, while walking 53.
While the numbers are less than eye-popping, they are somewhat skewed because Roe pitched in the Pacific Coast League and the hitter-friendly Security Service Field.
About 20 minutes later, the Mariners announced the signing of infielder Josh Wilson to a 1-year contract.
Obviously, it’s not an exciting or controversial signing. It was a move made for depth and insurance. After starting last season in Tacoma, Wilson ended up playing in a career high 108 games, starting 98 games shortstop while filling in for starter Jack Wilson, who was hampered by injuries for the second straight season. Josh Wilson hit .227 with 22 runs scored and 14 doubles and 25 RBI.
Obviously, he isn’t going to be the starter. He’s not an every-day player. But with Jack Wilson seeming to be fragile, particularly his hamstring, Josh Wilson is nice to have around. But don’t be surprised if the Mariners look at other utility type infielders amongst the free agent pile.
The last move of the night came right at the deadline when the Mariners announced they non-tendered lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith. But it wasn’t as though they didn’t want the big Aussie back. Zduriencik said the team offered Rowland-Smith a major league contract with some stipulations.
“We had our parameters set up,” Zduriencik said. “We talked about giving him a chance to come back and be part of the organization, but it would have to be under our terms. Ryan decided what our terms were, weren’t necessarily what his terms were and there was a parting of the ways.”
Admittedly, Rowland-Smith was awful last season, posting a 1-10 with a 6.75 ERA. So much was expected of him, and he just couldn’t come close to meeting those expectations. A good portion of that was mental. It was difficult watching him struggle. He was easily one of the best overall people in the organization.
“We wish him the best,” Zduriencik said.
Zduriencik said he expects take a look at some of the non-tendered free agents on the market. The guy never stops his pursuit of talent.
The winter meetings begin on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
“We would like to try our club better than what it is at this moment,” he said. “We are going to look at all of it.”