Challenge is on for Mariners’ Zduriencik

NASHVILLE — Jack Zduriencik knows there’s no guarantee that he will be the general manager of the Seattle Mariners after the 2013 season. He knows he’s in the final of a two-year contract extension. He’s more than aware that in his first four seasons the Mariners have produced just one winning season — 2009 — followed by three straight losing seasons. He understands the team must show significant improvement in his fifth season.

There has been no mention of an extension for Zduriencik from team president Chuck Armstrong or CEO Howard Lincoln. The Mariners ownership may be taking a wait and see approach before moving forward.

But regardless of his current contract status, Zduriencik will not approach the current offseason with the idea of making moves to maintain his employment after next season. Nothing he does at the baseball winter meetings here at the Gaylord Convention Center will be done in an effort to save his job.

“I can’t do that,” he said early Monday morning. “I don’t want to chase that. You always keep the organization’s best interests at heart and I’m going to do that.”

So if that means passing on a splashy big-name bat at the expense of completely mortgaging the Mariners’ future, then he will do that.

“We want to build this thing the way we are doing it,” Zduriencik said. “If we can augment it, we will. But I’m not going to chase my tail and do something that is not in the best interest of this city, this organization, this fanbase, despite the fact that there might be some people that wish I did it yesterday.”

The example would be his predecessor. If you recall, Lincoln infamously stated that former general manager Bill Bavasi after the 2006 season — his third straight losing season. The 2007 Mariners produced a winning record of 88-74 and were competitive until an August meltdown. But it was enough for Bavasi to return for the 2008 season. But in that offseason, Bavasi used the 2007 success to make a run for the playoffs in 2008. He made drastic moves to try and make the Mariners a winner in that season, including trading Adam Jones and four other players for pitcher Erik Bedard and signing free agent Carlos Silva to a four-year, $48 million contract. Both moves backfired like many of Bavasi’s previous moves. The 2008 team was a complete disaster and Bavasi was fired midway through the season.

Bavasi later admitted that his lurking job security or lack thereof affected the decision making.

Zduriencik was brought in to repair the damage done by Bavasi, namely restocking a ravaged farm system and modifying the player development system.

“I was brought here for a reason at the time,” he said. “I was brought here for my skill set — building an organization and bringing in players and trying to get this thing going. Player development and scouting has been what I’ve done. You stay true to who you are.”

Still the success of the big league club greatly overshadows any of Zduriencik’s prospect restocking and minor league rebuilding efforts. There is a demand for success from the Mariners and an improvement to abysmal offense.

Zduriencik is trying to do that. But there will be no 5-for-1 deals to get a hitter and appease anxious and impatient fans.

“I can’t do that because it’s not the right thing to do,” he said. “If we cut this thing off right now, this organization will suffer for years.”

So while fans are clamoring for Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher or trading for Justin Upton, Zduriencik is trying to do the prudent thing. He is trying to add offense and will part with a prospect or two to get it. But he won’t grossly overpay.

“I know our fans would love us to make a big splash, that’s kind of fun,” Zduriencik said. “Sometimes you just have to let it happen. There’s a few pieces I would love to get to augment the big league club. At the end, I’m going to make the most sound decision going forward.”

While Zduriencik keeps the Mariners’ future in mind when he makes deals, but what about his future?

“If they would like for me to be here for a long time, I’d love to be here a long time,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s not the decision I make. It’s those above me that make it.”

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