You may not know the name Jack Zduriencik. But you should: The Mariners GM is in the midst of engineering a remarkable turnaround for baseball in the Emerald City.
Friday, Zduriencik got value back for Carlos Silva by agreeing to swap him for Milton Bradley with the Chicago Cubs. Silva was bad in 2008 (6.46 ERA/1.60 WHIP) and worse in his brief time in the majors in 2009 (8.60 ERA, 1.71 WHIP in just 30 innings), and the Mariners' GM, by taking on Bradley's contract and shipping money to the Windy City, acquired an outfielder who put up a .378 OBP in 2009 despite all hell breaking loose during his time with the Cubs. Simply put, this is turning nothing into something for both teams, but Bradley's something is much more appealing than Silva's.
That's the sort of thing Zduriencik has specialized in so far: He's traded prospects for players who can contribute, cut losses when necessary, and has acquired pitching and defense cheaply instead of building a lineup of boppers. His outfield would scare no pitcher, and might not combine for 40 home runs this season, but Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro are two of the best defensive players in baseball.
Zduriencik is combining that smart team reconstruction with what looks like a push to win a weak AL West in 2010. Snagging Cliff Lee gives the M's the best one-two in the majors in Lee and Felix Hernandez, and signing Chone Figgins makes their offense a lot more potent, his career .363 OBP sure to aid a lineup that posted a .314 category in 2009. And it's not as if either is a desperation signing: Though both Lee and Figgins are 31, each shows no signs of decline just yet, and should keep the Mariners in the mix for a few seasons.
Do these Mariners have better teams than the Yankees and Red Sox? No. Those teams can afford to buy high on talent and overspend for it, which is what allows them to put together strong rotations and balanced offenses that will lead to 90+ wins in the regular season. But Lee and Hernandez are theoretically good enough to swing series in October, and short series are basically crapshoots anyway. If this Mariners team can get there -- and they should, with the Angels losing Figgins and John Lackey, the Rangers still in need of pitching, and the A's a year or two from contending -- they have only a slightly smaller chance than their well-heeled competition.
If the makeover Zduriencik has put this team through pays off, you may know his name (and a nickname) before long.â†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.